Recently crowned Miss North Texas 2018, communication junior Mallory Fuller began her pageant career in the Miss America Organization at age 13.
Fuller traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey to cheer on her sister, who competed in the Miss America competition as Miss Texas on Sept. 9. Fuller said competing in pageants over the years helped her build self-confidence and make new friends.
“As a teen I was more reserved and it really brought me out of my comfort zone,” Fuller said. “I would say that’s what made me want to keep competing, but also the friends that I made through it. I made some really, really good friends through competing.”
Political science senior and fellow-pageant contestant Ashlee Gilchrist has been competing with the Miss America organization for the past five years. Last year she won the title Miss Plano.
“I really fell in love with being able to be around girls who had very similar aspirations as myself,” Gilchrist said. “We all are taking part in our education as well as community service, we all have a platform that we are passionate about, so I’ve really found a community of girls within the pageant that I like to continue to compete with.”
Pageant contestants choose a cause or program to promote throughout their competitions. Gilchrist’s platform is Everyday Heroes, a mentoring program. She partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters here in Brazos Valley to create more mentorship opportunities for young people.
“Mallory’s a really close friend of mine,” Gilchrist said. “To have these girls that I also get to see at school, it’s just an extension of the sisterhood for me, so we’re all really close.”
Fuller’s platform is the Jason Flatt Act, a suicide prevention bill. She chose the platform in honor of a classmate from her hometown, Jonathan Childers, who committed suicide.
“I feel like if you asked anyone from our class, they would say that that was extremely hard,” Fuller said. “Just the effects that it had on everyone and the effects it had on me personally losing a friend, that’s what really started the passion behind it.”
Through the work of Fuller, the Childers family and others, the Jason Flatt Act was signed by Governor Greg Abbott and put into effect on June 19, 2015. After this success, Fuller hopes to achieve much more.
“My mission as Miss America hopefully one day would be to get [the act] passed all across the United States,” Fuller said. “That’s my main end goal, but as local titleholder, definitely going into schools and talking to students about the warning signs and also talking to educators about the importance of the training that they’re having to go to.”
According to Fuller the core values that she has learned at A&M are also important in pageants. Honesty, loyalty and hard work are traits that she said she aims to demonstrate during each pageant.
“If you go into it and you are genuine and you’re honest … if you use those core values and you stay true to who you are as a person … it’s going to make the entire experience so much better than if you are trying to put on a facade of what you are not,” Fuller said.
Through her experiences, Fuller said she hopes to show a different side of pageants.
“I think the biggest thing for me is just that pageants aren’t what meets the eye, it’s not like what you see on ‘Miss Congeniality’ or what you see on ‘Toddlers in Tiaras’ or anything like that,” Fuller said. “It’s completely different than that. It is something that has given me so much self-confidence and it’s really prepared me for just life in general.”