Exclusive: Miss USA Contestants Talk Female Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Brains - SWAAY.com

This is an excerpt from an article by Wendy Rose Gould, originally featured on SWAAY.com. For the full article, click here.

Photo originally posted on SWAAY.com

Photo originally posted on SWAAY.com


Throw a quick glance at your television during the Miss USA competition and you’ll probably notice the voluminous hair, dripping evening gowns, and a constant supply of super fit, beautiful women. You may even engage in the age-old stereotype of “brains or beauty,” flip the channel, and assume that’s all these women have to offer.

Look closely, though, and the diversity, charisma, and intelligence exuded by the 51 contestants is undeniable. They boast seriously impressive backgrounds and career goals, and many have a lot to say about women in business and in leadership roles, and about female empowerment, in general. SWAAY was backstage all weekend long to talk with the women, including the crowned winner, Miss USA’s Kára McCullough, a scientist with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

On Female Empowerment and Entrepreneurship

Miss Kentucky’s Madelynne Myers, who just graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in molecular and cellular biology, argues that contrary to popular belief, pageants help propel women and their communities further.

Kára McCullough, Miss District Of Columbia USA 2017. Photo courtesy of Patrick Prather for Miss USA

Kára McCullough, Miss District Of Columbia USA 2017. Photo courtesy of Patrick Prather for Miss USA

“Organizations like Miss USA are a great stepping stone in women’s rights, equality and empowerment because it provides an opportunity for us to impact the entire world through our platforms,” she told SWAAY. “Even the contestants who aren’t crowned Miss USA or Miss Universe understand we have a responsibility to go back and change our homes and create more opportunities.”

Miss Alaska’s Alyssa London, a top 10 finalist, agrees. She’s a Stanford graduate and entrepreneur who advocates specifically for women in the business sphere. She’s also fiercely proud of her multicultural background as half native American Tlingit and half European, and has managed to seamlessly combine the pride she has for her heritage with her entrepreneurial tendencies.

“I gained my entrepreneurial mindset while attending Stanford, and then after graduating I worked at Microsoft where I did partner marketing for small businesses,” London told SWAAY. “I was working with women in technology businesses specifically, and helping them market their businesses and promote their stories so that we would get more women who own businesses in the Microsoft partner channel.”

The skillset London developed at Microsoft allowed her to launch her own personal business as a motivational speaker, conference host, and television host.

Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA 2017. Patrick Prather for Miss USA

Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA 2017. Patrick Prather for Miss USA

“In my motivational speaking, I talk about how awesome it is to design your career and your lifestyle through entrepreneurship,” she said. “I help women think about what they’re actually passionate about and turn that into a business for themselves. I believe that if you feel like you can be independent and self-sufficient with your finances, then that trickles down to having strong families and strong communities.”

Her second business is called Our Culture Story, a platform that celebrates multiculturalism and being strong in your identity. London launched that business by selling a product in Alaskan galleries and gift shops that tells people about her Alaskan native heritage.


On Brains Versus Beauty

There were so many molds broken at the 2017 Miss USA competition. For starters, seven of the top 10 finalists were women of color, including the runner up, Miss New Jersey’s Chhavi Verg, and the crowned winner, Kára McCullough. And the previous Miss USA, Deshauna Barber had everyone in prideful tears when she graced the stage flaunting an afro in her late mother’s memory.

To read the remainder of this article featured on SWAAY.com, click here.