For Former Miss America, Diabetes Cause Still Priority
Earlier this year I had a chance to relive my Miss America experience as a judge for the Miss America 2009 competition. What an overwhelming, thrilling, and enormous challenge! It was so exciting to be back at Miss America and seeing today’s young women with great expectations and goals. Our youth are often not given the chance they deserve. The 52 women were all very talented, very intelligent, and quite high-minded. They all wanted to see change in society and contribute to the betterment of life. It was encouraging. As a former contestant and now a mother, I was incredibly proud. These women represent much of what I want my daughter to learn in life: the value of education, tenacity, hard work, ethics, discipline, patience, and perseverance. And for one of the contestants for the title of Miss America, diabetes was even her advocacy cause!
Ten years ago when I crossed that famous stage, life was different. I was not as self-assured as these women were. I was confident and prepared, but the expectations today are much greater and more intense. I guess that is what happens with time. As generations learn more, more is expected of our youth.
During the interviews, I asked the contestants many questions related to business and strategy. The questions were based on lessons I learned as Miss America and as a professional woman – What corporate partnerships did they propose? What was their vision for advancing the Miss America Organization? What was their message to different income groups related to their cause? How would they seek funding for their cause? How would they communicate about their cause with elected officials? What legislation would they advocate introducing related to their issue?, etc. Each and every time I asked these types of questions, the women were prepared with well thought out answers. It was impressive.
The new Miss America, Katie Stam, is passionate about community service and engagement. She has lots of big plans and dreams. I am confident that she will achieve most of them. She has a fire within her that is unique. That fire is what sets people apart. It is often described as the “intangible ‘it’ factor.” When I was a contestant for Miss America, diabetes awareness and education was the spark that lit the same fire in my soul.
What a blessing the last ten years have been! It has been a decade of dreams and realities. One of the highlights is the opportunity to be involved with and host dLifeTV. I always dreamed of working in Journalism and specifically television, but never thought I would host an award-winning program for five years! Telly Awards, Freddie Awards, you name it and dLife has won it! (Well, I guess we are still waiting on that Emmy!) Nonetheless, this experience is a true blessing from above.
When I was named Miss America 1999, I knew I wanted to advocate for more information, education, and equality for people with diabetes. I am so proud that I did that and that I have kept doing it for over a decade. (That is rare for Miss Americas!) I have traveled to 48 states, 15 countries and given over 1,000 presentations on diabetes! I have lobbied before Congress over 30 times and testified before 5 sub-committees. I have helped pass insurance, school, and funding legislation, served on many national health councils and won a bunch of recognition awards. But, most important, I have played a part of thousands of lives that are touched by diabetes. I love that thousands of people with diabetes all over the world have worn my Miss America crown and promised me that they too will believe in possibility!
Miss America was an incredible opportunity and judging Miss America 2009 was an even more stressful honor. It was amazing to watch the women competing and to know that all of them would change with the experience, but that one of them would carry the title with her for all eternity. It is funny, I joke with the other former Miss Americas that no matter what happens in our lives, we will always be known as Miss America first. Even if one of us achieves the country’s highest office, the headline in the newspaper will read: Miss America becomes President. It is true. Much responsibility comes with those two words. It is a badge of honor; a title that captures the hopes and dreams of over 15,000 other bright, talented women in any given year.
I am so thrilled that diabetes had 1999! I don’t often get recognized, but when I do it is always the same, “You are that Miss America with diabetes who wears a pump!” And every time I smile proudly and say, “Yes, you must have a connection to diabetes.” You would be surprised how the conversations go after that. There were a lot of us seeking the Miss America position together that fall day in 1998 and for your prayers and support, I am forever grateful.
Nicole Johnson, MA, MPH
Miss America Judge 2009
Mss America 1999
Type 1 Diabetes since 1993
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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