Everyone has a slightly different idea of the perfect body image but we are heavily influenced by societal pressures and the media. Society’s expectations color our beliefs about the ideal body image and sometimes this creates problems or causes harm.

A lot of young girls say that body image is one of their biggest struggles. So, do pageants make this better or worse? The beautiful Lindsay Abrams, who'll be competing for the crown of Miss Maine USA, thinks that in the world of pageantry the message of body positivity is a powerful message you can send - " I would love to spread positive encouragement on body image, that everyone if built differently and everyone is beautiful. I want to inspire others to embrace their beauty, to lift others up instead of tearing them down. Positivity is important and everyone deserves to feel beautiful" - she explained.

Preparing for the title wasn't only physical for her but also mentally - "You need to know yourself inside out and over the past four years that's what I have done. I found passions of mine, learned that I'm a giver and decided to spend more time volunteering this past year."

Her goal this year physically was to be fit and strong - "Being in good physical shape helps you mentally and helped me focus on myself. The body and mind go hand in hand so it was extremely important to me that both were in top shape so I could stay focused on being the best version of myself."

I had the opportunity to interview the beautiful Lindsay on her preparation for the upcoming Miss Maine USA Pageant.

Did you know ? Maine is one of the less successful Miss USA states, with only eight placements as of 2012. In 2006, Katee Stearns made the semi-finals, becoming only the fifth woman from Maine and the first since 1977 to make the cut. In 2010, Katie Whittier became the first delegate from Maine to reach the top five, finishing 4th runner up. In 2011, Ashley Marble became Maine's first consecutive placement.

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Rape and sexual abuse can be committed against anyone regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, culture or social status. Living with the consequences of rape and sexual abuse can be devastating.

The gorgeous Laurel Henderson, who'll be competing for the crown of Miss California USA, believes that all survivors are entitled to receive the best possible response to their needs whether or not they choose to report. She has over 500 hours of community service dedicated in 2017 alone to her foundation called GLOW - "This month I received my second national level scholarship out of Harvard for my community impact working with survivors of sexual violence. I am a doctor, a specialist, and a pain expert" - she explained.

Aside from being engaged in her community Laurel is working as a fitness model and was featured in LA Fashion Week this year. She also hopes to continue on her path to become an oral health correspondent on the TV show, The Doctors. 

I had the opportunity to interview the beautiful Laurel on her pageant experience and on her preparation for the Miss California USA Contest. If she wins the pageant she'll have the opportunity to represent her state at Miss USA 2018. California has produced a Miss USA every decade (except the 2000s) and is ranked second highest among states in terms of placements.

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It’s a grand tradition for beauty pageant producers: Come up with complex, sensitive, political questions centered on current events and give the contestants 20 seconds to deliver a coherent answer in front of people. It can be nerve-wracking, but it’s also a great time to let your audience get to know you. By answering questions about yourself and why are competing in the pageant, you can show the audience why you as an individual deserve the crown over your competition. 

Remember that there is no wrong way to answer a political question. When judges ask you these kind of questions in an interview, they want to see if you are keeping up with the news and how well you can articulate your viewpoint under pressure.

In many beauty contests pageant interviews are 70% of a contestant’s score. For her preparation for the Miss South Carolina USA Pageant Emilee Smarr studied up on current events and political issues that may be brought up during interview. 

She has also been working on her walk and presentation onstage. Over the last few months, she has been going through countless hours of preparation. Prior to college she had an Anytime Fitness membership that she used all the time and ironically, any time - "Since I've moved up to Clemson University, I've been going to our Fire Recreation Center weekly, using the sauna and steam rooms, and also signed up for a leisure skill class in which I have to go to the gym for core stability training. My diet on the other hand...we're going to leave unmentioned" - she explained.

I had the opportunity to interview the beautiful Emilee a few days before the Miss South Carolina USA Pageant. If she wins the crown she will have the opportunity to represent the state of South Carolina in Miss USA 2018

The current titleholder is Megan Gordon of North Augusta who was crowned on the evening of November 19, 2016.

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Being a sporty girl does not make a woman any less feminine. The beautiful Callie Adams, who'll be competing for the crown of Miss Texas Teen USA 2018, is a 2 year varsity Cheerleader at her highschool and she absolutely loves it. She used to be a twirler when she was younger and also used to play volleyball for 6 years! Competing in sports from a young age taught her so much. She learned the importance of treating your body right– eating healthy and exercising. She's still just as feminine, but she's much more healthy and aware of how to treat her body.

Callie's mother was also a pageant girl and she inspired her to be a beauty queen - "My mom competed in many pageants including Miss Texas when her title was Miss Corpus Christi. I loved looking at pictures of her and hearing her stories from them. Ever since I was a little girl I loved watching Miss Universe and Miss USA with her" - she explained.

If she wins the crown Callie will have the opportunity to represent the state of Texas in the 2018 Miss Teen USA Competition. Texas is one of the most successful states across all twenty-seven years of competition at Miss Teen USA. They have had seventeen semi-finalists, three more than any other state. They have won the crown three times, in 1996 when Christie Lee Woods took the title (Woods later went on to star in The Amazing Race 5) and 15 years later in 2011 when Danielle Doty won. Karlie Hay became the third Texan entrant to win the crown in 2016. 

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Do you ever wonder whether your irritable or unhappy adolescent might actually be experiencing teen depression? Of course, most teens feel unhappy at times. And when you add hormone havoc to the many other changes happening in a teen's life, it's easy to see why their moods swing like a pendulum. Yet findings show that one out of every eight adolescents has teen depression. But depression can be treated as well as the serious problems that come with it. 

The beautiful Alex Splajt, who'll be competing for the crown of Miss Hawaii Teen USA in a few days, would like to bring awareness about depression and teenage suicide. Indeed, last year Alex suffered, herself, from depression after a traumatic brain injury - "There were so many things that I couldn’t do including sports, attend school, hold a conversation longer than 30 seconds, remember what had happened an hour ago,  or even stay awake for longer than 15-20 minutes at a time" - she said.

Several times it was suggested that she just redo 10th grade because she would never make it up. But Alex is a fighter and she doesn’t like to be told something is impossible - "I decided that no matter what everyone thought, I was not going to give up and so I fought my way back to health and against all odds I completed an entire year of school in less than 4 months – finishing with a 3.3 GPA.  I got over my sadness of not being able to cheerlead and instead poured my athleticism into Tennis where I helped our Girls Team become MIL Champions."

The final missing piece was pageantry. If she wins the crown the young lady will have the opportunity to represent her state in Miss Teen USA 2018. This year, entering this pageant holds so much more significance now than it ever did before - "I am here not only as an example to every young girl out there, but also as a reminder to myself,  to not let circumstances ever get in the way of what you truly want to accomplish.  No matter who walks away with the crown this weekend, I know that I am a winner."

But believe it or not Alex was a tomboy her entire life until just 2 years ago - "One day at the age of 11 while walking down the street with my Mom, a director agent approached me and asked if I would be interested in modelling or competing in a pageant. I said “No Way” - she explained.

2 years later she was approached again, but this time she decided to join the pageant world to make a difference and help others by having a “voice” that can be heard from a state or national stage. I had the opportunity to interview her a few days before the Miss Hawaii Teen USA pageant, check it below !

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With her blonde hair and blue eyes the gorgeous Kailey Parker doesn't look like the typical Miss Hawaii USA Candidates. But many people forget that Hawaii is ethnically diverse and Kailey was born and raised on Maui, a place which welcomes and takes pride in various ethnicities, cultures and languages.

As a substance abuse survivor Kailey would like to raise awareness on the issue in Hawaii and in the United States - "As Miss Hawaii USA I would like to be a positive role model for men and women in our community who feel like they have no other options. As a survivor, I feel that I can bring a voice to those who remain silent in their own struggles with addiction. I believe in making personal, meaningful and positive connections with everyone I encounter. " - she explained.

Indeed Kailey hurt herself during a cheerleading accident and became addicted to the medication - "The doctors don’t tell you how your body will be physically addicted to the medication. I had to ween myself off and I realized how many people in the world have faced the same issues or even still going through it. It’s an epidemic and it needs to be talked about and the doctors need to be held accountable."

Kailey's goal as a titleholder is to bring to light an issue, which many people have a hard time talking about. 

If she wins the crown she will have the opportunity to represent Hawaii in Miss USA 2018. Hawaii is the most recent state to start competing at Miss USA, as it first competed in 1962. Prior to this, delegates were sent to Miss Universe. Despite the late start, it has been one of the most successful: Hawaii's first Miss USA, Macel Wilson, came the first year the state competed. There have been four Miss USA winners from Hawaii, one of three states with four titles (only second to Texas and California). 

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You’ll be surprised by how much there is to gain from pageants if you enter with the right mindset. When you compete in a beauty contest a lot of people think; Is it like Toddlers and Tiaras? Do all the girls hate each other? Is the answer always world peace?

Getting on a stage and public speaking can be terrifying, but you will learn a lot about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, and what you need to further improve on. When speaking on stage, you need to express your ideas in a quick and eloquent way. This is easier said than done, especially when you’re under pressure. There’s never a right or wrong answer. But there is a diplomatic one that shows empathy for both sides of the argument. Having these discussions teaches you about the different perspectives people may have and in turn, you’ll discover what your own stance on a topic may be.

Indeed, the only way to overcome your fears and grow as a person is to challenge yourself by getting out of your comfort zone. 

The beautiful Jeanie Lee will have the opportunity to compete in the Miss Arizona USA Pageant in a few days. When she was young she remembers watching Miss Universe thinking she wishes could walk across that state with so much confidence - "I've always been a shy girl so this was a big step to take out of my comfort zone. It wasn't until my sophomore year in college when I competed in my first pageant and I had so much fun" - she explained.

If she wins the contest Jeanie will have the opportunity to represent the state of Arizona in Miss USA 2018. Did you know ? Arizona has had a comparatively large number of semi-finalists and placings, but has never won the Miss USA crown in its own right. However, in 1980, Jineane Ford was awarded the title after Shawn Weatherly (who won the original pageant) won the Miss Universe pageant.

Three Miss Arizona USAs were former Miss Arizona Teen USAs and two were former Miss America contestants. The current titleholder is Tommy Lynn Calhoun from Tucson.

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