Hello “Miss America 2.0,” From a Former “Miss America 1.0”


As I was finishing my year of service as Miss America 2014, a gentleman enthusiastically said to me: “You look like you slept at Boardwalk Hall!" (Boardwalk Hall is the iconic theater that the Miss America Competition is held in Atlantic City). At first, I was so confused as I had an incredibly busy year traveling across the country advocating for diversity and cultural competency. When I asked what he meant, he replied; “You look the same size as you did when you competed in swimsuit!"

In that moment, I was shocked, angry, and crushed. The fact that I was being applauded for my appearance and not the achievements and accolades I had worked tirelessly for was frustrating, but also eye-opening. Especially because how my abs (or lack thereof) looked in a swimsuit had absolutely nothing to do with the actual job of Miss America.

Miss America 2.0 is here and I couldn't be more proud. This year, the Miss America Organization moved into a new era of inclusiveness and empowerment by retiring the swimsuit phase of competition.

Since winning Miss America, it was my mission to bring diversity and inclusion to the organization; I grew up feeling like I could never step into this role since I didn't fit a certain stereotype or category of “black or white." Through my travels, I've met several young women from diverse backgrounds who have approached me saying they feel like they could immensely benefit from this program, but couldn't compete in the organization because of the swimsuit competition and their cultural background and/or religious beliefs. As the first Indian American and South Asian to hold the title, I completely understand their hesitation and barrier to entry as I lived it.

I grew up in a culture and household where I was constantly taught to cover up my body from a young age, and feeling comfortable with “exposing" my body was a significant struggle, let alone feeling confident while doing so.

As a young girl watching Miss America on television, my perception of beauty was defined by the contestants on that stage. It was daunting for me. As a teenager I was always “bigger" than my friends and would avoid going to the beach or pool. It's no secret I struggled with body image for the majority of my formative years, which I've spoken openly about. And while it took me several years to overcome this, I can honestly say that when I competed in the swimsuit competition at Miss America it truly felt like a celebration of conquering my own personal limitations I had set on myself physically, mentally and culturally.

"It's unrealistic, and frankly outrageous, to think that judging women walk in swimsuits and heels is an all-encompassing approach to understanding an individual's overall health and/or lifestyle."-Nina Davuluri Photo Courtesy of Parade

I absolutely agree that living a healthy lifestyle is important. However, one of my Miss America sisters pointed out that we don't have women who look like Rhonda Rousey or Ashley Graham--both of whom are a positive representation of health, confidence and body image. It's unrealistic, and frankly outrageous, to think that judging women walk in swimsuits and heels is an all-encompassing approach to understanding an individual's overall health and/or lifestyle.

The underlying issue lies in the perception the Miss America Organization has portrayed to society: that the measure of a young woman's success is based on outward appearances.

The underlying issue lies in the perception the Miss America Organization has portrayed to society: that the measure of a young woman's success is based on outward appearances. The bottom line is that if Miss America is going to continue its legacy of empowering women and continue to stay relevant, it must start by changing the perception that it's “just a beauty pageant." Because the reality is that it's simply not just that, and it hasn't been for years.

If you look at any of our former contestants who've competed in this organization, you will see a group of highly educated, motivated, well-spoken, passionate women. However, seeing as we've kept presenting swimsuits and appearances at the top of the telecast, I can understand how our messaging has become diluted. We are now at a revolutionary time where we understand that in order to shift society's stereotypes, we must take action. Now more than ever, women are at the forefront using their voices with the #MeToo, #TimesUp and the #SeeHer movements. As a role model for young women, isn't it time Miss America does the same?

Miss America is finally at a point where, as an organization, we can truly say that we want to empower every single woman, not just certain “types" of women.

Miss America is finally at a point where, as an organization, we can truly say that we want to empower every single woman, not just certain “types" of women. That we welcome women from every background, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, shape and size, is integral to the competition's identity. The objectives of Miss America are to showcase young women's scholastic achievements and talents, to provide them with a platform so that their voices are heard and their opinions taken seriously, and to celebrate contestant's entire being based on substance and not a swimsuit. Ultimately, this change signifies that we are placing value on all the young girls (and boys) watching Miss America this year and showing them that in this new era the essence of who they are is worth so much more than keeping an archaic tradition alive. #ByeByeBikini

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Women in Power: How to Get Better at Mentorship and Business Leadership

If you are reading this, then it is quite likely that you are a business leader and mentor already, and the very fact that you are looking to improve your skills beyond your current capacity means you are already ahead of the game.

In corporate sectors all around, a general trend has been observed which point towards the conclusion that talented women employees do thrive better under female mentorship. What this means is that women at the forefront of corporate leadership today must continue to improve in their ability to both lead and mentor the leaders of tomorrow. This is facilitated by the easy availability of ILM Level 7 Executive Coaching courses and training nowadays, which we are going to discuss in detail next.

Improving as a Mentor: Where Do You Start?

Given that improving on leadership and mentorship skills only concerns those that are already leading businesses and tutoring fresh talent under them, the very first requirement here concerns completing advanced ILM Level 7 Coaching programs.

However, in order to also include a more comprehensive educational curriculum and training to hone your mentorship skills to a point, it would be a good idea to go with a BCF Group program, which will help you to get that widely respected and vastly useful ILM Level 7 Certificate in Executive Coaching and Mentoring.

The BCF Group is one of the UK's most highly rated Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) Approved Centres for ILM Level 7 Executive Coaching Courses. To know more about what exactly to expect during and after completing your ILM Level 7 Qualifications in Executive Coaching and Mentoring from the centre, head over to the official site.

In the meantime, some of the advantages of their ILM Level 7 Coaching curriculums can be highlighted as follows:

  • Advanced understanding of high-level coaching and mentoring theories
  • Critical evaluation of one's own leadership mentoring and executive coaching practices
  • Knowing how to relate someone's personality and nature of business to her own mentoring practices
  • Personal growth: Effective learning and mentoring fellow coaches

Once you have the ILM Level 7 Coaching Certificate, you are finally ready to take on advanced responsibilities as a business leader and significantly improve on your ability to mentor the fresh, female executives and leaders that rely on you for guidance.

Without the necessary advanced education and training, progress would not be possible after a point, but once you do end up completing your certifications, it is time to build on that that knowledge and training by adding your own unique touches towards developing a mentoring procedure for your clients/executives.

Understanding the 3 Different Aspects of Mentorship which Hold the Most Value to Corporate Women

There are various different aspects of business coaching, but most women usually need more assistance and guidance in some particular areas over others. If you have a certificate in executive coaching and mentoring, you most likely possess the ability to cover at least two of them for your clients.

After going through the opinion of numerous business mentors who have had a great deal of experience in working with talented women across multiple fields, the primary mentoring needs of corporate women in particular seem to be divided into three broad categories:

  • Advisory mentorship
  • Strategic mentorship
  • Operational mentorship

Advisory Mentorship: Feedback

Most women working in a corporate environment agree that their managers are not as straightforward or guiding with their feedback to the female executives as they are usually with the male executives. The feedback is, of course, extremely important for growth, and in its absence, improvement and employee evolution is often stunted - even in those with potential.

The advisory role of the mentor is meant to fill this damaging gap by providing her with valuable feedback which she can then use to further her own progress. It is important for everyone, regardless of gender, to get a clear idea regarding what their weaknesses are that they need to work on, as well as getting feedback on their strengths, so that they know exactly what to rely on in times of urgency. The advisory role played by a coach and mentor involves doing both and much more.

Strategic Mentorship: Exposure

Exposure is another part of the industry where women employees and even female business owners are lagging behind, since managers, partners and other decision makers often end up highlighting the best performing men over the equally talented (if not more so) women.

The job of the strategic mentor is to make sure that her clients are not overshadowed by anyone. They work towards bringing the spotlight to talented leaders and executives, so that they too can form valuable partnerships, get promotions, and find more suited roles for their talents. It is to be noted that experienced and well-connected business coaches who have been in the field for a while make the best strategic mentors for obvious reasons.

Operational Mentorship: Advice

Operational mentorship goes beyond just the generic advice, but involves an actual process and step by step solution to overcoming obstacles in a female executive's path to success, be it for an immediate project or a long-term goal.

Just as experienced coaches and mentors are ideal for strategic mentorship, women need more industry specific guidance when it comes to operational mentors. They need to be women who have actually worked in the specific field concerned, or finding practical solutions and forming strategies to overcome specific obstacles will prove difficult, even if the mentor has her best interests in mind.

When you are a highly qualified, experienced and successful female business coach, know that you are not only helping your clients reach success, but you are at the same time being seen as a role model for women working in the corporate sector. Every time you succeed in making another woman reach her goals, you are inspiring more women to follow in your footsteps, as well as showing them how to walk that road to success by mentoring them.