When she was 13, Miss America Teresa Scanlan learned a friend of hers was struggling with bulimia. She began to do research, finding the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).
Scanlan convinced her friend to talk to her parents and seek help. Scanlan continued to stay connected to ANAD and that relationship continued to grow over the years, continuing even today.
On Monday, Scanlan who at 17 was the youngest Miss America winner in more than 70 years, visited where she encouraged students to accept themselves and accept others.
With her platform related to eating disorders, Scanlan who is from Nebraska, appeared on behalf of ANAD to talk to students. She also was invited to speak at a at at Linden Oaks on Monday night.
Scanlan told students she began participating in pageants when she was 13, even though she had braces, crazy hair and didn’t think she had a chance at winning.
Her motivation for participating in pageants: “I was not a pageant girl at all. … I thought it would be fun.”
She gave the students some advice: “Never limit yourself. Let go of fear. Dive into life head first.”
During the afternoon assembly in the school gym, which was filled with the entire student body, Scanlan said that everyone has fears and doubts, but that it is important for the students to believe in themselves and to be themselves.
Scanlan said she was hopeless at sports, but as a piano player she enjoyed performing.
“I found somewhere where I belonged, where I fit in and it was something I liked to do,” she said about pageants. “I found this place where all these thing I love came together.”
During her talk, Scanlan asked the students if they had ever made fun of another student. A majority of the students’ hands went up.
“You will never get anywhere if you push other people down,” she told the students.
She explained that when she was in school, she enjoyed making clothes out of colored Duck Tape. She said people thought she was weird but she didn’t care and she didn’t try to change who she was; she kept making clothing from the tape. She even put it on her Miss America resume.
Now she gets to judge the Duck Tape prom competition for the tape company and attend the national convention.
“I realized, I didn’t have to try to be like other people,” she said. “I focus on what is the best I can be.”
The students asked her a wide variety of questions including:
- What is her favorite color? Purple.
- What was the coolest thing she made from Duck Tape? She would have liked to have decorated her car in the tape, but knew it wouldn’t work in the heat.
- How does the tiara stay on? It has elastic that she uses bobby pins to attach to her hair.
- Will she get to keep the crown after her reign? Yes, but she won’t be able to wear it.
Some of the questions reverted back to Scanlan’s platform. She said that even though eating disorders are a disease, they usually start because of attitudes that others express and with people making fun of others.
“This is not something you can ignore,” she said. “One in five people die.”
Scanlan asked the students to take a stand against bullying, not to make fun of others for being different and to let others know how they feel.