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An Air Force Officer Reflects on the Path to Becoming Miss America.



What led you to apply to the Air Force Academy?

“I heard it was a great institution to not only get a stellar undergraduate education but also put you on the track to become a pilot or maybe an astronaut,” she told a reporter for the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Ms. Marsh recently suggested a career as an astronaut may no longer be of interest. Her goals are to serve as a role model for girls, an educated and prepared military leader and advocate for cancer treatment policy.

Tell us about your focus on pancreatic cancer.

“My biggest passion is pancreatic cancer advocacy after losing my mom,” she said. “And I see that as a very important skill set that I can help save lives around the world with my mom’s story and really trying to better ensure that all patients are being taken care of.”

What are your thoughts about women and the intersection of fashion and beauty?

“I’m all for everyone doing what they want because life is life and we all have to live it in a way we want to live it,” she said. When asked if her fellow airmen dismissed the hobbies as frivolous, she replied, “I brush if off and I do my thing.”

“For me, it is important to feel feminine but it is also important to serve our country and they don’t need to be separated or to be taken down because someone else doesn’t like it.”

American beauty pageants, as they were once known, became controversial in the ’60s and ’70s, viewed as objectifying women with a focus on physical appearance, and a narrow one at that. But Amy Argetsinger, author of the book, “There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America,” said today’s pageant entrants are descendants of the women’s movement and are “far more empowered and ambitious than their mother’s generation.” Among recent winners: the nuclear engineer Grace Stanke (2023); the composer Nia Imani Franklin (2019); and the public speaker and television host Nina Davuluri (2014).

How do you see winning the title affecting your future?

The contacts made as Miss America, the experiences and the learning that happens, she said, “is supposed to ensure that I’m not just powerful and empowered this year but that I am empowered as a woman for the rest of my life.”

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