Laura Broughton is a pharmacy and public health graduate student at the University of Kentucky.
She sings, exercises at the YMCA and tries to eat well.
Blond and blue-eyed, she also is Miss Kentucky Plus America 2013 — a contestant in a pageant that requires its contestants to be a size 14W or more, and that will be crowning Miss Plus America in July. (The size distinction between 14 misses and 14W adds up to several inches, so it is important.)
Many people probably have not heard of the pageant, but Broughton said that will change during the next decade.
"It's going to be a big deal," she said while sipping a diet Ale-8-One outside Natasha's Bistro in downtown Lexington. "I'm excited to be involved in the early stages."
While a substitute teacher in her native Henry County, Broughton, 25, was urged to enter the pageant by a student who was a teen ambassador for the pageant. Broughton will compete in the national pageant July 16 to 20 in Monroe, La.
A 2009 graduate of Transylvania University, Broughton, whose goal is to be an infectious diseases pharmacist, jumped on board.
She has an eye-popping bright blue sequined gown with an aqua-tinted belt for the evening gown portion of the competition. She also will sing, although she has not decided whether the song will be Someone Like You from the musical Jekyll & Hyde or the classic Stormy Weather.
One of her proudest moments was throwing out the first pitch at a Lexington Legends game. Several mothers approached her and thanked her for being a role model for their daughters.
"It was easier for me to love my body when I listened to messages of acceptance rather than messages of shame ... when I blocked out the guy in the pickup truck mooing at me on Limestone when I was walking home from class and listened to positive messages instead," she wrote in an email.
"That guy, and people like him, might think that making me ashamed about how I look will change anything. But you generally care most about the things you love, and so choosing to love my body instead has been the best thing I could have done for myself. I look back at pictures of me in high school and wonder why I spent so many years hating the way I looked. ... That's what I don't want for little girls."
Broughton played sports — basketball, softball and cheering — through most of her youth.
"I'll probably always be a bigger girl, but I know that activity is probably the most important aspect of overall health," she said. "I also know from physiology classes just how hard it is for the human body to lose weight and maintain it."
Her platform for her pageant bid is "Forget-Me-Not Alzheimer's Research." Both of her maternal grandparents have the disease, and Broughton plans to stage a second fundraising concert in Henry County — the first was in 2012 — to raise awareness about the disease.
"I don't champion a 'real women have curves' notion so much as an 'all women are real women, all women are beautiful, and all women have value irrespective of the sizes stitched in their jeans or the freckles on their faces,'" she said.
Sitting on a café chair in downtown Lexington, blond hair rustling in the afternoon breeze, she said, "I was created with inherent self-worth. My body is a good body. ... I'm incredibly fortunate."
Some FAQs from the Miss Plus America website, MissPlusAmerica.com.
Does the Miss Plus America pageant promote obesity?
"The Miss Plus America pageant promotes being healthy and being self-confident at any size."
Why enter the Miss Plus America Pageant?
"Coronet Productions goes to great lengths to make every aspect of the Miss Plus America Pageant special. We are on the cutting edge of pageantry and we are proud to say, it's okay to love who you are."
Some may ask if we're here only to make a statement. Coronet Productions always responds, "No, we're here to make a difference."
Is Miss Plus America affiliated with the Miss America Organization?
What is the minimum size-requirement?
Each delegate must be a size 14W or greater. There is no height or size limit.
What is the difference between a size 14 and a size 14W?
There is an additional inch on each side of a 14W. It is the same size as a 16 misses but with some modifications to proportion. A 14W is a 16 misses. The W stands for woman. A size 14 misses is not the same as a size 14 woman.