Miss Kentucky USA Madelynne Myers had to make a difficult choice: walk across the stage to accept her diploma from Vanderbilt University or walk across another stage to compete for the Miss USA title.
Myers, 22, who is set to graduate with a degree in molecular and cellular biology and minors in chemistry and Spanish, was crowned Miss Kentucky USA in January.
On Saturday, she will participate in the national pageant rather than her graduation ceremony.
The Louisville native started competing in pageants after former Miss Kentucky USA Amanda Metz visited her high school, Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, to recruit other young women to enter pageants.
As a junior, Myers said, she wasn’t the typical beauty queen — she spent more time in the library than in public, and she had braces.
“Miss Kentucky USA came to high school recruiting and was passing around this beautiful crown, and I was really interested,” she said. “My best friend kind of looked at me and said, ‘Don’t even think about it. You wouldn’t be good at it. You aren’t the type of girl they are looking for.’”
Myers said she was really competitive and she played a few sports in high school. She went home that day and talked to her mother about it. Her mother, Debbie Myers, remembers the conversation and she probably still has the brochure somewhere.
Madelynne Myers entered a pageant and placed in the top five.
“It’s been a journey for the whole family,” Debbie Myers said.
Larry Myers, Madelynne’s father, said he often plays a supporting role, making sure Madelynne and her mother have everything they need to make the process seamless.
“Maddy is a very accomplished young lady, and she likes to achieve and she is intelligent, and she will figure out what she needs to do to accomplish what she wants,” he said.
When she competes — she was the 2016 first runner-up for Miss Kentucky USA, a semi-finalist in Miss Tennessee USA, a semi-finalist for Miss Kentucky Teen USA 2013 and a third runner up for Miss Kentucky Teen USA 2012 — she looks for pageants that focus on what contestants stand for, not those concerned about how contestants walk or how they look in the dresses they wear, she said. Myers enters pageants that celebrate women, she said.
Her platform is eradicating gender inequality through education.
She said women are geared to juggle many roles.
“I just want to show that you can be a trauma surgeon; you can be Miss Kentucky USA. There are limitless possibilities for all of us in our jobs, and it is our right to go and do that,” she said.
Some of her professors and friends know about her pageant participation, but not much has changed for her at college. She said she’s just a regular student with a shiny crown. At Vanderbilt, Myers volunteers in the university hospital’s trauma unit and researches aneurysm treatment and recovery. She has traveled to Ghana and Nicaragua to work in clinics.
“It’s a giant juggling act,” she said. “You know, there are times when I sit down and think, ‘I’ve been in three states this weekend. I have an exam on Wednesday and two papers due Thursday.’ And it just all works out somehow.”
Myers is taking off a year between her graduation and enrolling in medical school to devote herself to Miss Kentucky USA. As for where she will attend medical school, she is not sure but would love to return to the Bluegrass.
The Miss USA pageant will air at 7 p.m. May 14 on Fox, live from Mandalay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.