Faith At The Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant

Beauty pageants are often criticized by Christians for their promotion of secular values, but according to Christianity Today, the contest has long attracted Christian women who unashamedly voiced their faith, including Miss America 2003, Erika Harold.

This year, the first ever Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant will be judging fifty-two of some of the country's most talented and intelligent women aged 13 to 17 years old, who are scheduled to be judged on personal interview, talent, evening wear, lifestyle & fitness in active wear, and respond to an onstage question at the Linda Chapin Theater in the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fl. August 17-20.

Among them are two outstanding teen Christians: Jalee Kate Fuselier, 17, Miss Hawaii, and Bethany Moore, 18, Miss Louisiana.

Bethany said her prayers to God were the reason for her wins at the preliminary and the state level.

"Whenever I had heard about Miss America having the platform of community service, I thought that this was a way to get the word out about mission work. So I just kept praying that I would win the preliminary and that allowed me to go to state. And I won state," she said. "God has just given me this opportunity. God's given me all the tools. A couple of years ago, I could've never done all this, and here I am at nationals."

According to Bethany, there are many contestants who possess "strong faith" like herself

Miss Hawaii's Outstanding Teen, Jalee Kate Fuselier, not only wishes to dedicate her platform to volunteerism, but her "goal in life" is to become a "missionary," who can practice physical therapy overseas.

An honor student and avid volunteer, Jalee has worked with Teen Missions in Europe, Cameroon, and Uganda and volunteered with the Children of Nations in Malawi, Africa.

She spoke to The Christian Post about mentoring a pair of children in Malawi who watched their parents die of AIDS. They were taken in by their uncle only to be abused.

"This little boy was tied on a tree every day, and his sister would bring food to him so he wouldn't die," she said. "His sister would tell him that if only he could live for her - because they didn't have their parents any more - that was all she wanted."

Jalee later had the opportunity to mentor them after they were rescued by a missions organization.

The experience taught her that "I can make a difference in someone's life and that's so rewarding for me and for them."

If she were to win, she hopes to use the chance to ask teens to volunteer and give.

"Americans have so much to give. I think it would be cool if more teenagers get involved in contributing in their own country, whether it's mentoring or giving back to their homes," she said.

Raised as a Christian, she puts her trust in God, and that has helped her through personal trials and mission work.

"Being raised with a sister who has cerebral palsy has taught me so much. My mother has breast cancer and I grew a lot through that - thinking that I might lose her. Through it all, I really feel that God has prepared me."

She never dreamed that she would be at a Miss America pageant, and said that it was God who gave these experiences to make her stronger.

"I have my whole faith in God. I know that God has brought me here to this platform, and I believe He will take me as far as He wants me to go."

"Every year, the Miss America pageant attracts an inordinate number of born-again Christian women vying for the title," according to Christianity Today. A third of the title winners from the past three decades have overt Christian references, testimonies, or invitations to accept Christ.

Many are motivated by the chance to win enough money to finance their education. Others see it as an opportunity to launch a career.

"The Miss America pageant is one of the few platforms available for young Christian women to win significant educational scholarships while gaining incredible exposure to realize their dreams without compromising their beliefs," said 1973 Miss America Terry Meeuwsen to CT.

"No other program gives such a voice to a woman," Tara Dawn Holland Christensen, Miss America 1997, told CT.