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Miss America 2008 Kirstin Haglund

At 19, Kirsten Haglund joined an elite few, becoming one of the youngest women to ever wear the crown as Miss America. Yet despite the age, the demand and the spotlight, she carried her torch with passion and maturity, accomplishing so much for so many causes. So much, in fact, that she doesn’t plan on stopping to rest when a new Miss America is crowned on January 24.

Kirsten plans to continue her passionate work as an advocate for eating disorders, as well as creating her own foundation. And when she took some time to reflect on her accomplishments from the past year, she hardly sounded 20, echoing the accomplishments and confidence of someone twice her age. One thing is for certain, if this year was any indication of her years to come, there won’t be much left for her to do by the time she turns 40.

Pageantry magazine: First and foremost, I have to admit that I’m pretty jealous of you. Ever since I was a kid I always dreamed of throwing out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game, and you got to do that early in your reign at the Detroit Tigers’ home opener. Did you have any prior experience with a baseball, because you seemed like you had the motions down?
Kirsten Haglund: I did practice my pitch before that game because I didn’t want to royally embarrass myself, and be representing my state and my country. I didn’t want people saying, “Oh Miss America, she throws like a girl.” I just practiced my pitch beforehand, and I had hoped to throw it in the strike zone. They told me I did. At least it didn’t bounce.

PM: And you got to perform before Arena Bowl XXII, too. Are you a big sports nut or is it just all part of the job?
KH:
You know, I do happen to perform at a lot of sporting events—the Arena Bowl, a Lions game, INDY and NASCAR races and a Pistons game. Obviously it’s a lot of fun, but before this year I wasn’t a huge sports person because I was always involved in theater, but I have become just really enthusiastic about sports. It’s always so much fun with so much energy, and it’s just very Americana.

PM: You’re one of the youngest Miss America titleholders in history. How did the age factor weigh on you, with all of the traveling and appearances?
KH:
It forces you to grow up very fast, but I’ve always been an old soul. I really believe that age is just a number. But it helps that I have a lot of energy and I came in from a very busy high school schedule and college life as well, so it wasn’t too much of an adjustment for me. At the beginning of the year it was a little intimidating, but you can’t please everyone and you just have to be yourself. At the end of the day I have a good feeling that I represented the organization in a very good and mature way.

 

Miss America 2008 collage

PM: While you certainly can’t be expected to rank the work that you’ve done for your platforms, which of your accomplishments this past year are you more considerably proud of?
KH:
One thing that I was really excited about is that I was able to lobby Congress with the Eating Disorders Coalition in April, and we were lobbying for the passage of mental health parity, which mandates that companies offer coverage to treat for mental health illnesses, and introducing the FREED Bill, which is an acronym for the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders. That was a really huge triumph in the field of eating disorders. And, of course, I also love everything we do with the Children’s Miracle Network.

PM: You recently embarked on National Smoke Out Day, yet another cause that you’ve taken up. How do you prepare for all of these appearances when you’re dealing with a variety of causes throughout the year?
KH:
You just take each day as it comes. The schedule is so busy and hectic, and if you look too far into the future it can get stressful. Every cause that we have is somehow related, from the children to the eating disorders and even with smoking, because it’s all about respecting your body.

PM: You’re out there day-after-day, educating and promoting awareness. Do you feel like one year is long enough to accomplish what you’ve set out to do or do you find yourself wishing there were a few more hours in your days?
KH:
I always wish there were more hours in the day, whether it’s for campaigning, just doing what you do or even sleeping. But I don’t look at this year as one year. I look at it as the beginning of the rest of my life. If I, as a 20-year old young woman, see this as my peak—that’s horrible. It’s only going to go up from here. I’m starting my own foundation and I’m starting my career, and I’ll continue to be an advocate for eating disorders.

PM: How much time do you spend working with your Outstanding Teen counterpart, and how much of an influence do you try to be for her?
KH:
I love and adore Taylor, she’s absolutely wonderful. I got to meet her before the Outstanding Teen pageant in Orlando, when she was competing. She’s a great girl. We got to do a few appearances together, and I worked with Caitlin Brunell a lot, too. It’s such an important relationship. What they do is so wonderful, so hopefully they will come up and compete in the Miss program.

PM:You’ve obviously met your fair share of celebrities this year, what with all of your appearances. Do you get nervous or star struck when you’re attending events? Who were some of the people you’ve met while making your rounds?
KH:
The people that I get more star struck around were the people I was meeting in Washington D.C., people who are doing things and making a difference in the world, like Madeline Albright, Salmon Rushdie or the President. Or like when I was lobbying Congress, that’s when I’m thinking, “Wow.” That’s when I’m star struck.

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