London Knows Best

After capturing the title in Orlando, Florida, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen 2019 London Hibbs shared her thoughts on community service, the arts, and loving who you are right now

Pageantry magazine: Well, you’re Miss America’s Outstanding Teen 2019. What do you remember most about standing center stage awaiting the announcement?
London Hibbs: I just remember looking out into the audience and thinking how crazy it was that I was actually standing on this stage, because last year I came to the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Competition and watched in support of Miss Texas Outstanding Teen 2017. And I just remember looking up on that stage and feeling so inspired by all of the girls who were up there and thinking, “Wow, how cool would it be if someday I could stand on that stage and compete for this incredible opportunity.”
So, to think that just a year later I was standing up there awaiting these results, and then to hear my name called, I was just overwhelmed with gratitude and humility.
It was a really crazy experience, and I had so many thoughts going through my mind, of course happiness, excitement,
and gratitude.

PM: How did you become interested in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Program?
LH: Several things actually interested me in the competition. This is my second year competing, so my first year I competed as an at-large titleholder in the state of Texas. I really only got involved a couple of months before the state competition, and I placed first runner-up, and I absolutely loved it. Then, I competed in my first local pageant. I won the title of Miss Dallas Outstanding Teen, and then I won Miss Texas Outstanding Teen just about three weeks before coming to Orlando for the national competition.
One thing that really interested me in the competition was the service aspect with Children’s Miracle Network. I actually started volunteering with CMNH when I was about 11 or 12. In my hometown, I would dress as Queen Elsa or Princess Belle or Princess Aurora and surprise kids that were in CMN hospitals and sing their favorite Disney princess songs with them and play games and interact with them. Seeing the smiles that it put on their faces really touched my heart.
When I found out that CMN was the national platform of the MAO Teen organization, I knew that it would be super cool for me to compete. So coming from a background of having done so many classical vocal competitions and master classes and things like that, I wasn’t exactly sure how the breakdown of competition worked. But, I just wanted to have this opportunity to be with kids and land a scholarship, like my mom when she competed in scholarship pageants. She actually earned a full ride to Southern Methodist University. She went there, and all of the money that her parents had been saving for her college education, my grandmother ended up getting to use.
So my grandmother and my mom got to attend college for the first time at the same time all because of scholarship pageants like this one. And that’s kind of what interested me. I knew from my first competition at Texas Outstanding Teen last year that this is what I wanted to be doing, and I had so much fun doing it. So it’s a huge honor to be here as Miss
America’s Outstanding Teen now, two years later.

PM: Can you speak about your work so far with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen?
LH: Absolutely. As far as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to about five states so far, so that’s really cool. The first state that I visited, that wasn’t Florida or Texas, was Tennessee. I visited the Monroe C. Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville.
Going into the hospital, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to be doing that day. But I didn’t really care. If I just got to make one child smile then that was more than enough for me. Because that’s truly why I was there. But I ended up having this incredible experience that really touched my heart. I was brought into the Seacrest Studio, which is from the Seacrest Foundation that provides a really fun activity for the kids and the patients at the hospital to be able to interact with local or national celebrities that come in and do this live radio and TV talk show. So it was really cool. I was brought in as a special guest, not really knowing if I would actually get to interact with other kids that day. And this little girl stumbled upon the set of the Seacrest Studio and saw me in there. She came inside and her name was Oakly. She had said that she had been seeing advertisements that I was going to be here throughout the hospital all week, and she was so excited.
She came in and sat down in the chair next to me, and we started the talk show. I had this opportunity to ask Oakly some questions about herself. She asked me about me and about being Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. At the end I kind of brought it all home with how I originally got involved with this organization, which was, to me, the power of a princess.
And I said, “Oakly, who’s your favorite princess?” She said, “Oh, Elsa. I love Queen Elsa.” And I said, “Do you want to sing an Elsa song with me?” So we sang “Let it Go” and we sang “Do You Want to Build a Snowman.” It was the most heartwarming experience that I have ever had with ­a child.
And it just meant so much to me seeing this little girl be so excited and being able to completely forget about everything that was happening to her and put sickness so far out of her mind that all she could think about was how fun it was getting to play princess with Miss America’s Outstanding Teen and be Elsa for a day. That was a really,
really touching experience that I had and definitely the highlight of my year so far.

PM: Tell me about your platform, Check Yes for Life, and how you decided upon it.
LH: I originally created Check Yes for Life in partnership with Donate Life Texas, which shortly before I arrived at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen expanded to Donate Life America.
The reason I decided to make Check Yes for Life my social impact is my great uncle; his life was actually saved by a generous man who tragically passed away in a vehicle accident who was a registered organ donor. My uncle had a collapsed lung. He was a singer like me. This gift from this generous man who he’d never met before not only saved his life, but the lives of seven other people. And he also impacted hundreds of lives through bone cartilage donation and tissue donation and skin donation.
Seeing that truly life impacting decision that he made really inspired me to create a platform that was relevant to teens and that was relevant to tangibly saving lives. Check Yes for Life essentially just inspires teens who are really focused on getting that driver’s license or getting that learning permit so that they can hop in their car and get out of the house. It encourages them when they’re filling out all the exciting paperwork before they get that license to really read over that simple little question with a tiny little box next to it that says, “Would you like to register as an organ donor? Check yes or no.”
I want to inspire teens to not only check yes to organ donation, but Check Yes for Life in all aspects of life that they can in order to save other peoples’ lives, if possible.

PM: What do the title and responsibility mean to you?
LH: I think the responsibility mainly to me is just being that voice for teens across the country and internationally. So many teens right now are struggling with bullying. They’re struggling in school. They’re struggling with depression, keeping grades up, trying to be involved in extracurricular activities while maintaining a high GPA, being involved in their communities, being involved in sports and the arts. And being able to be this voice for teens and say, “Not only can you accomplish all of these things, but bring yourself into these things and allow what’s inside of you to shine through in everything that you do.”
So that’s what’s really important to me. Being a junior in high school, as most Miss America’s Outstanding Teens in the past have been seniors in high school, I have that freedom and I have that ability because I’m not so concerned with having to apply to colleges this year. I can just focus on my year as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen and my year as a junior to really connect with those teens and say, “Hey, if a girl from a small town who had never done a competition before like this in her life can win Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, then you can do anything you’ve set your mind to.”

PM: During Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, you were asked if there was anything you would change about yourself. Now that some time has passed, what would you change?
LH: Well, when being asked if there was anything about myself, I answered that I liked myself. And for the time being I couldn’t really think of anything that I would change
about myself.
I think that we all have little nit-picky personal things that we would do differently in our everyday lives, or that maybe we just wish could be a
little bit different, either about our physical outward appearance or about the way we manage our time. And I certainly have those things, as well, as probably most everyone else on this planet does.
But like I said earlier about being that voice for teens, I think the most important thing to me is inspiring teens to feel confident,to be able to say, “Hey, it’s okay to recognize that I like who I am as a person. I appreciate and I acknowledge how far I’ve grown and how far I’ve come on whatever journey that I’ve had, whether that be through school or the arts or sports.”
So I stick by my answer to say that I like myself, because I do. And especially I know that this organization has given me so much of that confidence to be able to speak out, not only to other teens, but to children and adults, as well. I can say, “This is who I am, and I’m proud of it. And I’m constantly working toward being the best version of myself possible.”

PM: You attend a performing arts high school, and you actually
have to travel quite a distance from home.
LH: I do. My school, Booker T. Washington, is a public school, and I auditioned my sophomore year. My home town of Tyler is about two hours away from school.
During the week, I live with my mom or whichever family member is generous enough to sacrifice their time to stay with me for the week. And then most weekends, or during any time that I have off from school, I go back to my home town of East Texas and Tyler. I visit all my family members and get to see my dog, and I get to see all my friends and family that live in Tyler. So it’s cool. It’s like the best of both worlds, for sure.

PM: After high school you hope to attend the Columbia Juilliard program, correct?
LH: Yes. I had the opportunity to tour both the Juilliard School and Columbia University a few months ago when I performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. I really fell in love with the opportunity that both of the schools gave students, if admitted, to attend both schools at the same time.
That’s always been something that I struggled with in terms of a college or university, figuring out where I wanted to go. Because like I said, singing is such a huge part of me. It’s something that I’m so involved in. But I always wanted to really pour my efforts during college into something else, as well, and kind of broaden my opportunities and expand my world view. I’m really interested in studying pre-law, and that’s why I think Miss America’s Outstanding Teen is doing such a wonderful job preparing me for the future and what it will be like as a busy adult trying to balance work and volunteering and service involvement and things like that. I want to push myself to not only be accepted to both schools, but to pour my efforts and my talents into these different majors from different schools of completely different aspects.
While I’m not 100% sure what I want to do when I grow up, I guess you could say, I know that I definitely want to continue studying vocal performance. And I know that I want to
explore the field of law, as well.

PM: You have an extremely busy schedule, especially with school and volunteering. How do you manage everything?
LH: Well, my school has been so wonderful and understanding and flexible with my schedule this year, which has been great. But I think more so than that, it’s really just me sitting down and prioritizing and organizing. Because the job of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen is only a once in a lifetime opportunity, it only lasts for 12 months. So I want to utilize every single day, every single hour that I have as MAOTeen this year to touch the lives of as many people as possible.
As a junior in high school taking all pre-AP and advanced placement courses, it can be a little difficult to make sure that I’m getting all of my homework done on time and I’m studying for my tests and I’m still able to travel and go on these unique opportunities and appearances.

PM: Do you have any down time or hobbies? What do you do?
LH: Awesome question! Well, I love to sing, so at my school I study classical singing, as well as gospel. I’m in my school’s gospel choir, and that’s really fun for me. And I do choral singing as well. In my down time I’m always kind of singing. That’s just a huge part of me, and regardless if it’s for school or a performance, I just love to sing. And I love to better myself in that aspect of my life as much as I can.
When I’m not singing, I love to play with my dog. I really love animals. I’m actually vegan. I’ve been vegan for about four years. So another thing that I do that I feel like a lot of people actually don’t know about me is I’m a part-time volunteer at my local ASPCA. I spend a lot of time there. Animals are a huge part of my life also, so I’m hanging out with them whenever possible.

PM: The performing arts areobviously a big passion. Why are the performing arts so important today?
LH: I think the number one reason that the arts, especially in education, are so important for today’s youth is that it gives kids that creative outlet, not only to express themselves, but to express to their family members and their peers and those around them what this outlet gives them.
I think for me, it’s given me an opportunity to say classical music is my passion. And that’s kind of an unpopular opinion. Today’s teens are invested ­and involved with pop music and rap music and things like that. While dance music and electronically engineered music and things like that are really popular right now and really cool, part of our generations’ culture, I want to keep the classical stuff alive because that’s how I was trained. That’s how I was brought up in music.
At first I had kind of the same idea, like, “Oh, this is not going to be for me. This is what people listen to that play in symphonies and things like that.” And really just having that opportunity that my school gave me to explore the classical field only opened my mind, opened my perspective of the world around and of music as a whole. I really opened my heart to say, “This is something that I love to do regardless of how other people feel about it. It’s something that I like to do and it’s something that’s important to me.”
Arts give students that opportunityto figure out what it is that they like and pursue it in whatever way they so choose.

PM: As Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, you’ve earned a wonderful scholarship. How much have you won?
LH: I earned $30,000 in scholarships for being crowned Miss America’s Outstanding Teen alone, which is incredible to me. Because like I said, scholarships have been a huge part of my family and ended up paying for my grandmother’s education and my mom’s, as well.
So for winning Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, I won $30,000. And then I won $1,000 in combination from my preliminary award from talent, which was $500, and evening wear on stage, which was also $500. And that’s just at the national level.
At the state level, competing over two years I’ve won a $5,000 scholarship for winning the title of Miss Texas Outstanding Teen, and a $500 scholarship for winning the title of Miss Dallas Outstanding Teen. Multiple other preliminary awards and scholarships have earned me almost $40,000 to further my education.

PM: What’s the most pressing concern of teens today, and how do you address it?
LH: I think the most pressing concern teens have for themselves and for society is definitely bullying and the mistreatment of each other that we often face in high school. Aside from that, I think as a more general issue, today’s teens sometimes suffer from a lack of understanding between right and privilege. I think that we need to really explain and show today’s teens, especially in America, how incredibly privileged we are to have what we do, and show them how important it is to be grateful and thankful for these things, and then show them how to give back to those around them, to be involved in their communities. I think it will create a brighter future not only for today’s teens, but for generations to come.

PM: Let’s talk about your trip to Atlantic City for the Miss America pageant. What was your highlight?
LH: I had a lot of highlights on my trip to Atlantic City, but I’d say probably my favorite part was the day that I got spend with the teens. Since I got crowned so late before Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, I really hadn’t had an opportunity to meet a lot of the state titleholders for Outstanding Teen. So, it was really, really fun to spend the day with them in a noncompetitive environment. The first thing that we did in the morning was volunteer at a food bank. It was an incredible experience, because all of the teens really just let their hair down and had that opportunity to donate our time and give back to those who aren’t as fortunate and aren’t as lucky as we are to have what we do.
Not only was it a fun bonding experience, but it was great with a little friendly competition. We tried to beat the goal of last year’s teams for stacking the most canned food items to distribute to the less fortunate of New Jersey. We all had fun doing it.

PM: Do you have the proverbial bucket list for the rest of the year?
LH: I think that mostly my bucket list just includes honestly getting to travel and getting to spread my message, not only Check Yes for Life, but just encouraging people to show love with your life throughout our country. I would love to have the opportunity to go on some cool experiences and appearance opportunities with Nia, the reigning Miss America.
We’re both classical opera singers, so that’s really cool to me. We’re both passionate advocates for arts and education and avid CMN volunteers. We have so much in common, and I hope that we get to do a lot together this year. That’s definitely on my bucket list, for sure.

PM: What advice do you have for those considering competing in Miss America’s Outstanding Teen?
LH: My best advice would be for all of the teens that are considering competing or maybe have competed before and aren’t sure if this is for them, I would say, “You need to sit back and look inside yourself. And when you do that, if you realize that this is where your heart is, if your heart lies in those four points of the crown, the service, the scholarship, the style and the success, then put your best foot forward in everything that you do to go for all of the goals that you have. And if you do that you can really reach anything.”