Written by: sheTeen, Mayson
Note from Jenny: I grew up in Maryland. My nieces, Mayson, Katie, Chloe and Isabella, write for sheTEEN here on sheKC -- they live in Maryland! So, there's the connection. And HERE is a compelling interview from Mayson with Miss Maryland, Hannah Brewer! Enjoy!
I have had the privilege of knowing Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer since fifth grade, and I have seen firsthand how hard she’s worked to achieve her status as Miss Maryland. She’s a woman who is beautiful—inside and out. She has given her all to this career and NOT ONLY won Miss Maryland 2016, but competed and placed TOP 7 in the televised Miss America 2017 Pageant and won the preliminary swimsuit award! I’m so excited to see what’s next for her in her life, and I am SO honored to introduce her and her story to SheTEEN!
How did you get into pageants?
My sister Nicole was the one who inspired me most. She was Miss Pennsylvania in 2005, when I was only eight years old. As I watched her achieve her goal, I was so inspired and wanted to be able to do what she did! You can’t be a teen contestant till 13, so until then, I watched my sister and started the mentoring program for Miss America. It is for girls ages 4-11, and each little girl is assigned to a contestant & for that contestant’s reign, the little girl gets to go on appearances with them. That program really helped me get started!
What's involved in your daily routine as Miss Maryland?
It’s honestly different everyday! Typically—I eat a nice breakfast because I’m out all day. Then I spend time getting things ready with my nonprofit; making phone calls, sending emails, finding sponsors, and planning events. Then in the afternoon, I usually have some kind of appearance planned— greeting troops, serving at a homeless shelter, attending United Service Organizations (USO) events, or helping at Children’s Miracle Network. There’s always something new to do, which makes it super fun!
Can you explain the nonprofit you started?
I founded Hannah’s Heroes when I was 15. On May 24, 2012 I went to volunteer with Operation Welcome Home Maryland, an organization that welcomes home every troop from the Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI). I saw and welcomed hundreds of men and women coming home from overseas. Most of these service members either had family to go home to from the airport or had a hotel room somewhere to stay when they arrived at BWI. However, one of the groups of men had a flight that had completely vanished so they didn’t have anywhere to go until they could get a new flight out the following day. All of these men were laying on the floor and benches in the airport for the night. I thought it was really wrong, especially for all they were doing to help our country. So, I started making fleece blankets donating to USO so they could have at least something to sleep with even if it was on a bench or on the floor. This slowly evolved to the official nonprofit organization I run now—Hannah’s Heroes!
We now meet the needs of three different groups of people: active duty military members, military family, and veterans. So far we’ve sent over 1,000 care packages, 5,000 Christmas cookies, 5,000 cards overseas, and themed holiday and party packages. We have also been able to fly people home to get to see their family members during holidays. For family members, we hold princess parties. These are for military children. We bring them to the event where adult women volunteer to be princesses and hang with the little girls, they get some new toys, and get to feel super special for the entire day. Overall, if we see a need in any of these areas, we try to fill it.
Can you share a little bit about your experience in Miss America? What were you most nervous and most excited about?
Something I was most nervous about was how I was going to get along with 52 sisters at the Miss America competition. But, to be honest, I ended up walking away with some of my best friends! Everyone was so like-minded. We all have been working towards the same goal, so we have so many things in common and have gone through a bunch of the same things! Somehow it all magically worked that even though we all came from different places around the country and different lifestyles, we all got along really well.
I was nervous about what it would be like to be judged by celebrities as well. People like Mark Cuban were judging me, so that definitely made me nervous to think about. But honestly, it wasn’t as nerve racking as you’d think it would be. It felt about the same as any other judge once you got on stage! I was also REALLY excited to give Chris Harrison a hug (I just kept thinking “oh my gosh he just hugged me!”)! Plus, I got to be one of the first people to hug Miss America. That was just such an awesome experience as well. Totally a dream come true.
Any time you're working to achieve a big goal like this you have to sacrifice something. What do you feel like you've had to sacrifice to be a part of this process?
One of the biggest sacrifices has been that I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted when preparing for Miss America. That was definitely hard. I LOVE that I can eat what I want now! For the swimsuit part of the competition, I wanted to be cautious about what I was putting into my body. However, even though I watched what I ate, I still ate what I wanted to. I kept eating normally up until the time I competed, and honestly…even the day I competed in swimsuit I had a cupcake! But, I did definitely make a conscious effort to choose healthier options leading up to the competition. Also, I have had to give up a year of school. Miss Maryland is a paid job were I get paid to do appearances. It’s definitely hard to be a year behind in school now, but at the same time, I have been able to earn around $25,000 in scholarships through being Miss Maryland. So, although I’ve sacrificed a year of school, I have been able to make a good investment towards my education so that when I do go back I can be debt free!
How do you keep yourself beautiful on the inside while there's such a pressure to maintain beauty on the outside?
When you are Miss Maryland, it’s difficult not to become beautiful on the inside. You’re going to places where people who are less fortunate than you constantly—homeless shelter, spend time with kids in a children’s hospital…It’s all so humbling.
When I got to Miss America, I found a HUGE tear in my dress. It was completely destroyed at the bottom. I was so nervous and upset, and kept thinking—what am I going to do?! Well, that same day, I went to a homeless shelter and spent time with all these men and women who don’t even have a home to go to. I then realized that here I was complaining about how my dress is torn and these are people who don’t even have a house to go. You gain such a perspective of what other people have to go to when you go to all of these appearances and service projects. Because there’s such an emphasis on service for me, that helps me keep such a humble perspective on my job.
What advice would you give to a young girl on how to fulfill her dreams?
You just have to work really hard. I’ve wanted to be Miss Maryland since I was eight, and it took a really long time. I competed three years for the teen title, and never won. sometimes that’s enough of a reason to give up…but instead of giving up I decided to go back again, competed one time and won Miss Maryland. You don’t have to be successful every time you attempt a goal. Stay with it and remember why you started in the first place!