Alabama pageant winner stays positive despite backlash: ‘Your body does not define you’

An Alabama pageant winner seems to be taking a positive message from the experience despite online backlash, which itself became the subject of a report from one Mobile news station.

Sara Milliken of Atmore recently was crowned the Alabama winner of the National American Miss pageant, which entitles her to represent the state at the national level. WKRG-TV5 reported on the win, saying that it was Milliken’s third attempt after becoming interested in the competition about eight years ago. About a week later, however, WKRG followed up with an extensive report on backlash the station, reporter Summer Poole and Milliken received on social media accounts. The station defended its subsequent decision to limit commenting because of the personal attacks.

That story reported that Milliken had also received widespread support for her win. Milliken said sponsors had come forward to support her campaign at the national pageant. “I’ve always wanted to spread positivity, and this kind of put me in a position to do exactly that,” she said.

A Facebook post from a pageant consulting firm, Amanda Moreno Consulting, indicated that Milliken’s win was no fluke, but rather the result of a focused effort:

National American Miss Alabama is Sara Milliken!

Words that we’ve been waiting and praying to type for quite literally 12 months! When we started working together in May of last year, it was immediately evident there was something special about Sara… When you meet her, you just get it. She IS a queen in every way! Determined, empathetic & servant hearted, her year is dedicated to empowering her state, seniors with The Buddy System, and every girl who needs a friend or role model. She is a trailblazer in inclusivity, and we could not be more ecstatic for this gorgeous legend!

Sara, thank you for trusting us and allowing us into your life! You never met a challenge you weren’t willing to master, leaving us constantly blown away by your character and work ethic. Your beautiful heart has already made so many feel seen, and we’re genuinely honored to be along for the journey. You are loved beyond measure! NAM Nationals, here we come!

On her official Facebook page, Milliken has posted several times about the backlash, saying she had been “a little traumatized over reading comments” and had limited social media interactions as a result. But she also described the moment she won the pageant: “A dream 8 years in the making finally became mine. It was a reaction of pure shock. I had played out this moment in my head daily since I was 15. Somehow it was even sweeter than I imagined.”

In another post she addressed the backlash at more length: “Recently I have been the target of an overwhelming amount of online hate, negativity, and bullying. Honestly, it doesn’t affect me in the way most would think it does,” she said. “The things that has been said about me is truly disgusting and I cannot fathom how people think it’s ok to say these things. The easy thing would be to give up. I could hide my face. Stop posting on social media. Make no appearances. Stay low key until Nationals. I could even give in and give up my title. But instead I say WATCH ME. Watch me serve my community. Watch me give my all into preparing for nationals. Watch me find the shy girl in the room and learn her name. Watch me continue to pour positivity into social media. Watch me crush every goal I set. Watch me chase this dream. Watch me show every single hater why a plus size woman can and should be a titleholder. Stand back and watch me show everyone who doubts me wrong. You are more than your body and more importantly… you are more than the evil things people say about your body. I gave this dream up for 6 years because of the hurtful things someone said about me. Never, ever again.”

More recently, she has asked fans for input on what color dresses she should wear at the national competition.

Efforts to contact Milliken were pending as this story was published. Shortly before her win, she spoke at length for a podcast with Angelina Bettanini. She described the pageant community as a safe space. “Being in an environment that has so many encouraging people, so many empowering people – you know, girls [know they can] share their stories whether it be about past trauma or mental illness or even body positivity, like I like to share – being in an environment with so many empowering women has made it such a safe space for me that I feel like I can be fully myself and everything that I want to be.”

“We have made it to where pageantry is so accessible and so inclusive,” Milliken told Bettanini. “And I think that includes with bodies as well. You know, just knowing that your body does not define you, that whether you’re a size zero or a size 20, that doesn’t define how good of a titleholder you can be.”

The National American Miss national pageant takes place in November in Orlando.

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