Miss America is the princess every little girl wants to be when they grow up. A typical “pageant girl” goes to the gym every day, only eats carrots and most importantly, they always have their life together. Oh, and its pretty much a prerequisite to be 6’2 and stick thin… right?

Well I guess I’m not your typical pageant girl considering I’m a whole 5’1 (on a good day) and I just had a large chocolate chip cookie and PSL for lunch

Pageant girls might not be everything they are stereotypically known to be. Behind the glamorous sash and beneath the sparkly crown is a girl with her own unique background and story, and most likely a sweet tooth.

But why is it that people assume that we (pageant girls) can go through long days of rehearsals, appearances and walking in heels and only consume a carrot and protein shake? And what’s up with all the criticism that comes along if we do want to inhale an Oreo Blizzard every once in a while?

Amelia Hitchens

Us pageant girls go through more judgement walking down the runway than a new kid who forgot to wear pants on his first day of high school. It's no wonder that some girls fall into poor eating habits and develop eating disorders

“We’ve seen with the Hitchens girl that a year at college gives you a muffin top quite quickly.” “Amelia: Great evening gown choice. Swim suit not as good as last year. Talent is her weak area. Might sneak in Top 10 because she is so pretty.” Yep. These were actual comments I received. "Muffin top" is my favorite.

beer, coffee
Amelia Hitchens

But let’s rewind a little bit. It was June of 2015. I had just turned 19 and was about to compete for my state title. Being a newbie and the youngest contestant in the pageant, I really had no expectations other than to have fun and make the competition a learning experience.

By complete surprise, (and I mean total surprise… my mother almost had a heart attack in the audience) I won a preliminary swim suit award for Lifestyle and Fitness. Typically, this is awarded to the contestant whom the judges believe presents herself in a way that shows that she is confident in her own body, and that she lives a healthy lifestyle.

Despite being on cloud nine after this win, I was soon taken down and called out by many anonymous haters (this is where the “muffin top” comes in). As a 19 year old, I was told that I was fat and did not deserve this preliminary award.

pizza, cake
Amelia Hitchens

Okay, so I gained the freshman fifteen at college... but who doesn't? Even though I wasn’t the skinny little child that I was in high school, I still felt confident in my body. Confident enough to get on stage in front of hundreds of people to parade around in a bikini and 6 inch heels. 

Luckily, my loving family and close friends reassured me that these anonymous bullies were not worth my time. Instead of dwelling on the negativity, they encouraged me to take the hateful words and use them as motivation. 

Fast forward another year. I was ready to take to the stage once again. This time was a little different. I was a returning contestant with the goal of improving from the previous year. I had been extremely proud of the work I had been putting in to prepare for the big day—finally putting that YMCA membership to use and experimenting with healthy eating habits (but don't worry, pizza rolls were still #1 on my grocery list).

When I hit the stage and saw the bright lights, I felt more confident than ever before. I was HAPPY with my body. However, once again, I received hateful comments from anonymous individuals who clearly wanted to remind me that I still did not have the swim suit body that THEY wanted to see from a contestant.

Their words made me realize that there really is no way to impress everyone. To the harsh critics out there, you're either "too skinny" or "too fat," "too tall" or "too short." There is no in between. 

coffee, beer, tea
Amelia Hitchens

I want to break the stereotypes of a “typical pageant girl” and suggest that pageant girls can be foodies too. It is 2016, and we need to move past the days where paper thin is how we define beauty.

In reality, we should all be confident in the bodies we have while working hard to achieve a version of ourselves that makes US happy. We shouldn't be dwelling solely on what others think of us or what others think we should look like.

So go ahead, girl, devour that hot fudge sunday. Do not shame yourself after you indulge in those Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Because as Nina Davuluri would say… Haters gonna hate.