Each year, I am amazed at the devastating and heartfelt situations some women have endured that led them to choosing their personal platforms within the Miss America Organization. The platform portion is typically a societal issue that a contestant has a personal tie to in some way, shape, or form and feels strongly about sharing the message in hopes of making a difference in her community. One of my MAO sisters, Ashley Monti has a impactful platform as it relates to coping with the loss of her mother in 2009.
I had the pleasure to compete alongside Ashley a couple years ago when I was Miss Seven Rivers 2014 and she was Miss Burlington Area Chocolatefest 2014. I look forward to sharing the stage yet again with her in June for Miss Wisconsin 2016.
Name: Ashely Monti
Hometown: Racine, WI
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Environmental Science with a minor in Spanish and Biology from University of Wisconsin
Milwaukee – anticipated graduation spring of 2017
Master of Laws degree in Animal Law from Lewis and Clark Law School– anticipated graduation 2021
Dream job: I will love every minute of my job, working as an Animal Law (Environmental) Attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency. It has been my “dream job” since my eighth grade science class.
Favorite color: GREEN!
1. What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? A friend from high school, Jeanette Morelan, competed in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageants and she actually won the national competition in 2009. After seeing her accomplishments I decided that I wanted to enter into a pageant, so I did! I did not win my first pageant, but I was hooked ever since.
2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. I competed in Miss Southern Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen (OT) in 2010. I remember thinking, “What in the world am I going to do for talent…” I had no clue what to do! I was never put into dance, singing, or any type of lessons as a child, so I had to experiment with a couple options. It is still a surprise to me that I chose to sing for my talent, but I’m glad I did because now I love to sing.
3. What is/was your platform and why did you choose it? My platform is called S.O.U.L. Support Others and Understand Loss. I would like to note that this was not my original platform when I began competing in pageants. Originally it was “Green to the Extreme,” advocating for sustainable life choices. Sadly my mother passed away in March of 2009, and for the next two years I did not have the strength to talk about it with others. However, pageants provided me with an outlet to gain that strength. When I aged out of the OT program I finally felt ready to change my platform to what it is today. Now, I am a completely different Ashely from the timid, 15 year old girl I used to know. My platform is my life, and I enjoy being able to use my experience with loss to help others who are experiencing grief as well. I volunteer with many organizations and camps that offer free services to help people in the community cope.My platform advocates for those non-profit organizations so that more people in the community can take advantage of these services.4. What is your favorite phase of competition, why? Interview, hands down. If you know me, then you know I love to talk! Speaking has always come natural to me, and I thoroughly enjoy answering questions about issues that are important to me and/or relevant in society.
5. Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success? Service, it is the main reason for why I compete. There are not many organizations like the Miss America Organization (MAO), which provide woman with the opportunity to become key figures in society through community service. I am incredibly thankful to be Miss West Allis 2016. I am going take advantage of this title by bringing more attention to my platform, the Miss America Organization, and Children’s Miracle Network.
6. What titles have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during each of them?
- Miss Racine’s Outstanding Teen 2011
- Miss Racine OT was the first pageant I ever won, and even looking back now winning is all a blur! I learned an unbelievable amount about myself that year, especially from my Miss Racine, Brittny Henderson. She was a mentor to me, and helped bring me out of my shell. All in all, extremely rewarding.
- Miss Burlington Area ChocolateFest 2014
- I will never forget the appearance at a senior citizen group called, “recycled teenagers.” Every single person I talked to that day had so much valuable life experience to learn from, I enjoyed listening 110% more than speaking.
- Miss West Allis 2016
- I am hosting a Run/Walk 5k to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network AND Kyle’s Korner. It is May 14th, and it will be lots of fun!
7. What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? I sing for my talent, but I love performing in general. I most enjoy being able to tell a story that can move the audience in some way.
8. Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? Raeanna Johnson. When I went to Miss Wisconsin as Miss Burlington it was difficult for me to bond with some of the other contestants, I was battling with self-confidence. I was nervous, anxious, and felt out of place. However, Raeanna was so kind to me the entire week, and she made me feel like I belonged on that stage with everyone else competing. I was proud of her when she won, and I believe she is everything that MAO stands for.
9. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? Pasta. Lots and lots of pasta with cheese.
10. Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? Katie Stam! I appreciated her sincerity throughout her year as Miss America. I still follow her on Facebook and enjoy seeing her giving back through MAO, even as a “has been.”
11. How would you describe the feelings you had when you won your first local? What goes through your mind when you are standing on stage and you hear your name called? When I am standing, waiting for a name to be called my mind is blank. My heart is racing, and I am pretty sure I hold my breath! At Miss West Allsi, It all felt surreal until that moment when it was finally my name, then it was all tears and trying to catch my breath!12. If someone says, “You’re a beauty queen, what’s the relevancy of a pageant in today’s society,” what would you say to them? I have had this comment many times throughout the years that I have competed. I respond by saying, “Thank you for expressing your opinion, however, as someone who participates in the Miss America Organization I feel that it is incredibly relevant today. Unfortunately, there is still this void in society that is lacking women in important political roles. MAO helps fill this void by giving women the opportunity to take on a key role in society and speak about relevant issues that affect the people in our community. Also, MAO is the largest non-profit provider of scholarships to women, and I am incredibly thankful that this organization has given me financial stability to pursue my education.” Generally after this explanation, the majority of people have a positive response. By showing that MAO is not merely a beauty pageant we are able to challenge this stigma and start paving a new and progressive perception about pageant competitors.
13. How has your involvement influenced your life? I could write an entire book about how MAO has impacted my life, I am constantly gaining skills from being part of this program. The biggest influence though, has to be the impact on my platform. If it was not for MAO requiring contestants to take on a platform, I don’t know that I would have ever became involved with Kyle’s Korner. I also don’t know that I would be where I am at today, mentally, with my grief. Initially, whenever a judge would ask me questions about my platform I would burst into tears. Currently, I have gained strength to talk about my experience with loss, and share my experiences from helping others as well. MAO is so much more than a crown, it is an outlet for women to express themselves and I am forever grateful for what I have learned from this experience.
14. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? JUST DO IT. You will make mistakes, you will work hard, you will cry, you will laugh, you may win, you may lose, but the one thing you will always gain is the experience. No matter what happens, there have been times I learned more about myself and my platform from losing than if I had won. It is important to be yourself, no matter how clique that sounds. Show the judges, the audience, your family, and show yourself who you are and how you can change the world.