Representing Jewish Women on Miss America
On June 25, I was awarded the title of Miss Wyoming 2022, becoming the first Jewish woman with that honor in the 101 years of the program. This December, I will go on to compete for the title of Miss America. If I win, I will become only the second Jewish woman in history to be named Miss America. My personal icon, Bess Myerson, won the Miss America title in 1945 during the height of the Holocaust.
Myerson was also the first college graduate to win and the first woman to receive scholarships through competing. It is said that people considered her the “most famous Jewish woman since Queen Esther,” and it must have been powerful for other Jewish women to witness the success of someone who represented their identities during such a difficult time. Sadly, Myerson endured a great deal of antisemitism throughout her reign. She lost sponsorships and fans, was shamed and ridiculed, and was often not allowed into events due to her Jewish identity.
As a Jewish woman and the student president of Hillel at the University of Wyoming, I am honored to take on the role of Miss Wyoming and to follow in Bess Myerson’s footsteps. I plan to use my new title to authentically represent Jewish women across America, demonstrating that women of all identities can compete in this program. Like Myerson, I have experienced antisemitism. In my case, the antisemitism was mixed with a form of body shaming: negative comments about my nose and other physical features that are stereotypically associated with Jewish women. I have been told to straighten my naturally curly hair in order to adhere to a societal standard of beauty. While there is still much progress to be made, Miss America is transitioning into a new, progressive era in which candidates are no longer judged on their physical appearance but rather on their intelligence, poise, public speaking abilities, talent, and social impact.
Connection to a strong community is so important to me. The Hillel at University of Wyoming is closely connected with the Laramie Jewish community and my relationships in both those communities are a big part of who I am. The Miss America competition has also become a source of community for me. As I compete for the Miss America title, I will do so alongside 50 incredible young women, with whom I have found a real sisterhood. All contestants take on a social impact initiative, a community service platform pursued as part of the competition. My initiative is called “EveryBODY Dance, Body Positivity through Movement.” Through EveryBODY Dance, I teach dance classes to people of all ages with an emphasis on loving our bodies.
I am so excited to be part of this movement toward acceptance and inclusion within Miss America, and I hope that other American Jewish women will follow in my footsteps by competing. You can keep up with my Miss America journey on Instagram, @missamericawy.
Hazel Homer-Wambeam (she/her) is a senior at the University of Wyoming. This summer, she became Miss Wyoming and is looking forward to participating in Miss America 2023.