|Faith reigns for new Miss America|
A UMNS Feature
By Linda Green*
Feb. 16, 2007
Lauren Nelson is crowned Miss America on Jan. 29 in Las Vegas. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Miss American Organization.
Lauren Nelson is relying on her faith to keep her grounded during the
hectic year that lies ahead for the newly crowned Miss America.
Nelson, 20, a member of Centenary United Methodist Church in Lawton, Okla., won the coveted title on Jan. 29 in Las Vegas.
“It has been a whirlwind of a first two weeks,” she said in a
telephone interview with United Methodist News Service. “I have been in
probably six different cities already, and I will probably travel about
20,000 miles a month. I am very excited about this opportunity.”
Nelson took a year off from her studies at the University of Central
Oklahoma in Edmond to compete first in the Oklahoma state pageant, which
she won, and then to vie with 51 other contestants for the Miss America
crown. Her long-term goals are to earn a master's degree in musical
theater and perform on Broadway.
The daughter of Mark and Sherrell Nelson of Lawton, she entered the
pageant circuit at 16 to fulfill her desire to sing and perform. After
winning the Miss Teen Lawton (Okla.) pageant, she went on to win Miss
Winning those pageants helped her to save money for college, and she
continued competing. “It just snowballed into this,” Nelson said. “I
watched Miss America as a little girl and never thought that I could be
one of the contestants in Miss America, much less Miss America herself.”
She received a $50,000 scholarship with the crown.
Since winning, “life has changed drastically,” Nelson said. “I am
traveling 20,000 miles this month. I have no home base this year. I have
taken another year off from school.”
Faith plays major role
In performing her “royal” duties, Nelson is relying heavily on her
faith and her favorite Scriptures, Psalm 23 and Philippians 4:13, to
sustain her. “They are my favorites because they are the ones I remember
learning as a little girl and loving for the first time.”
Nelson said faith “plays a huge role” in her life. “I grew up in
church. I was baptized in the Methodist Church and have gone since I was
“So, especially this year, my faith will keep me grounded and will
keep me going,” she said. “This year is going to be a very hectic
schedule, and sometimes I am going to doubt myself, but I have to
realize that God would not have put me in this position if he did not
know that I could handle it.”
Lauren Nelson, Miss America 2007
For Nelson, being Miss American means “representing the youth of
America, representing the ideals of America. I think especially now in
our society we need a strong role model, and that is what I represent,
and it is such an honor to be able to do that.”
She wants her faith to be seen in her actions. “You can say a lot of
things, but you have to show that you are a Christian and make the right
choices because of that,” she said.
Throughout 2007 and beyond her tenure as Miss America, she intends
“to take it a day at a time and be grateful for every opportunity, thank
God for every opportunity, and use every day to glorify him and give
all the glory to him.”
The contacts, experiences and doors opened through being Miss America
“are absolutely endless” and filled with possibilities, she noted.
“This year can take my life down a whole ’nother path,” she said.
Promoting Internet safety
The Miss America Organization provides outlets for young women to
achieve their personal and professional goals and instills a spirit of
community service through a variety of nationwide, community-based
programs,according to the organization’s Web site. The organization
annually chooses a national platform, and the reigning Miss America
promotes that platform and raises money for it and the Miss America
Miss America also chooses a personal platform, and Nelson’s personal issue is “Be NetSmart – Protecting Kids Online.”
Nelson chose to promote Internet safety for kids because of an
incident that occurred in her youth while she and her friends talked
“I was actually approached as a seventh-grader,” she said. “My
friends and I were in a chat room and we were approached by an older
person who asked for some information about us. Luckily nothing ever
came of it, but as I grew up, I realized the significance of that
experience,” she said. “And with my mom being an educator, having a
younger brother and sister, and seeing the accessibility to the Internet
not only in school but also in our home, it became a natural fit.”
She advocates safety online and offline. “This year as Miss America, I
will get to travel and speak to spread awareness and education on that
issue, (and) hopefully I will have the opportunity to touch many people
and talk to a lot of kids and even parents about this issue.”
Internet safety is a two-way street involving parents and children, Nelson said.
Children should “be very guarded” and learn not to talk to strangers,
not to share personal information and to involve an adult, Nelson said.
“Kids have to realize that it can happen to them because every day, one
in five children in America is being approached by online predators. It
happens all the time, and being guarded is the most important thing to
teach our kids.”
For parents, Nelson said the most important thing “is to be involved”
by getting online with their children and monitoring their online
activities. “Know what your kids are doing,” she said. “You would not
allow your child to go to a party if you did not know what they were
going to be doing and who they were going to be with, so don’t let them
do it on the Internet.”
Nelson is excited about the year ahead, and grateful for the support of the people at Centenary United Methodist Church.
“Since I was a little girl, they have supported me and encouraged me
throughout every endeavor that I have had, and it has been no different
for the Miss America pageant,” she said. “I want to thank them for their
support, their prayer and love. I am so honored and proud to be able to
share this with them.”
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audio Interview with Lauren Nelson
“My faith will keep me grounded.”
“My platform is Internet safety for kids.”
“Being guarded is important to teach kids.”
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Oklahoma Annual Conference
Centenary United Methodist Church