It’s an intense, all-consuming buildup: all the preparations during the months before a young woman takes the stage to compete in Miss America1, the annual Atlantic City pageant organized by the nonprofit Miss America Organization. The training may feel like that of a pro athlete toning up for a big event: workouts, planning, rehearsing.
Miss New Hampshire, 18-year-old Caroline Carter, will be bringing life with diabetes to that iconic stage this September. And she realized something early on: that she may be just right exactly the way she is.
During all her preparations, Carter said she realized that while she wanted to be her best, she wanted to be exactly that: her best and not some “best” that others may envision.
“I love my body and I love who I am,” said Carter, a student at the University of New Hampshire. “I’m going to rock it.”
Carter explained that although she’ll have competitors onstage who may be four or more dress sizes smaller, “I have more important numbers to worry about.”
By that she means the numbers that may be familiar to a person living with diabetes: managing blood glucose levels.
Carter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11. The biggest concern that the self-proclaimed tomboy had back then was whether diabetes would interfere with her true love: basketball.
“I grew up playing it. I was that girl surrounded by guys playing hoops in the cul-de-sac every day,” she said. Diabetes did not put basketball in the backseat, she added, because her parents insisted right away that she not let it. And ironically, basketball ended up helping her with diabetes more than she could have predicted.
“That team,” she said affectionately of the girls she played with during those years. “I had twelve ‘sisters’ who surrounded me with care and who learned all about this along with me. I could not have been luckier.”
While she never pictured herself a beauty queen, she watched her sister make it to the Miss USA2 competition (a separate for-profit pageant track that eventually culminates in Miss Universe3). So Caroline was intrigued to give it a try. “It was so out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I was never going to put on high heels or wear makeup. I was always going to go play in the WNBA4.”
And here she is: Miss New Hampshire. Crowned in her home state in April, she’s finding that much of what she loved about basketball is also in pageant life.
“These women are so real,” she said. People who watch reality shows about pageants may think they know what this is all about, she said. “They don’t. Once you get to know [all the participants], we are just a lot of girls who want to make a difference.”
For Carter, that will mean working as a voice for diabetes awareness. One of her first bold moves will be when she walks the stage in the swimsuit competition.
“I’m wearing a one-piece – the only one of us to do that – and I feel like a superhero in it,” she said. Carter tried on two-piece swimsuits, but as someone who always wears a one-piece, she did not feel like her authentic self. “It’s just me,” she said. “I feel a lot more elegant, classic and beautiful in a one-piece.”
She has goals for the event, beyond the obvious crown. She’d like to sing twice – meaning she makes it past the first round of the talent competition. And she’d love to win the “America’s Choice” vote – as Miss Idaho Sierra Sandison did with her #showmeyourpump campaign in 2014. And most of all, she’d love to help children with diabetes see firsthand that they can reach their dreams.
“It’s amazing,” she said of meeting with and hearing from children living with diabetes who are inspired by her. “I cannot even think of the right words to describe it.” But perhaps she can sing it. Her choice of song pageant says it all: “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Miss New Hampshire Caroline Carter will be competing in the Miss America competition in Atlantic City, live at 9 p.m. on Sunday, September 11, 2016. Check local television listings. More information about the competition, including how to vote, can be found here.
Moira McCarthy is an acclaimed writer, author and public speaker who has shared her story – and lessons – on raising a child living with type 1 diabetes. Her six books include The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Juvenile Diabetes and Raising Teens with Diabetes: A Survival Guide for Parents. McCarthy is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
1. Miss America is a registered trademark of the Miss America Organization.
2. Miss USA is a trademark of IMG Universe LLC.
3. Miss Universe is a trademark of IMG Universe LLC.
4. Women’s National Basketball Association (“WNBA”) is the property of NBA Properties, Inc.
© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience