LATHAM As Latham native Alyssa Paulsen placed in the top five winners for the USA Ambassador Pageant in Tampa, Fla., she told herself if she had a shot at getting anything, it would be fourth runner up.
As fourth and third runners-up were called, Paulsen thought, “Alright, I lost.” But when Miss Illinois, Paulsen’s title, was placed in the top three, her jaw dropped.
“The pictures are so funny,” Paulsen, 20 and a junior at Wheaton College in Illinois, said. “At this point it didn’t even register with me that I could’ve won.”
And to her complete disbelief, this past July Paulsen won first place, earning the title Miss USA Ambassador.
“I just couldn’t move. It was so funny,” Paulsen said. “After I won, I pointed up because God was the one that got me in the pageant in the first place. He was the one that I give all the credit to for winning.”
Paulsen’s surprise really began in the spring, when she had just returned from a medical mission trip to Haiti and was heartbroken by what she saw there. She wanted to partake in a community service project, something she had been doing for years. After competing in a couple of pageants in high school, Paulsen searched for a competition that honored her values and landed on the USA Ambassador Pageant, which focuses on a slogan of SLICC – Success through Leadership, Integrity, Character and Confidence.
“They really encourage their titleholders and winner to not be pretty faces but to be role models to young women in the community,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen competed for and won the title of Miss Illinois because of where she attends school, majoring in applied health. Paulsen said she promoted her inner platform – Inner Beauty and Positive Body Image – at the competition and continues to promote it at fundraisers and high schools, where she speaks to young girls.