In an industry that, for all of the talent portions and "world peace" interviews, is still based heavily on looks, one Miss America contestant is breaking the mold to potentially save her life.
Miss Maryland Allyn Rose lost her mother, aunt and great-aunt to breast cancer. Wanting to outsmart her family's grim history, Rose has chosen to undergo a double mastectomy after Saturday's Miss America Pageant.
It's a decision that has attracted support and criticism from medical professionals and the pageant world, but Rose says, she's just interested in staying alive. Rose's mother first contracted the disease at 27, and again at 47.
“All the women in my family passed away from breast cancer,” Rose told the Washington Post. “When I met with a surgeon, he said, ‘You’re young, but there are other people I know who are having [mastectomies] who have the same family history.”
Indeed, she is not alone. The number of young patients electing to undergo preventative mastectomies has grown exponentially in the past few years.
Some in the pageant world -- fans and otherwise -- have accused Rose of jockeying for favor in Saturday night's competition. Still, others say she is "mutilating" her body, even though Rose says she also plans to pursue reconstructive surgery if all goes well.
But for Rose, the important thing is peace of mind, along with safety. She says it was originally her father's idea, and he outlined her situation in the bluntest way possible.
"I said, 'Dad, I'm not going to do that. I like the body I have,'" Rose said. "He got serious and said, 'Well then, you're going to end up dead like your mom.' "
Now, Rose is gearing up for Saturday's pageant, but she's also gearing up for the rest of her life. Win or lose, she is confident she has made the right decision, a decision her mom would be proud of.
"My mom would have given up every part of her body to be here for me, to watch me in the pageant," she said. "If there's something that I can do to be proactive, it might hurt my body, it might hurt my physical beauty, but I'm going to be alive."