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Cara Mund Talks Pageant Sabotage, Bullying, and Saving Miss America From Itself
For the Miss America Organization, 2019 has been one big mess (America). Fallout from alleging "unprofessional conduct" on the part of the organization's then-CEO Sam Haskell, as well as other top executives, led to a literal spring cleaning on the board, with former Fox News anchor (and 1989 Miss America) Gretchen Carlson taking over. A few months later, controversy erupted over the decision to cut the pageant's swimsuit competition;Page Sixreported extensively on numerous occasions about "battle lines" being drawn backstage between warring factions of staffers and pageants alums—resignations rolled out, petitions demanding another board overhaul did the rounds. And in mid-August, charges of workplace bullying and mistreatment were leveled at Carlson and other MAO staffers by the reigning Miss America, Cara Mund.
The Miss America Organization has refuted Mund's claims, while in turn allegedly punishing her for speaking out by cutting back her presence at the 2019 Miss America pageant on September 9th. (But then also, perhaps surprisingly, allowing Mund the opportunity to speak out with "no restrictions," she says.) Ahead of her trip back to Atlantic City, where she's now helping shepherd this year's state titleholders through pre-competition prep, Mund spoke with Cosmopolitan last week about Miss America's "Mean Girls," asThe New York Timescoined it, her tumultuous year of service, and basically why she isn't just throwing her tiara in the trash and running off into the sunset. Because she'd be forgiven if she was, really.
On making her Miss America dream a reality:
My dream since I was a little girl was to be Miss North Dakota—it was never Miss America. When I got to Miss America, I said,"I'm going to make history."But I thought history was making it to the top ten!
But I went in knowing what the job entailed, though, because I competed for four years [before I won Miss North Dakota]. I wrote my senior thesis on Miss America! There were media stories coming out, before my letter came out, suggesting that I didn't understand what the job was. No. I knew what it was! At the same time, I had an expectation that I was going to be treated like an employee at any other company.
On when she first realized the job wasn't working out:
I started voicing concerns at the end of January. [At that time], the Miss America Organization had just had a leadership change. We were adapting. And I wanted to make sure that, you know, my perspective was heard. I journal everything, and I have detailed notes about how I was treated. [In the last few months] I started looking back at some of those notes, and things that I was saying—things like,“I've never felt more alone.”I had raised my issues with [Miss America Organization] staffers, and with the board. But there's not a grievances process set up for Miss America; I felt like I had exhausted all my options. I didn't think I mattered anymore—I didn't feel like Miss America.
I journal everything, and I have detailed notes about how I was treated.
And no-one knew what I was going through.I wasn’t allowed to talk outside 'the family.' The Miss America CEO told me that.I wasn’t allowed to say,"Hey, this is what was said to me, andthis is how I was treated."For a while, I kept thinking,"Is it me? Am I doing something bad?"And I was continuously bending over backwards to make sure I wasn't. Because I wanted to do a great job! I mean, you only get to be Miss America once. But the treatment just got worse and worse. And when you hit nine, ten, eleven months on the job, you realize,“I've done everything I can, and it's not changing."If I was in a different job, and I was being treated this way, I would have probably quit.
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