Miss America Kirsten Haglund first won our hearts as Miss America 2008. Today, she is active with the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, a group dedicated to helping men and women with eat disorders find treatment. She is a regular guest on programs such as The Sean Hannity on FOX. Recently, Kirsten was a coach on the program Made on MTV. We sat down with Kirsten to talk about that experience.
Q: In terms of your experience on MADE, how did that come about? Did MTV approach you?
A: MTV approached me - emailed me, actually, in about September of last year, asking me if I was interested in being a coach for an episode. One weekend, when I was in New York for Hannity on Fox, I stopped by their offices in the City, and they put me on tape for an interview. A few weeks later, they called me back and said they indeed wanted to use me as a Coach. It took several months to work together with the Producers to find a 'story' that I would be best suited for, and filming dates that worked with my school schedule. Finally, in April, I was able to begin shooting outside Atlanta with a group (a MADE first!) of 5 girls, all competing for the title of Miss Redan High School.
Q: Was it a tough decision for you to appear on the program?
A: I was wary of MTV, at first. Especially having been involved in two reality TV series as a Miss America contestant, and then as Miss America. I'd seen the good, bad, and ugly of reality television. However, I did my research. I watched episodes of MADE and got a feel for the direction and message of the show, which was very positive. My conversations with producers also helped me to feel confident that the show was compatible with my values. I understood that it would be a significant time commitment, but also that I would have a great opportunity to impact not only the young women I was working with, but all the ones who were watching, in a positive way.
Q: What was it like being a coach?
A: Honestly, one of the most challenging things was helping the girls to understand the tension that exists between confidence and vulnerability - which is so attractive onstage. The confidence to own who you are on that stage, sell it - but be real enough, authentic enough, open enough to not appear fake. It’s hard to convince the girl to go there, because there is the risk of rejection, the risk that they'll open up and give it their all and they won't win. At the end of the show, however, I think the girls really embraced the process and what they learned along the journey, rather than the end result. I tried to make the training process about exploring individuality, personal growth, and leadership skills, rather than just how to smile or talk onstage. Although our “walk” practices were some of the most fun I've had ever! And making them try to walk the “runway” after riding on those roller coasters-- hilarious.
Q: Was it difficult to push your students in order to help them succeed?
A: Yes, it was very difficult. The girls were very busy high school girls, with a lot of distractions - boys, cell phones, Facebook, band practice, homework, college applications, etc. It really takes a disciplined, organized young woman to be able to succeed at something like a pageant, which requires a lot of time commitment. You really see that, often, it is not the most talented or charming woman that wins the competition; it is the one who manages her time and priorities most responsibly in order to give her the greatest chance to work to see her goals through.
Q: Overall, what are your thoughts about the program now that you have been on it?
A: I've gotten a ton of positive response from the show via email, Facebook, twitter, etc. I'm so glad that so many people have seen the show and are relating with Kiona, Shandela, Chazmyn (and her relationship with her mom) and the other young ladies. That is what I wanted. I also am so thrilled that in the end, Kiona won the competition, which was not fixed. So many people have asked me that. I found out the winner with the rest of the audience. She has an incredible, moving, personal story, and I think she will be an awesome role model for the young women of Redan High School - a living example of how you don't have to be the prettiest, skinniest, most popular girl in order to set a goal and work hard to achieve it. Success is not reliant upon looks alone, and Kiona proved that. I think she lights the way for other girls at her school who may have previously been too afraid, too insecure, too “uncool” to lead. I'm proud to have been a small part of motivating Kiona to realize the strong, fierce, and kind woman that was inside of her, waiting to bloom.