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Jessica Gauthier, a 2024 Journalism graduate, recently represented her hometown of Sterling Heights in the Miss Michigan USA competition on April 21 in Port Huron. 

Gauthier concedes that when she first applied as a contestant, she didn’t expect to be accepted. It was her first time participating in a pageant. But in a way, she was fulfilling a family tradition. 

“I wanted to do it because almost all of the women in my family have been pageant queens,” Gauthier said. “None of them have competed in Miss Michigan per se, but they all did pageants in county fairs and various cities. A bunch of my aunts were pageant queens, and my mom was Miss Richmond.” 

Gauthier competed against more than 50 women for the title of Miss Michigan USA. In the end, the crown went to Alma Cooper of Okemos, a U.S. Army West Point graduate. For Gauthier, however, competition wasn’t the prevailing feeling at the pageant. 

“Pageantry is just so different than what people see from the outside,” she said. “I feel like betboom teampeople have this preconceived notion that it’s a little cliquey or that you’re putting each other down. It could not be more of the opposite. I’ve never been in an environment that is so incredibly uplifting. I had a conversation with every one of the girls, and there were 56 of us. Everybody is super friendly and just hyping each other up the entire time.” 

Gauthier’s experience coincided with a turbulent time for the American pageant industry. In early May, Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt announced her resignation, followed just days later by the reigning Miss Teen USA 2023 queen, UmaSofia Srivastava. Voigt cited her mental health as a factor in her decision to step down, stating that the Miss USA organization had fostered a “toxic work environment…that, at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment.” In her statement, Srivastava said her personal values “no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.” 

Gauthier says she saw no such behavior during her time as a contestant. 

“I personally don't have a whole lot of insight on that matter, as my experience only extends as far as the pageant,” Gauthier said. “Once you win, that's a whole other roller coaster in itself. Everybody’s just hoping that the girls are OK. It makes you wonder what else is going on behind the scenes. But I stand with the girls, and I hope that whatever is going on can be quickly resolved.” 

The pageant includes an interview plus swimsuit and evening gown competitions. Gauthier recalled the interview as a moment for quick thinking. 

“You go in a room, and it’s just you and three judges,” Gauthier said. “Each of them takes turns asking you a question. You only have two minutes to answer, so you need to think on your feet.” 

In her application, Gauthier noted that she’d often betboom dacha dubaisung the national anthem at sporting events since she was 10 years old. She admits she was somewhat caught off guard when the first judge asked her to sing. So, Gauthier gave a rendition of the first song that popped into her head. 

“It was ‘Why Wait’ by Rascal Flatts,” she said. 

The second judge asked Gauthier where she might take someone from out-of-state to introduce them to Michigan. 

“Detroit would for sure be the first stop; probably a Red Wings game, Coney Island (restaurant) and maybe a Lions game,” she said. “Then, if we had time, head up to Mackinac Island.” 

Gauthier’s final question: What’s your favorite thing about yourself?   

“That would be my personality and my ability to talk to people,” she said. “I feel like I have a generally high level of emotional intelligence.” 

Jessica Gauthier graduated from MSU this spring with a major in journalism and a minor in sports journalism. Now, she’s starting her professional career. Gauthier has recently relocated to Dothan, Alabama, where she will anchor the evening news on WDHN-TV

Just as she did during her pageant experience, Gauthier says she’s now starting to feel a sense of acceptance and camaraderie in her new home. 

“Everyone’s been so incredibly kind,” she said. “The whole ‘Southern hospitality’ thing is just crazy to me. It’s one of those things that you see in movies and you hear about. But then, you experience it in real life and you're like, whoa…this is actually real.”