Opelika’s Own Mallory Hytes Hagan Crowned Miss America
By Kate Asbury Larkin
When we left Mallory Hagan last fall (East Alabama Living, winter 2012), she was hurrying down the streets of New York City to get to a studio to rehearse her tap dance for the upcoming Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas. We talked about her unique path to the Miss New York title just four years after graduating from Opelika High School. Yes, Opelika High School. And, yes, Miss New York.
Following graduation and a year at Auburn University, Hagan followed her dream, booked a flight to New York and landed in the Big Apple with $1,000 and a place to stay for two weeks.
She secured a job as a waitress, eventually found a permanent place to live and after a year of ups and downs (mostly ups), she settled in as a New Yorker. Then, on a whim in 2010, she entered and won a preliminary competition to gain a spot in the Miss New York Pageant where she was named first runner up. She repeated the process in 2011 with the same result. Willing to give it one more shot, Hagan again won a preliminary competition, entered the state pageant and was named Miss New York for 2012 making her the state’s representative for the Miss America Pageant in January.
As New York and Opelika watched intently, Hagan breezed through the Miss America competition, taking the top score in swimsuit and evening gown, wowing the crowd with her high-energy tap routine and nailing her question from the judges. In the end, it came down to Miss South Carolina and Miss New York, and to nobody’s surprise, Hagan took the title.
“I really couldn’t hear the announcement; it was just so surreal, like an out-of-body experience,” remembers Hagan. “I was so excited and I was also so happy for my parents; we’ve done this together.”
Hagan’s Miss America reign began early the next morning, and she has been going strong ever since.
Hagan has experienced opportunities most of us only dream about getting to do. She has rubbed noses (not literally) with celebrities and athletes like Bradley Cooper, Beyonce, Bon Jovi, Matthew Perry, Robert Griffin III and Ricky Henderson. She performed with one of her lifelong idols, Ben Vereen, and played in the Celebrity All-Star Baseball game with Jennie Finch, Kevin James and George Lopez. She has attended a White House correspondence dinner and lobbied on Capitol Hill for her platform to stop the cycle of child sexual abuse. But, one of the most rewarding things Hagan has been able to do has nothing to do with famous entertainers, athletics or politics; it is all about sick children.
“I have really cherished my time with the patients at children’s hospitals across the country,” says Hagan. “I don’t want to call it ‘fun,’ but my time with the children has been really special to me. They are so brave and loving and live life with such optimism and sweet spirits.”
Hagan’s reign will be cut short when the Miss America Pageant moves back to a September date and returns to Atlantic City, New Jersey. While Hagan says she understands and accepts her shortened reign, she said she has had an incredible experience and is looking forward to what the future has in store for her.
“I have enjoyed every minute of my reign, and I know it has opened many doors for me that would have never been opened otherwise,” she says. “I’m looking forward to getting back to New York and to see what’s next. I have learned so many things about myself and have found new interests along the way. I have never really considered a career in front of a camera, but after this year, I want to explore some possible avenues in the entertainment industry and see where that might take me.”
As Miss America, Hagan has made appearances all over the United States jetting from coast-to-coast, but she says one disadvantage is that she has not had any extended time to spend in the places she has visited.
“It is a tight schedule, and there isn’t much time for sightseeing or even getting to know the people in many of the places I’ve been,” says Hagan. “I also miss being in New York, and I’m looking forward to some time at home. Those are really the only two disadvantages I have experienced; for the most part, it has pretty much been exactly what I thought it would be, and I have loved it.”
Hagan is in a unique situation in that her childhood hometown of Opelika and her new hometown of New York City both claim her as its own.
“It has been great to have that dual-support system, and I’d definitely take two hometowns over just one,” says Hagan. “It is fun to go back to New York and feel so at home, and of course I treasure my time in Opelika with family and friends. I’ve loved having my childhood home be so excited and supportive, too. The week after the pageant, the mayor of New York City called Opelika’s mayor, Gary Fuller, to celebrate ‘our girl’ winning; I’ve had that kind of support all year, and it has been great!”
On Sept. 2, Hagan will arrive in Atlantic City to support the 52 women who will compete to be the 2014 Miss America. She will crown her successor on September 15.
But she will always be our Miss America.
For more information on Miss America,