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Being Miss America Comes With Challenges Susan Akin


Being Miss America Comes With Challenges Susan Akin, Being Miss America isn’t easy. Signal Mountain’s Susan Akin knows this better than most. She was crowned Miss America 1986 while a college student at the University of Mississippi. In those days, the crown meant something — a dream appointment that promised a life of glamour and a difference-making platform.

For many years she had just that, traveling around the world with renowned entertainer Bob Hope, performing before thousands and delivering hopeful messages to young women. But one thing she learned along the way is that life as an adult isn’t always as dreamy as being the one chosen at that magical moment when the announcer proclaims, “There she is … ”

When I was in college with Susan in the 1980s, our paths occasionally crossed. But though we had mutual friends, she was busy in one direction, while I was busy in another.

When I learned Ms. Akin lives in the Chattanooga area, I reached out to say hello. A former Miss America in our midst seemed like a story. Also, shared common ground seemed like a worthy connection. What I found, though, has both surprised and delighted me.

I knew Ms. Akin was a beautiful, spiritual and talented woman. I also knew how hard she had worked to attain her dream, the Miss America crown. She had appeared in more than 100 pageants, winning 13 before finally winning the big one. What I did not know, however, is that Miss America struggles with life as we all do, navigating triumph and difficulties.

In the years since she was crowned Miss America, Ms. Akin has experienced victories but also suffered challenges, including divorce, while facing the ever-changing learning curve to try and turn life’s difficult lessons learned into a winning formula for the future. For most of us, that’s life.

But one also can imagine that Miss America has an extra dose of difficulty thrown on for good measure, the ever-present challenge of living up to the crown. People have expectations — the look, the stride and the smile. Self-expectations, even, go well beyond that, as Ms. Akin readily attests.

“I’m sorry,” she said the day we reconnected. “I’ve been busy … ”

“Don’t apologize,” I told her. “You look like Miss America.”

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