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This year’s Miss Wyoming and Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen’s mark firsts for the state competition

Anna Mullinax, Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen (left) and Miss Wyoming Hazel Homer-Wambeam (right) will represent the state on the national level after being crowned on Jun. 25 at the WYO Theater in Sheridan.
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Media
Anna Mullinax, Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen (left) and Miss Wyoming Hazel Homer-Wambeam (right) will represent the state on the national level after being crowned on Jun. 25 at the WYO Theater in Sheridan.

The 2023 Miss Wyoming and Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen competition was held at the WYO Theater in Sheridan on Jun. 25. Both winners marked firsts for the state’s competition.

Hazel Homer-Wambeam, 21, of Laramie was crowned Miss Wyoming and is the first Jewish winner while Anna Mullinax, 15, of Sheridan is the first Chinese-American recipient of the Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen title.

Both have chosen platforms that are close to them to share with the state during their year-long reign.

“When I teach dance classes, a lot of the time my students will talk about things they don’t like about themselves,” said Homer-Wambeam, who performed a dance routine to “All that Jazz” from the musical “Chicago.” “We’ll start doing a dance step and they’ll say, ‘I really don’t like my legs, or I think I have a very round tummy and I don’t like that,’ and I think that’s a really saddening thing to me. Maybe I could use dance to make students feel a little bit more comfortable in their body.”

Homer-Wambeam was formerly Miss University of Wyoming and Distinguished Young Woman for Wyoming in 2019. She said she doesn’t come from a pageant family and that she didn’t consider entering the Miss Wyoming competition until meeting Emma Broyles, the current Miss America.

“She was the distinguishing woman of Alaska the year that I was [for] Wyoming,” Homer-Wambeam explained. “I watched her win on the national stage about six months ago. And just the next day, I thought, you know, if Emma can do that, I can do that, too.”

The year of service that Miss Wyoming gives to the state involves significant travel, public speaking engagements, and meetings with businesses, schools, and groups throughout Wyoming.

Miss America is classified as a scholarship competition but has attracted criticism from across the political spectrum in years past. It’s also lost television viewership over the years as well, with the 2021 event being the first in decades to not air on network TV.

“The Miss America organization is moving into Miss America 2.0, this new era, a very progressive era, where we are no longer judged on physical appearance,” Homer-Wambeam explained. “It is about your leadership. It is about your public appearance, your public speaking abilities, your intelligence, and I think that's a really great thing about the organization.”

But even with the criticism that has been levied at Miss America, Homer-Wambeam is enjoying and looking forward to what’s ahead of her.

For Anna Mullinax, entering the pageant world wasn’t something she initially considered either. She was adopted at 10 months old. Her platform aims to give confidence and hope to other adopted children and teens.

“My platform is called ‘Days Ahead’, and it's based on adoption and inspiring a connection between adoption [and] bright futures,” she said. “This is something I'm very passionate about. I was born in Liancheng, China, and I just am so thankful that my biological mother made the choice to surrender me. And she gave me this opportunity. She gave me a family. She gave me a future. And I know that she couldn't give me that. And I'm so happy and so grateful to be here.”

Mullinax was encouraged by several competition officials to consider entering this year’s event. She’s involved with the Sheridan Foster Parent Exchange, raising $1,400 for them through a garage sale. She also donated $350 from donations received from the community.

“Before this, I've never even stepped into makeup and a big gown,” Mullinax admitted. “I have three older brothers, so it's kind of just started hanging out and having fun and doing all that. It's totally different. But I'm so excited to enter this new era into my life. Because I love the leadership opportunities, I gained so much confidence already in myself. And I'm so excited to speak on my platform adoption. It's something I'm so passionate about,” she said.

Mullinax will be a junior this fall at Big Horn High School after finishing this past year at Sheridan High School. She hopes to one day continue on to medical school and to obtain an associate’s degree in health sciences by the time she finishes high school.

The 2023 Miss America competition will take place at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. this winter. The Miss Outstanding Teen National competition will be held Aug. 10-12 in Dallas, Tex.

The Miss Wyoming scholarship program was founded in 1932 with the goal of advancing young women in the areas of service, leadership, and entrepreneurship. The organization also provides financial assistance to young women all over the country by offering cash scholarships that help them pursue their academic goals.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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