A Look Inside the Crown: Miss Hamden 2014

Crowned Miss Hamden.

Acacia Courtney is currently a junior at Fordham University and was recently crowned Miss Hamden 2014, a week after she passed on the title of Miss New York City to the next lucky young lady. She will be competing for the title of Miss Connecticut, a preliminary to the Miss America, this summer. Acacia was awarded the honor of placing second runner-up and the “Lifestyle and Fitness” award at the Miss New York state pageant last July. Acacia is a Communications and Media Studies major with a minor in ­Theology. Her personal platform is “Meatless Monday and Move It Monday: I’ve Got the Power.”

Q: Congratulations on your new Miss Hamden 2014 title! Please tell me what inspired your move to compete back at your home state after competing in New York the last two years?

A: Thank you! Deciding to compete in Connecticut was something that I put a lot of thought into, but at the same time it felt natural. I was born in CT, I grew up there, and I held the title of Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen in 2009 – CT is my home. I was eligible to compete in NY because I am in school full time in that state, and the past two years have been a great experience. This year, however, my life is taking me back to my home state with the opportunity for an internship in CT, as well as the desire to compete for the prestigious title of Miss CT.

Acacia’s appearance at the Branford Compassion Club.

Q: What has been your best pageant experience thus far with this new title?

A: I was only crowned Miss Hamden about two weeks ago, but this past weekend I did an appearance that was very special to me. The Branford Compassion Club in North Branford, CT is a volunteer-based animal shelter that was celebrating their third anniversary with a food and supply drive for homeless cats. I found out about the event online, reached out to the organization, and got to spend the day collecting donations, promoting the shelter, and playing with kittens.

Q: You have an illustrious pageant career, what keeps you motivated? What is your end goal?

A: Of course the “end goal” is to become Miss America, but even if I ever do have that opportunity, I’m confident my pageant days won’t end there. I love seeing what other contestants do with their titles, and being able to witness successes. For me, working with my personal platform has been so rewarding, and I’m grateful to have the chance to advocate for animal rights, as well as promote healthy initiatives. It’s hard to keep competing year after year, but when you know that you’re working towards something bigger, it’s worth it.

Q: Is there a connection between scholastic pursuits and pageantry?

A: Absolutely. Competing in pageants teaches discipline, dedication, public speaking and interpersonal skills, and the importance of marketing and branding, to name a few. Being able to manage time wisely while using all of these tools prepares you for school, as well as for the competitive job market.

Q: Do your Fordham friends support your pageantry adventures? If so, how?

A: I couldn’t ask for a better support system. My friends have come to understand that competing in the Miss America Organization is a huge part of me, and that I am very dedicated to it. They know that I have made, and will continue to make, sacrifices to pursue this, but also that this is a journey not many people get to take. I know I always have my Fordham friends cheering me on, and several of them have actually come to some of my more recent pageants.

Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception about pageants?

A: There is a stereotype that pageant girls are incapable of effecting real change. I would say that one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that one voice is always better than none. Even if you are the only person speaking out about something, that is still one more than before. With Meatless Monday and Move It Monday, we are advocating for a pledge that is taken one day a week. These small changes can be the catalyst to a larger health initiative with long-lasting effects. This applies to everything. Small steps can add up and result in big changes.

Q: Everyone has daily struggles, what are some of yours in relation to competition?

A: I always try to do too much. I throw myself fully into preparation, and that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s in my personality that I do things fully, but sometimes I say “yes” to too many things and end up overloading myself, which can be very stressful. I believe that it’s important to make the most out of your time as a titleholder, but it’s also important to find a balance between pageantry and the rest of your life. I’m still working on that.

Acacia before rehearsals during Miss New York week last year. Courtesy of Madison Embrey

Q: How do you balance the job of being Miss Hamden and the demands of being a Fordham student?

A: It all goes back to the time management. For the next few months I’ll be doing appearances as Miss Hamden and getting ready to compete for Miss Connecticut, and that will mean heading home nearly every weekend, and sometimes on weekdays, too. I like to be busy, but my calendar for the coming months is already packed. I do my homework whenever I have a free moment, and try my best not to procrastinate. I’m incredibly organized, and I have multiple planners and to do lists so that I will never forget anything, whether it’s school-related, pageant-related, or just the reminder that I needed to make myself relax and watch TV once in a while.