Fri, 19 Jul 2019

Miss District of Columbia 2019 Shares Her #MeToo Message

Voice of America
09 Jul 2019, 22:05 GMT+10

WASHINGTON - VOA Student Union's Sahar Majid interviewed 2019 Miss District of Columbia Katelynne Cox, who talked about issues including her pageant journey and advocacy organization.

Katelynne Cox was chosen as the 2019 Miss District of Columbia last month.

Cox, a native of Washington state, is the manager of fundraising and events at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington, D.C.

In the pageant, Cox was able to speak to her advocacy for the #MeToo movement.

Through the organization Silence Is Not Compliance, which Cox founded in 2016, she is providing rehabilitation resources to survivors of sexual assault and educating kids on how to prevent sexual violence.

Cox is a rape survivor, and works to inspire other women who have gone through similar trauma and have not been able to speak up.

"I am a survivor of sexual assault and was raped in college, and I wanted to turn my terrible experience into a way that could help others," she said.

As she established Silence Is Not Compliance, Cox began lobbying for the victims for sexual assault before the U.S. Congress.

"I would argue right now, in our current policies, that victims are treated as tools for prosecution rather than victims deserving a rescue and that's what I want to change," she said.

Before moving to Washington, D.C., Cox attended the University of Missouri where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree. She also has two graduate certificates in nonprofit and public management from the school.

Cox said she became involved with the Miss District of Columbia organization for several reasons. The Miss DC pageant, which is part of the Miss America program, offers over $25,000 in scholarships each year to contestants. The winner receives a $10,000 scholarship and there are a variety of other awards available for academics.

Cox said the scholarship was one of the reasons she got involved with the organization.

Every year, the Miss District of Columbia Scholarship Organization recognizes high-achieving women between the ages of 18 and 25 who have been living or working in Washington, D.C., for at least six months preceding the date of the pageant. The program's website says that a contestant who is not a district resident can obtain a waiver by showing her education or employment status in the District of Columbia. There is no entry fee to compete. This year's event was held June 23.

The Miss DC organization has a partnership with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals - a Utah-based nonprofit organization that raises funds for children's health care.

"This organization is near and dear to my heart," Cox said, adding it gave her another reason to become involved with the Miss DC organization. Cox has been working with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals since she was a child.

In addition, the Miss DC organization provides contestants with an opportunity to pick a social impact initiative with which to become involved. "It was an amazing experience to promote my organization, Silence Is Not Compliance, as Miss DC," Cox said.

This year, the Miss District of Columbia Pageant eliminated the swimsuit segment. It was a decision by the Miss America organization to replace it with onstage interviews of contestants.

Cox is grateful for the decision because it gave her an opportunity to talk about the #MeToo movement on stage and her experience as a survivor to connect with other survivors.

She highlighted her singing abilities for the talent portion.

"Well, my mom likes to say that I started singing before I could even talk," she said, while telling the story of her musical journey.

Cox has worked with Red Hammer Records, a label based in Portland, Oregon, and released three albums during her teen years. She also had an opportunity to tour nationwide for her musical shows.

Cox believes scholarship programs, such as Miss America or Miss DC, provide young women with a platform to talk about social issues that need to be addressed.

"I think that inherently there is a problem with the thought that being involved in pageants is somehow sexually objectifying someone. I would argue that if you say that pageants are sexually objectifying me, then you are sexually objectifying me, not the pageant itself," Cox said.

Cox is now gearing up for the 2020 Miss America contest, to be held on September 8 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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