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Miss Tennessee titleholders focus on mental health

Posted on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at 7:55 am


This year, the focus of some of the local Miss Tennessee contest titleholders are focusing on mental health, and there are several upcoming events to support their community service initiatives.

The Bedford County Post got to sit down with the titleholders and talk about their goals in supporting mental health resources through the Miss America pageant system.

Together, they epitomize the industry saying of, “Winning is a one-time event, but becoming a winner is more like an everyday event.”

Miss Franklin

Camden Morris, 22, is Miss Franklin. She is a Belmont University grad with a Journalism Degree. A Tennessee native from Wayne County, she started competing in pageants when she was 16.

“I really didn’t know what I was expecting getting into the Miss America system—I had never competed in it,” she said. “Then I won and so I’m really excited to try out this system and meet people.”

For Morris, her mother was diagnosed with a mental health condition, which put her in foster care and eventually in the care of her grandparents beginning when she was 10 years old.

“So my platform is about foster care…and that’s always been a big part of breaking the stigma because at that time is was very stigmatized,” Morris said.

Her community service initiative is called “Collecting with Camden,” which she hopes to expand into a nationwide initiative by partnering with other foster care programs.

Morris has sidelined for ESPN-Plus and Fox-17, so she said her ultimate goal is to become a sideline and in-house reporter for a major league soccer team.

Miss Lynchburg

Keenan Pasztor, 25, is Miss Lynchburg. Originally from Southern California, Pasztor has been living in Tennessee for two years while completing her master’s in clinical mental health counseling. She will become a fully-licensed counselor within the next year.

Pasztor said she stumbled into the pageant world by “accident.” While doing competitive dance and then cheer in college, she knew she loved performing. Inspired by a friend, she was encouraged to do a pageant, which she did, winning her first pageant and going on to compete in Miss California.

“During that year, I just really loved Miss America because of the community service aspect,” she said. “I loved how it was a year-long process of doing good for the community.”

“I help bring mental awareness to rural communities and that’s something I get to do with my job as well,” she added. “So it’s really cool to get to marry the two.”

For Pasztor, good mental health comes down to good support.

“As much as we talk about it, there is such a stigma, especially in the rural communities, where you don’t have a counselor on every corner. You may have to drive an hour to go to a counselor. So really just increasing access to those services,” Pasztor explained.

She currently works as a mental health therapist in schools and said she hopes to impact lives one at a time through in-house, individual therapy.

“Whether I am in their lives for a semester or for years and years and years, I really want to be that positive light for that person that helps them overcome whatever they’re struggling with,” Pasztor said.

Miss Shelbyville

Jana Hahn, 24, is Miss Shelbyville. She grew up in the Louisville, K.y., area, competing in her first local Miss America then.

“I highly recommend the Miss America organization for personal growth as well as talent and communication skills,” Hahn said. “I would not be the person I am today without it.”

Graduating from Liberty University with an interdisciplinary degree, focusing on communications, theatre arts, and psychology, Hahn then moved to Tennessee two years ago.

“I have a personal experience with mental health and so being able to share my story in hopes that others can be impacted as well as realizing they’re not along is one of my main goals,” she said.

“Everybody has mental health – it might not be mental illness – but we all have mental health,” Hahn said.

She emphasized the importance of showing people how to talk about it and how to approach it. But with everything, from career to education to pageants, Hahn said she wants to be intentional.

“That comes across the board with my job, my relationships, this title — the goal is to be impactful and intentional in everything I do,” she said.

*Lydia Sanders is also serving as Miss Shelbyville Teen. She was unable to attend the interview.

Upcoming Events

“Princess Ball” will be 3-5 p.m. April 13 at Thomas Magnet School, 539 Tate Ave., Shelbyville. The event is for ages 0-12 years old. Miss Shelbyville, Miss Shelbyville Teen, Miss Lynchburg, and Miss Franklin will be there to ask questions from these titleholders.

A BBQ and Food Competition will July 12 and 13 at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration grounds in Shelbyville.

The “May 23, 1966” event will be May 4, 2024, at the Fly Art Center, 204 S. Main St. in Shelbyville.

The new Miss Tennessee will be crowned during the week of June 16 — 22 in Johnson City.

To keep up with the latest information, follow the Miss Shelbyville Scholarship Facebook page.