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The Road to Miss New Jersey 2017 – Ashlyn Laveson, Miss Gloucester County

The road to Miss New Jersey is an exciting one; as we’ve seen with our reigning Miss New Jersey, Brenna Weick, the opportunities are endless for the one woman who obtains the opportunity to represent our state, and moreover, get the chance to partake in the Miss America pageant this September. We are thrilled to have this second installment of our "Road to Miss New Jersey" feature, which we debuted last year. Over the next few weeks, you will have the chance to meet all of the beautifully talented ladies who are vying for the crown this June! Our next contestant in this series is Ashlyn Lavenson, Miss Gloucester County.

Please share with our readers your title & platform.
I am Miss Gloucester County and my platform is Turn the Tables on Hunger.

How long have you competed in pageants? How do you think you’ve personally grown with all your prior pageant experience?
I started competing in pageants when I was sixteen years old. I started competing in the Miss New Jersey Outstanding teen program, and went on to compete in the “Miss” division as I got older. When I began competing in pageants, I was a young woman with ambition and a passion for helping others. My experiences in the Miss America organization have granted me confidence and the ability to not just dream about things, but to do them. The skills I have developed through competing in pageants have helped me in all areas of my life.

In regards to your platform, why did you choose to go with this particular one?
In 1993, I was born on Thanksgiving Day. I have always been a fan of getting together with my family not just on this holiday but on regular occasions as well. As a teenager, I learned that 13% of people in my state are food insecure, which means that they do not have the access to sufficiently affordable or nutritious food. As a resident of the “Garden State,” I found this statistic to be particularly upsetting. The resources are here, so I’ve made it my mission to eliminate hunger and poverty in my state. This platform is not only close to my heart, but it is extremely relevant to my state.

How has working alongside your platform made you into a stronger person?
Working alongside my platform has taught me to be a stronger person in several ways. For one thing, it has taught me to be humble. By seeing just how many people the Food Bank of New Jersey benefits, it has given me a great understanding about just how easy it is to fall on hard times. Furthermore, the Food Bank has a short term mission to alleviate hunger presently by providing resources, but a long term mission to eliminate poverty in our state. This mission has given me a mantra that nothing is necessarily permanent, and that we have the ability to change even the most pressing issues.

What have you learned from your current Miss New Jersey, Brenna Weick, which you hope to carry with you if you were to win the title of Miss NJ?
Something that I have learned from our current Miss New Jersey is to never forget where you came from. Even though Brenna is now a state titleholder, she dedicates much of her time to providing opportunities for the local contestants. I appreciate these opportunities now, so as Miss New Jersey I would be humble in this way and be a friend and mentor to my sisters who are local titleholders.

As a title-holder, what is one of the single-most important messages, which you think you convey to your followers?
As a title-holder, I hope to convey to my followers to be fearless. Years ago, I was a child who would hide behind my parents when people talked to me. I entered a pageant knowing that I would have to speak up for myself. Being fearless isn’t being unafraid, it’s just moving forward despite of your fear. Sometimes things that are scary in the beginning make us the person who we are today.

If you were to win the title of Miss New Jersey, what is the one thing which you would strive the hardest to accomplish?
As Miss New Jersey, I would strive to celebrate the resources that “the Garden State” boasts. I would make sure that these resources fall into the hands of people who need them, instead of going to waste. Furthermore, in my conversations with both children and adults, I would share the mission of the Community Food Bank to educate them, but also highlight the importance of their philosophy of how whatever is troubling us is only temporary.

Imagine you’re competing for Miss America, and your roommate has never visited New Jersey; how would you describe your state to your roommate?
If my roommate at Miss America had never visited New Jersey, I would have a great time telling them about my state! I would tell them my favorite thing about New Jersey, which is that it’s a state that has absolutely everything, from beaches, to farms, to small towns, to big cities. I truly believe that everyone can find something in New Jersey that makes them happy.

If you could place three items in a time capsule, which represent the women of today, what would they be and why?
If I could place three items in a time capsule to represent the women of today would be a smart phone, a powerful business outfit, and a camera. However, I included these for specific and meaningful reasons. A smart phone is something that many women carry, which keeps her connected to those who support her and who she cares about, as she pursues what she chooses. Her business outfit doesn’t have to be a suit, it can be anything from a pair of scrubs or lab coat, to an athletic uniform, to a pair of jeans. In today’s world, a woman can do whatever she puts her mind to and wear whatever makes her feel confident. Lastly, I included a camera because today is an exciting time to be alive, and there is no time like the present to capture these memories for us and future women to enjoy down the road.

Because of media, many people tend to look at pageant with a very scrutinizing option; For you. personally, what have been some of the biggest benefits of being a part of the Miss America Organization. And how would you share the positive nature of pageants with others who may not be familiar?
The benefits of being a part of the Miss America Organization have been countless to me. For one thing, it has given me a whole different type of family that many would never imagine could come out of such a competition. When I unfortunately lost my mother two years ago, my friends and sisters from the Miss New Jersey Organization were there to hold my hand and dry my tears at her funeral. When I need to smile, I know I can count on this family, and they can count on me.

In addition, many are not familiar with the meaning of the Miss America crown. It is so much more than a shiny accessory. The four points of the Miss America crown represent scholarship, style, service, and success. These are four pillars that I carry with me, regardless of whether I am wearing the crown or not. I think that this philosophy can be very widely meaningful, and as a titleholder I strive to promote that.

“Bravura” is an artistic word for exceptional; in your opinion, what makes you “bravura”?
In my opinion, it is important to be your own kind of “bravura.” Be your own kind of exceptional, and don’t compare your “bravura” to others. I always choose to define my successes in terms of my own situation, and that makes all the difference.

Where can fans follow you on social media?
You can follow my Facebook page for Miss Gloucester County.

What advice do you have for those who want to take part in pageants?
For those who would like to take part in pageants, I would encourage them to be themselves! When one competes in a pageant, it is important to not concentrate on others and what they are doing, it is important to be true to yourself. Being confident in yourself and your own abilities is something that is visible, and truly looks beautiful.

What words of thanks do you have for those who have helped to bring you to where you are today in the Miss New Jersey Class of 2017?
I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I think about how many people have helped me to get where I am today in the Miss New Jersey Class of 2017. For everyone who has stood by me through the ups and downs of the last 7 years, I am forever grateful! Furthermore, when you look back on my getting to this point, I hope you smile, because I sure do and it’s been an amazing ride.

What final words do you have for the readers of Bravura Magazine?
My final word for the readers of Bravura Magazine is that if there is something that has been on your mind, go ahead and try it! Even if you “fail,” you don’t truly fail unless you don’t learn anything from it. If I hadn’t listened to the little girl in me who used to go and watch the Miss America parades with her family, I wouldn’t be speaking to you as Miss Gloucester County!

To learn more about the Miss New Jersey pageant and support the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation, please click here. To learn more about the Miss New Jersey golf outing, please click here.