Next in our our series, “The Road to Miss New York,” is Alexina Tamsen Federhen, Miss Metropolitan. Continue reading below to learn more about Alexina and her journey to the crown, what she thinks about our reigning Miss New York, and more!
Please share with our readers your title & platform.
I am Alexina Tamsen Federhen, Miss Metropolitan. My platform is “You Are Not Alone: Supporting Mental Health Awareness.”
How long have you competed in pageants? How do you think you’ve personally grown with all your prior pageant experience?
I was born with Cross Dominance (right handed and left footed), a neurological disorganization disorder that is caused by the lack of a dominant side to my brain. I had to develop many more synapses in order to connect and retrieve information, so it took me much longer than my classmates to learn to read. In addition, I have an “auto-correct” reading disability where my brain substitutes random words beginning with the same 2 first letters so things don’t always make sense when I read them. I was bullied throughout elementary and middle school and ridiculed as “stupid.”
When I was 8, I was watching a parade and a Miss America state titleholder went by in a convertible wearing a beautiful pink sequined gown. I told my mother that I wanted to be just like her because no one would be mean to a queen. I entered my first pageant the following week and won the essay and photogenic contests and was a runner-up overall. Pageants enabled me to get away from the bullying and criticism in my small town and meet other girls who shared my commitment to scholarship and community service. Many of the girls I have met through pageants over the years have had to overcome disabilities, hardships, and setbacks, and we have grown closer and stronger by supporting each over to succeed. Participating in pageants has also helped me to develop skills that I have used in other aspects of my life, including interview and public speaking skills.
In regards to your platform, why did you choose to go with this particular one?
I choose my platform because I am passionate about de-stigmatizing mental health issues and encouraging those suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues to seek help. Recent surveys indicate that over 40 million adults and 17 million children cope with a mental health issue, 20% of returning veterans suffer from mental health issues, including PTSD and depression, and 1 in 4 college students struggle with a mental health issue. Many of these people suffer alone, without medical intervention or psychological support. Because of the stigma society can place on mental health issues, those suffering may not seek assistance.
Depression and anxiety are prevalent among college students. The 2014 National College Health Assessment, conducted by the American College Health Association, found 86.4% of college students felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities, 54% felt overwhelming anxiety, 46.4% felt their situation was hopeless, 32.6% were so depressed they had trouble functioning, and 65% felt stress, depression, or anxiety interfered with their academic performance. Given the prevalence of depression, stress, and anxiety reported by college students, it is disturbing that only 26% of the students reported receiving treatment for a mental health condition. Thousands of collegians are hiding their anxiety, ignoring the signs of depression, and dealing with stress by self-medicating, self-harm, dropping out of school, or committing suicide.
My experience with depression and anxiety began during high school. By senior year, the stress of working to maintain my grades in spite of my reading disability was compounded by mediocre SAT scores (a casualty of my disability), college and scholarship applications, extracurricular activities, rejections, waitlists, financial aid, and life-changing decisions. I felt out of control and began scratching myself and banging my head in frustration. My mother, who had suffered from depression in the past, recognized the signs and encouraged me to get help. I learned how anxiety causes chemical imbalances in the brain that can be managed with stress management techniques and medication. My hopeless feelings were a health issue, NOT a mental or emotional weakness!
My Platform, ‘You Are Not Alone: Supporting Mental Health Awareness’ promotes acceptance of mental health conditions without judgment and encourages those experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression to reach out for support and treatment. Awareness of the widespread incidence of anxiety and depression and acceptance of these conditions as health issues, not mental failure or weakness, is the best way to stop the stigma associated with mental health conditions. ‘You Are Not Alone’ reassures college students that the stress they experience is not unusual or uncommon. Knowing others have similar feelings is a first step to reducing the self-blame.
How has working alongside your platform made you into a stronger person?
Partnering with Cornell Minds Matter, (CMM), a student-led organization that “promotes the overall mental and emotional health of all Cornell students, works to reduce the stigma of mental illness, and holds events open to the entire Cornell community that foster a healthy, balanced lifestyle,” we sponsor over 200 activities each semester, including stress-reduction activities such as yoga and Zumba, mental health education and awareness programming, and relaxation and mindfulness events. I completed training to become a CMM staff member, a position enabling me to reach out to even more fellow students, to reassure them they are not alone in facing mental health issues. By sharing my story, I encourage others to accept mental health issues, recognize the signs of extreme stress and anxiety, and get help for themselves and others.
As a sophomore at Cornell University, I have witnessed many of my peers struggling with the social and academic pressures of college: heavy workloads, lack of sleep, competition, communal living, parties, alcohol, and independence. As Vice President of Risk Management for my sorority, I created a position dedicated to maintaining the physical and mental health of our members. As Miss New York, my goal is to promote mental health awareness on college campuses across the state and to encourage students to utilize college mental health resources through formal appearances, informal visits, and blog posts on alexinacares.com. Every college student experiencing stress, anxiety or depression needs to know they are not alone – help and hope are available!
What have you learned from your current Miss New York, Camille, which you hope to carry with you if you were to win the title of Miss New York?
Camille inspires me with her ability to balance many different responsibilities with grace and confidence. As a titleholder, it is important to me serve the people in my community, while also maintaining academic performance, personal relationships, and social obligations. It can be challenging to juggle all these demands. From Camille, I learned how empowering it can be to take a deep breath and approach every situation with patience and a smile.
As a title-holder, what is one of the single-most important messages, which you think you convey to your followers?
Be yourself! Everyone is different, so it doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to others. Be true to your own goals and ideals, and you will be successful and happy.
If you were to win the title of Miss New York, what is the one thing which you would strive the hardest to accomplish?
I would prioritize working with the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and promoting my platform to destigmatize mental health issues and encourage healthy living choices. I would make it a goal to visit every county of New York and truly represent the entire state.
Imagine you’re competing for Miss America, and your roommate has never visited New York; how would you describe your state to your roommate?
New York is a state of incredible diversity and natural beauty. From the cosmopolitan glamour of New York City, one of the world’s most cosmopolitan centers, to the rural charm of dairy farms and vineyards, New York has it all! Access to great bodies of water is a recurring geographic theme. New York stretches from the Atlantic coasts of Long Island to the shores of the Great Lakes; the Hudson River runs up the eastern edge of the state and the Finger Lakes stretch across the interior. Winter sports, water sports, professional sports teams, international cuisine, farm fresh produce, world-class theater and entertainment, and stunning landscapes. There is no state like New York!
If you could place three items in a time capsule, which represent the women of today, what would they be and why?
A smart phone – My phone serves so many purposes. It connects me to the Internet so I can check the news, do research, and watch YouTube videos. It serves as my scheduler and alerts me to appointments and deadlines. It is a watch, a camera, a flashlight, and a mirror. Oh, and I can also make calls and send text messages as well.
My emergency tool kit – tweezers, duct tape, a screw driver, and a hammer. There’s very little that can’t be fixed with these essentials. Women now serve as the head of household for many American families and have proven to be capable, confident and determined.”
“I voted” sticker. It is so important for everyone to vote and I was proud to vote in my first election in 2016. Since women make up more than half of the population of the country, we can be a powerful voice to protect our environment, our families, and our rights.
Because of media, many people tend to look at pageants with a very scrutinizing opinion. 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
The Miss America Organization encourages young women to maximize their strengths and achieve their goals. Although pageants do include evening gown and fitness competitions, the emphasis is on talent and interview. My experience with pageants has improved my ability to express myself confidently and convincingly in interviews, a skill that has proven invaluable in interview for internships, leadership positions and scholarships. Through performing at pageants and answering the dreaded onstage questions, I am much more confident speaking in public and expressing my opinion clearly and concisely. These are life skills that will help me succeed both in college, my career, and my community service projects.
“Bravura” is an artistic word for exceptional; in your opinion, what makes you “bravura”?
My most exceptional characteristic is my determination. I had to work three times as hard as my classmates to overcome my reading disability, get good grades and graduate as salutatorian of my high school class. I never give up. Obstacles are just an opportunity for creative problem solving!
Where can fans follow you on social media?
Facebook, Miss Metropolitan – https://www.facebook.com/MissMetropolitan2017/
Community service projects – http://www.alexinacares.com
What advice do you have for those who want to take part in pageants?
Go for it! Pageants can be an amazing experience – an opportunity to make new friends, develop valuable skills, earn scholarship money, and have a wonderful time. You don’t have to end up in first place to be a winner. In concrete terms, there are awards and scholarships given to runners up and non-finalists. But ultimately, every girl who competes gains something from the experience: conquering stage fright, boosting self-esteem, gaining a mentor, making a friend, and creating unforgettable memories.
What words of thanks do you have for those who have helped to bring you to where you are today in the Miss New York Class of 2017?
I want to thank my mom for giving me the confidence to believe in myself and the determination to follow my goals. Thank you Melissa Moreland-Campos, my director, for running the pageant so professionally and for being there with advice and encouragement. To the Class of 2017, thank you for welcoming me to the family – I have always been greeted with a warm smile and a friendly handshake. This is truly a family of supportive friends for life!
What final words do you have for the readers of Bravura Magazine?
Everyone is exceptional – don’t be afraid to let your individuality shine!