Finding Personal Value Through the Miss America Organization

One of the most impactful and unique aspects of the Miss America Organization is the platform. Each young woman chooses a social issue or passion close to her heart and dedicates her year to it. For many, their platform is developed long before and continues long after the crown. (In 1990, the platform issue was added to the program and required of each contestant.)

My platform is called “Find ValYOU Within.”

Growing up, I struggled with feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. I led a very different life than anyone else around me. I was taller than my peers throughout elementary school and had ears that stuck forward out of my head. The bullying was so severe that in third grade, I opted to get plastic surgery to make my ears appear more “normal.”

These feelings only increased as I matured. In sixth grade, they culminated in a way that I struggled to understand. I developed an anxiety disorder called trichotillomania. It caused me to pull out my hair subconsciously. It was especially difficult because bald spots were something others could see. Regardless of whether people noticed or said anything, this only heightened my anxiety. After a year of struggling on my own, I decided that I needed some help. I opened up to my parents and found a therapist who could help me.

I found that the underlying cause of my hair pulling was dread and anxiety. Not necessarily what anyone was saying to me directly but what I feared was being said. My therapist encouraged me to journal about what helped ease my feelings of inadequacy and also what fueled them. What I found is that when I was worried about myself, I was more likely to harm myself. But when I focused on helping others, I was less likely to hurt myself.

JessiKate Riley holding violin
JessiKate Riley with her violin, Sam at the Atlantic City Mission during the 2018 Miss America Competition.

One way that I enjoyed serving others was by sharing my violin talent with them. Playing my violin helped me see that I had value inside of me and that it was something I could share with others. One of my favorite things to do with audiences is proving to them that my violin, Sam, can talk. I play Disney and other songs they will recognize and wait for them to sing along.

As I became more comfortable with myself and familiar with my condition, I was able to open up more to others. I was astounded by the response! So many other people struggled with similar feelings and situations. They may not have been exactly like me, but I found that everyone needs to have something that makes them happy.

The Creation of Find ValYOU Within

In 2013, I developed my official platform while preparing to compete in the Miss Utah’s Outstanding Teen Program. Some said my message was too vague and that I should narrow it down to self-esteem or mental health. But that is what is so unique about it — my platform can relate to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, identification, etc.!

JessiKate with elementary school kids
JessiKate showing off her #FindValYOU bracelet with students at Boulton Elementary School.

This is my 5th year sharing my message to #FindValYou within. I have encountered so many amazing individuals who have helped me as I’ve tried to help them. A few weeks after I was crowned Miss Utah, a mother contacted me explaining that her sweet daughter had the same anxiety disorder. We were able to meet up and talk. I showed her my bald spots and gave her advice. We still stay in touch so I can help her stay on track to be positive. She has also helped me to know that I can and am making a difference.

I fight a problem with no boundaries, with a platform with no boundaries. I encourage everyone I meet to find what makes them unique and happy and then share that with others! When you are serving and sharing with others, you often forget what you were struggling with in the first place.

If you would like to have me come speak to your group about finding value from within, please visit the About Me page! 

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