Hometown and/or Current City: Caldwell, NJ
Keywords: Volunteer, awareness, LGBTQ+, suicide prevention, cure, equality, animal cruelty prevention, humanitarian, pageant, mental health
"Most people in the area will remember the huge fire that took out 3 houses in Caldwell. Well, the first house was mine. Six months after losing everything, I went on to win my first national title of Miss American Nation, and now I use that title to spread awareness and volunteer with causes that are close to my heart." - A.M.
Audrey McGowan grew up in Essex County, New Jersey. She graduated from Caldwell University in 2012 with a B.A. in Art (concentrating in Photography) and currently works in the administrative office of the Caldwell University School of Education. In November 2016, Audrey lost her home to a devastating fire that erupted on Orchard Square in Caldwell. In 2017, she was crowned Miss American Nation 2018, with a platform focusing on combating injustice.
"When I am not at my day job or photographing an event, you can probably find me at a parade in NYC or at a local fundraising walk," says Audrey. "I also do a bit of background acting on the side [...] you can spot me in a few scenes of Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on November 29th!"
A Fascination with the Pageant Industry
"My fascination with the pageant industry started when I was very young. I would watch every televised pageant with my mother, on the couch, wearing our pajamas and tiaras, and casting our votes for who we thought would win. I understood that I didn't look like the women I saw on the stage, but I still always wanted to be a part of the experience.
After a while, life got in the way and this dream took a back seat to school, social struggles, and family tragedy. My father battled cancer for three years and ultimately lost that battle during the summer before my senior year of high school. In the years that followed, I was hesitant to do anything exciting because I knew he would be missing it, and I essentially stopped 'living,' too.
Then, in my last year of college, I received a flyer in the mail advertising the chance to compete for the title of Miss New Jersey, and suddenly I was back in the game. Five years later, as Miss American Nation, I had the opportunity to attend the Miss America pageant live from Atlantic City, so my mother and I changed out of our pajamas and hit the road for this once-in-a-lifetime experience."
"In addition to my on-going project to visit and thank each of the neighboring fire departments that came to our aid during the house fire last year, and the 20+ appearances I have already made as Miss American Nation, I have a number of exciting events coming up. In December, I will be helping with holiday gift drives, a book drive for a local elementary school, and I will be a wreath-layer in the memorial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. I can't believe half a year has gone by so fast, and in only six months I will be crowning the next Miss American Nation. This is truly a life-changing opportunity, and I can't wait to pass it on to the next lucky lady!"
Words of Advice
"I find it difficult to give advice about something so fragile as confidence and self-image, especially in a competitive industry like pageants, or just in general with the current state of the world [...] but you really have to just be patient with yourself and with the universe. While it is okay to let life get you down, you have to force yourself to get back up again.
For years, I have struggled with depression and anxiety, so I know how difficult it can be to think positive and pick yourself up. But now, whenever I am hit with another setback or a bad day, I like to think back on other times when I felt the same way or worse, but still made it through. Remember that this too shall pass. It is harder with those of us who struggle with anxiety and depression to overcome issues with self-esteem, and words of encouragement from others tend to roll right off our backs, but each person is different, and no one knows you like you do.
You have to start by being your own best friend and your biggest fan, and if that isn't enough, then you can always turn to me! These may just be the ramblings of an only child, but you're never alone when you are there for yourself. Find what is good for you fill your life with it. Maybe you can focus on nurturing a hidden talent, or exploring your artistic abilities. Maybe you need to write more, or read more, or dance in the rain more. Heck, you may even consider entering a pageant! Not to stress over winning and crash hard if you lose, but as an exercise in self-appreciation. Do it for You. I did, and it changed my life."
Audrey will be volunteering at the Wreath Laying Ceremony on December 16th at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as participating in ongoing toy and book drives for the holidays.
Recent: 11/21/17 volunteering with the Ally Coalition at the Bleachers concert in Brooklyn; NYC Veterans Day parade, NOH8 campaign events, Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk, etc.