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Miss Rhode Island Uses Emerson-Honed Skills to Compete in Pageants

Mary Malloy holds her Miss Rhode Island sash by water behind her

Mary Malloy’s resume is already lengthy, and recently she added an entry few others can claim – competing as Miss Rhode Island in the Miss USA pageant.

After winning the Miss Rhode Island competition earlier this year, Malloy ’19 qualified to represent the Ocean State at the USA pageant in Reno, Nevada on September 29. While she didn’t win, competing in the pageant was an amazing experience, she said.

“It was a dream come true. I’ve known girls who’ve competed in Miss USA. Some love it, and some hate it. I had the time of my life,” said Malloy. “I had worked for years to get there. I got to meet a woman from every state, and everyone was nice. I can’t say that about every pageant.”

Along with competing in pageants, Malloy works for Amazon writing an internal newsletter, is a certified crisis counselor, volunteers for Best Buddies, and created a children’s coloring book to help kids process feelings. She also freelanced for The Hollywood Reporter and Press Pass LA.

Malloy said her Emerson College education was beneficial on the pageant circuit. At Emerson, Malloy, a Journalism major, balanced classes with her work as a resident assistant and on the Emerson Channel, internships, Kappa Gamma Chi, and serving as a campus tour guide.

“Emerson really made me comfortable with expressing myself … through art. My journalism background helps in an interview room. Once you can ask questions, you can sense where interviews are going,” said Malloy.

Malloy’s pageant career started in 2013, after a friend suggested she should compete in the Miss Rhode Island Teen competition. She learned a lot from that experience, including the value of networking and prepping for interviews.

Mary Malloy wears a tiara

“I didn’t know how to wear heels or what a spray tan was, or even how to do my own makeup. Those are things you need to know. Those are pageantry foundations,” said Malloy. The next year she won the competition.

Prepping for the interview portion is critical, because you’re not just going to be asked about world peace, according to Malloy. Contestants are asked who they voted for president, whether they’re religious, and a curveball or two. In one competition, the judge asked Malloy why she had lost the previous year.

“That’s not what I would expect in a conversation or an interview for a pageant,” she said. “It’s two and a half minutes to sell yourself in a room.

“I know I’m representing a brand. Pageantry is a business. To really develop an answer that is strategic and pleases everybody is a great skill to possess,” said Malloy. She said less controversial topics, such as her favorite movie or book are also asked.

At pageants, it’s important to champion an issue that’s meaningful to the contestant. For Malloy, it’s mental health advocacy. As a certified crisis counselor, she volunteers for the Crisis Text Line.

“It saves and changes lives,” said Malloy. “I’ve learned a lot about remediating emotional conflict and being an active listener. I definitely had a background in that from working as an RA at Emerson. I really found helping people during a hard time or active crisis helps me feel like I have a higher purpose.”

Cover of Millie's Many Emotions coloring book

After being laid off, Malloy needed a boost as she struggled to find a job, and dealt with idle time. She decided to write Millie’s Many Emotions, a coloring book about what to do when feeling upset or nervous. All proceeds from book sales are donated to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“Millie Is a young girl having stomach aches, is flustered, and doesn’t know what she’s feeling. She doesn’t want to do things she loves, like going to class,” said Malloy. “She opens up about emotions and gets back to doing what she loves. I was an extremely introverted child. We moved frequently, and had to start fresh in another place. I had stomach aches and didn’t realize it was anxiety and fear. Talking to my family got me back to doing the things I love.”

Competing for Miss USA was a goal of Malloy’s for years, but now she’s focused on her next moves. She would like to report on the entertainment industry again, as an on-air correspondent. She’s trying to build up her social media presence.

And she will be prepped and ready for that next move, thanks to her professional experiences and Emerson education.

“You can tell if an Emerson alum is in the room,” Malloy said. “When I worked as a freelancer, people knew right away that I was an Emerson alum based upon my quality of questions, and attention to detail. Emerson gave me a strong professional resume that had actual work I could present to publications. That really solidified how employers looked at me as a young professional, and not just a recent grad.”

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