Ms. Veteran America may appear to be a beauty pageant in the same mold as Miss America, Miss World, or similar events. But this contest is different in that it has a purpose far beyond the scope of the event itself; a private charitable organization called Final Salute, Inc. is the direct beneficiary of the contest in more ways than one.
The 2020 Ms. Veteran America was presented via a virtual platform. The yearly pageant includes regional contests and culminates in the main competition held in a different location every year. Ms. Veteran America has been operating every year since 2012.
Congratulations to our newly crowned @MSVETAMERICA 2020 @USArmy Veteran Mary Ann Hotaling. She will spend the next year advocating for @FinalSaluteInc. Follow @TheMVA2020 on her #MVA2020 journey! @JasBoothe1 @MsVetAmerica1 #womenvets pic.twitter.com/E4QL2kuXC6
— Ms. Veteran America (@MSVETAMERICA) Oct. 30, 2020
Ms. Veteran America And Final Salute, Inc.
The mission of Final Salute, Inc. is to support homeless women veterans and their children; the winner of the pageant is expected to perform 100 hours of community service including work that raises awareness of the Final Salute mission and efforts to end veteran homelessness.
Individual competitors are asked to start crowdfunding campaigns to benefit Final Salute, Inc. as part of the contest. Ms. Veteran America also differs from other pageants or beauty contests in when it comes to who may compete.
Aside from putting military women front-and-center, the event includes a military spouse award called Mr. Mom recognizing those who support military women.
How The Ms. Veteran America Competition Works
The application process for Ms. Veteran America begins with an open season application period at the start of each year. The application period for 2022 was announced for the month of January, with entry fee price breaks for early registration.
There are regional competitions on both coasts ahead of the main contest; contestants may audition in person or virtually as part of the selection process.
Those who still serve may be required to get written permission from their command to participate; contestants serving in the Guard or Reserve may need to work around drill weekends or other required training to compete. The organizers of the competition require all currently-serving contestants to compete with the permission of the service member’s unit.
Eligible Contestants For Ms. Veteran America
Those eligible for the main competition to select Ms. Veteran America must meet the following requirements; these do NOT include age, height, or weight limitations.
Contestants must be:
- A woman who is either a Veteran or still serving;
- Able to show documentation of an Honorable discharge;
- A veteran or currently serving military member who has completed the initial military service obligation unless the veteran was medically discharged;
- In uniform for a minimum of 180 days of active service (above and beyond training requirements);
- In good health;
- Actively involved in the local community as a volunteer;
- Able to adhere to a code of conduct.
Eligible Contestants For The Ms. Veteran America Mr. Mom Competition
The Ms. Veteran America Mr. Mom competition recognizes what the official site describes as “the husbands who have learned how to braid hair, are proud of their Soccer Dad titles, attend dance practices, finish the dishes, kiss boo boos, make dinner, hold down the fort and be everything his Warrior Wife needs him to be as she salutes the flag”.
Competition in the Mr. Mom category is open to husbands of eligible Ms. Veteran America contestants, plus other current military women and veterans.
To enter, a short video “of hubby in action” according to the official site, or a photo and short essay describing the nominee is required. Past winners of the Mr. Mom contest have included both fellow military members and civilian husbands alike.
How The Ms. Veteran America Contest Is Judged
There are four areas that are judged:
- Military History
Scoring in these areas is affected by the contestant’s presentation. The official site says the following areas will count towards scores for each portion of the contest:
- “Contestant activity, interaction, and participation”
The Judges’ Panel
Ms. Veteran America is, at the time of this writing, judged by an all-woman, all veteran panel including officers, enlisted, active duty, Guard and Reserve veterans.
Winning Ms. Veteran America
What is required for those who win the competition? Some of the duties will sound familiar to those who know other pageants, beauty contests, state competitions such as “Miss Florida” or national events such as Miss USA.
The winner is required to act as an ambassador for the pageant, but also for the Final Salute organization which is the beneficiary of the Ms. Veteran America competition.
Ms Veteran America will be required “to provide at least 100 hours of community service, during her 12 months as title holder” according to the official site. There is also an obligation to attend speaking engagements and PR events.
The winner acts as an advocate for Final Salute and that agency’s work to help homeless veteran women and their children.
Prizes For Winning Ms. Veteran America
The prize package for winning the final competition includes:
- Veteran America crown and sash;
- $15,000 towards the purchase of a vehicle or education for the winner and/or dependent children. These funds can also be used to start a business or pay for a home or home repair;
- Featured spot in nationwide advertising campaigns;
- Attire (for the veteran), round trip airfare, and accommodations paid for two to the following year’s competition.
Other Prizes And Categories
The Ms. Veteran America competition includes these additional awards and prizes;
1st Runner Up – awarded a Ms. Veteran America ambassador sash and tiara plus an expenses-paid trip for two to the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.
2nd Runner Up – awarded a Ms. Veteran America ambassador sash and tiara plus a $1000 shopping spree.
As well as the runners-up categories, there are awards and prizes for eligible contestants in the following areas:
- Show Stopper award for best talent performance;
- You Wear it Well best dressed award;
- Barbie Ritzco Resilience Award for those who have mastered a “significant personal challenge and used it to inspire and support others”;
- Social Butterfly award for a contestant who has created an online campaign for the competition and earned the highest number of Facebook and Twitter results combined;
- Selfless Service award for “significant volunteer time” and support of a charitable cause;
- Hot Mama of the Year award for “the woman who serves and sacrifices for not only her country, but her family as well”;
- She Means Business award for a contestant who started a successful business;
- Mom – Recognizing husbands is “…everything his Warrior Wife needs him to be as she salutes the flag”. Eligible contestants are not required to have children to compete or win this award.
- GI JoAnne is an award for the contestant who does the most push-ups live on stage during the pageant.
- Donation Whisperer award for the contestant who “starts her own fundraising campaign in support of homeless women Veterans” with all proceeds to benefit Final Salute.
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