Miss Arizona 2017, an ASU journalism student, promotes her military platform

Holler's ambitions include championing her military platform and pursuing her broadcast career

MaddieRose Holler is a first-generation college student, the daughter of a U.S. Navy veteran and immigrant. She is also the reigning Miss Arizona.

She began participating in pageants at age 13 and has since used this platform as an opportunity to support both her education as a sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and her future as an aspiring broadcast journalist.

The 19-year-old was crowned Miss Arizona 2017 in June and competed for the Miss America 2018 title in September.

“Even though it may seem like all of these girls have it all, I was one of those that really didn’t,” Holler said. “I was doing this to pave my way, to give myself a better life. I needed to find the resources in order to get myself where I needed to be.”

Holler said she will be using the scholarship money she has earned from the Miss America Organization to help fund her bachelor's degree in journalism and master's of journalism, both with the Cronkite school. She is also a member of Barrett, the Honors College.

She said her choice of a service platform, supporting the military and their families, was an easy one, as she comes from a long lineage of military members. Her father served 20 years as a U.S. Navy corpsman and retired when she was 3 years old, and her brother joined the military when she was 10.

Because her father retired when she was so young, Holler said she didn't have to go through his back-and-forth deployments that military families typically experience. However, once her brother joined the military, it gave her a sense of what that was like, she said. 

“That was the moment that it all kind of came into fruition as far as what it felt like to be a military family member,” Holler said. 

She is currently the president of the Military Family Support Group, an Arizona-based nonprofit run and led by volunteers that sends care packages to deployed soldiers.

“I remember being able to send (my brother) care packages, being able to Skype him every now and then or getting a letter or two,” Holler said. “It really drove me to want to help other military families.”

Cathy Herd, president and director of operations for the Miss Arizona Scholarship Pageant, said that Holler has direction and drive regarding this platform.

“She really wants to champion her platform, supporting our military and their families," Herd said. “She forged a very strong relationship with Wings for Warriors and will be embarking upon a statewide speaking tour on behalf of Wings for Warriors.” 

Mathew Sandoval, an honors faculty fellow at Barrett, taught Holler for two semesters and said that she “totally shattered (his) expectations.”

“To hear her in class talk about her own experience trying to navigate all of those expectations of beauty, of femininity, et cetera, made me think, ‘woah, this girl is totally next level,’” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said Holler’s class discussions on her perspectives made him reconsider his preconceptions of pageant contestants.

“(There is) a virtual landmine of things that (pageant contestants) have to navigate constantly, but she was so hyperaware of that,” Sandoval said. “She’s very poised. You could tell that she was engaging with the material in a way that it hit home, but the way that she’s talking about it is very poised.”

Some of Holler’s most noticeable traits are her resourcefulness and her ability to overcome adversity, Herd said.

“She just doesn’t seem to be thwarted by any obstacle and finds ways of moving toward her goals without allowing a bump in the road to stop her,” Herd said. “I have confidence that this young lady will achieve a lot of her goals because of her tenacious attitude.”

Ultimately, Holler said she hopes to assure others pursuing pageantry that they can come from any background and still find a way to persevere and carve a future for themselves.

“As long as you have a passion with a purpose,” Holler said, “you really can flourish in this organization and really take it to what you want to do with it.”

Reach the reporter at acwolfe4@asu.edu or follow @alexandrawolfe_ on Twitter.

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