by MIKE CHAIKEN
Leah Juliett wasn’t sure if competing at Miss Connecticut was going to be on the agenda for 2022.
When Juliett was crowned Miss Rockville, before the pandemic, the experience wasn’t entirely what the Wolcott resident had hoped.
“I was frustrated with the Miss America organization for some of their LGBTQ+ policies and I voiced those frustrations on the internet,” Juliett explained. “I wasn’t sure if fighting those policies from the inside or fighting those policies from the outside would be more effective.”
The answer that arose to that question was the tipping point for the Wolcott resident.
“What I realized is that it was hypocritical of me too to make statements about changes that I wanted to see within the organization without putting my name out there to be the one to fight for those changes,” said Juliett, who had finished as third runner-up last year.
To that end, Juliett signed up for April’s event to compete as Miss Greater Waterbury.
Although Juliett – who is nonbinary and uses the pronoun they– was frustrated with Miss America, they still admire the organization.
“I think the Miss America organization is phenomenal,” said Juliett. “The scholarships that it’s given to me, the opportunities that it’s given to me to amplify my voice… cannot be understated– or overstated– but there there is some change that needs to happen.”
“I think that in order to push the organization into the future, into the progressive values that we state in public we need to uplift value and amplify the voices of our trans nonbinary and queer candidates in this organization,” said Juliett.
Juliett said the Miss America competition held at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena in December gave evidence of some progress happening within the organization. The new title holder, Emma Broyles, is the first Korean to hold the crown. Broyles also has not shied away from discussing her ADHD in public… and the organization has not tried to stifle that discussion.
However, Juliett said, “Until we have someone on stage at Miss Connecticut and at Miss America talking about being gay publicly on stage, on that national broadcast– and then bringing that platform to school systems, to town halls… everywhere around the state and around the nation, I think (Miss America) won’t be progressive enough.”
Juliett said, “Miss America deserves to represent all Americans and we’ve never had a Miss America who identifies as queer, as nonbinary, so it’s time to have that because that’s what the face of the nation looks like.”
It is also what some of the volunteers who serve the organization look like, said Juliett.
“The LGBTQ+ community is the bedrock of this organization… We’ve amplified and uplifted these candidates through training, through coaching, through mentorship, for (Miss America’s) entire 100-year existence,” said the new Miss Greater Waterbury.
“It’s about time that we have that representation beneath the crown as well not just in the background,” said Juliett.
Although representation is of significant importance for Juliett, her social impact statement tackles another cause emanating from the drive for more diversity. Tech justice in the tech industry.
Juliett noted that the tech industry tends to be a boys’ club– more significantly, a white boys club.
“It’s not fair and it’s not representative of everyone who is using these platforms,” said Juliett of the status quo within the tech field.
Juliett said they want to fight for justice “for all those who’ve been marginalized victimized and exploited by tech-based abuses. That’s cyber bullying. That’s doxing. That’s revenge porn. That’s sexual cyber harassment and stalking.”
Juliett, 25, is the founder of the March Against Revenge Porn, which was inspired by incidents that happened to her when she was a teen.
“Technology is progressing at a speed that’s quicker then parents and law enforcement and politicians can keep up with it,” said Juliett. “We need to teach kids how to use technology safely.”
The Miss Connecticut and Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen competition will be held April 9 at noon.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN