To Wheaton College junior Alyssa Paulsen, true beauty comes from within.
She’s so passionate about the mantra, she’s made it her platform as Miss Illinois, running for Miss USA in the USA Ambassadors Pageant.
The two-year-old pageant’s mission targets women's success through leadership, integrity and confidence. While judges weigh interviews, onstage conversations, formal wear and talent, Paulsen’s goal leading into the competition is to spread her message: “Don’t define yourself by what you look like when you’re doing something, but focus on what you’re doing and who you are,” she said.
The health science major and Latham, NY native grew up working in the modeling industry and pageant scene, and eventually "burnt out" from striving for the perfect look.
"I've realized, the faces we see in magazines and in media are not real, and it's impossible to reach the standard of beauty that's portrayed," Paulsen said.
“When you reach it, it’s like ‘what do you have now?” She said. “’What is that doing to help people?'... We're not decorations."
Paulsen visited Wyndemere Retirement Community Wednesday, where she told residents the impact they have as grandparents, “You as grandparents have more impact than you’ll ever know on your grandchildren with a simple compliment on a quality that comes from within, such as ‘I love your smile’ or ‘I heard your wonderful laugh all the way down the hall’ rather than commenting on external qualities such as ‘You’re so nice and thin’ or ‘Your make-up looks good today.’”
Paulsen also visited on Tuesday, where she showed students an airbrushed picture of herself, looking like a “plastic doll.” The students were “blown away,” she said.
Paulette Carstens, Program Leader at said in an email approximately 50 residents attended her presentation Wednesday. Her message, Carstens wrote, "That beauty truly does come from within, touched a memory in each person remembering their own children or grandchildren."
Paulsen hopes to eventually partner with the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders to continue to spread her message. She plans to continue speaking to students, and will head to Tampa, FL in July for the national USA Ambassador Pageant competition.