Mary Laura Hunt of Ruston, participating in her third competition, was crowned Miss Louisiana’s Outstanding Teen recently.
In addition to winning the overall title, she won the preliminary award for Evening Gown/On-Stage Question, and more than $4,000 in college scholarships. Her platform, #keepingitreal, is a program she developed to help educate and warn teenagers, and especially girls, of the risks of excessive social media usage, especially as it relates to self-esteem and confidence.
“Social media has its place, but what I want teens, and particularly teenage girls, to understand is that many of the pictures we see on social media do not accurately reflect reality, and that constantly comparing oneself to these idealized images is unhealthy,” Hunt said.
Scientific research has shown that social media can be cruel and demeaning, she added, noting for example, a study that found adolescents who use social media for more than three hours per day are specifically at increased risk for mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, negative self-image, and loneliness.
In her official capacity as Miss Louisiana’s Outstanding Teen, Hunt will continue to bring her #keepingitreal program to junior high schools in Louisiana. She will also perform and help emcee the Miss Louisiana competition at the Monroe Civic Center in June, and then compete in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant in August. In February 2023, she will serve as the Grand Marshall of the AMGA Children’s Mardi Gras parade.
“I want to maintain a major focus on my social media initiative because I know how important it is for teens to have some sense of perspective and context when engaging on social media,” Hunt said. “I think being Miss Louisiana’s Outstanding Teen provides me an ideal platform to help teens understand the potential dangers and to find healthy productive ways to use social media for social good.”
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