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Editor’s Note: This story is about suicide. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
With the recent deaths of beloved pageant contestants, many in the community are in shock and want to shed light on the global mental health crisis.
Jennifer Lloyd, who knows the world of pageantry well and has honed her craft after competing for decades with recent accolades including the title of Ms. Korea World, told Fox News Digital how despite the glitz and glamor presented on stage, the contestants face devastating mental health issues behind the scenes with insurmountable consequences.
“It’s hit the pageantry pretty hard recently,” she said. “Unfortunately, mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, if you’re married, single or how many degrees you have – any sense of loss, anxiety or depression really affects a person. “
For Lloyd, she too is a “survivor of suicide”. “Not myself, but my brother – my family’s experiences,” said the pageant judge, coach and mentor for young women in the pageant industry. “I haven’t talked about it very publicly because suicide is a real personal issue, and I’m still healing from it, but now I see the importance of talking about it because we need to raise awareness.”
The beauty pageant community recently lost former “Toddlers & Tiaras” star Kailia Posey, who died by suicide on May 2. She became known for her widely circulated “Grinning Girl” meme – a screenshot of her enthusiastic smile from an episode of the popular TLC show.
Posey’s family shared that they started a Whatcom Community Foundation fund in Posey’s name in hopes of getting “much-needed resources for students in crisis.”
Lloyd, who also works as a school board superintendent, noted that daily pressure is abundant for any young adult, but the added burdens of perfect lifestyles projected onto social media, peer pressure and the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could have the potential to weigh heavily on contest competitors.
“TODDLERS AND TIARAS” STAR KAILIA POSEY REMEMBERS HER SOFT SPIRIT
“It’s a shame we even see him in the pageantry now, because you’d think…As a judge, you want to see these smart, driven young leaders in their community come in,” Lloyd, a mother of six with girls in the pageant circuit, said. “They look so polished. They have a coach. They are ready to take a title and be a public figure.
MISS USA 2019 CHESLIE KRYST DIES BY SUICIDE IN NEW YORK
“But we can’t be naive – as mothers, as judges or as members of the community – that kids aren’t superheroes. They all face some kind of stress or depression, anxiety.”
Shortly before Posey’s death, the pageant world was shocked by the death of former 2019 Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, who took her own life on January 30. Not only had Kryst recently competed in the Miss Universe pageant, but she was a former Division I athlete and a North Carolina attorney with a law degree and MBA from Wake Forest University.
Her mother, April Simpkins, discussed Kryst’s secret struggle with high-profile depression during a recent appearance on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk.
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“Depression isn’t always marked by people lying in bed,” Simpkins said. “There are people who function well and get through the day. Cheslie wore the face.”
Simpkins revealed that his daughter started showing signs of depression in her early twenties and had once attempted suicide, but they both took the experience as a way to bridge communication gaps and Simpkins believed that they had become closer than before.
“I wanted her to feel comfortable calling me, ‘If you ever have a crisis, call me,'” Simpkins said, adding that Kryst was even showing signs of progress. “She started taking all the right steps. She started seeing a counselor. She slept well at night. She knew all the things to do.”
Maureen Francisco, executive producer of NW Productions, LLC and co-founder of the Global Beauty Award show, noticed early in her career that mental health was an important discussion at every level.
“I think we’re just becoming much more aware of it and there’s no taboo to talk about it,” she said. “I think maybe in the past there was a taboo if you said you’re not doing well mentally, but now I think there’s a good discussion. If you tell someone, ‘ Hey, I just need to talk to someone’ isn’t going to be frowned upon.”
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Francisco agreed that the beauty pageant community has “definitely been hit hard” recently following the deaths of Posey and Kryst, and encouraged contestants to always remember that life is like a season – it comes and goes. , and the only thing that stays consistent is the constant reminder that change is on the horizon.
“The bottom line is people have to be nice, and you don’t know what somebody’s going through,” said Francisco, who worked alongside Posey in the last competition before his death. “You really, really don’t know… If they can just be nice to this person. Words have an impact.”
She added: “There are really deep things going on with people and the more we talk about it, the more people know that there are resources out there to seek help. And that’s okay. It’s not not selfish if you focus on yourself trying to be the You shouldn’t apologize for trying to be the best you can be.
Lloyd echoed the sentiment, encouraging organizers to offer more support in the wake of the tragedies.
“There also needs to be more conversations with larger organizations, like if it’s a check-in or, you know, just more conversations,” Lloyd said. “It shouldn’t just be candidates talking about it on the platform, but maybe organizations, as a whole, could have more conversations.”