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Safety Queen

Taylor Blatchford wearing her crown and holding her Miss Nevada sash
Miss Nevada

Taylor Blatchford uses her Miss Nevada platform to help teach kids online risk reduction

Taylor Blatchford knew, from the moment she saw Miss America on television at the age of 12, that she wanted to be a pageant queen when she grew up. Two years later, after convincing her parents to allow her to enter, the Boulder City native competed in her first local competition. Now, Blatchford’s work is paying off — she was crowned Miss Nevada last summer and is on track to represent the state as she competes for the title of Miss America on January 14. Following her win, Blatchford sat down with Desert Companion to discuss the realities of Miss America prep, her Text 2 Regret initiative, and why she believes beauty pageants’ bad rap is unfair. An edited excerpt of the conversation follows.

You’ve been an active part of the pageant world for nearly a decade. What goes into preparing for something like Miss Nevada or Miss America? 
I wish more people understood how much work goes into representing yourself and the Miss America organization. Because when I was 14, it really started with a lot of research, like discovering the beginning and the roots of the Miss America organization, and then learning all of the different ways I could succeed and the different portions of competition: our interview talent, physical fitness, evening gown, and onstage question. So, I would watch countless interviews from previous titleholders on YouTube and that really helped me to practice my talent every day … But it was really absorbing everything around me in the pageant community. I was very lucky to have a lot of wonderful mentors, and lots of people who saw the potential in me and how much I loved the program … It’s because of them that I’ve made it this far, because it wouldn't have happened by me alone, for sure.

So, it sounds like there’s a community aspect to pageants — does that extend to the previous Miss Nevada winners, or even your competitors? 
Oh yes, we are all in touch! And I'm not in the group chat yet, but I've been told that all the former Miss Nevadas are in a group chat together, and they have a blast. You can't be in the group chat until your year is over, and I've got five more months. But I know everybody does a very good job at staying in touch. And I know, when I refer to my community that has helped me, one of the biggest … is Katherine Kelly. She was Miss Nevada 2015, and her and I both had very similar stories … She was really one of the people who believed in me, she's one of the former Miss Nevadas I have stayed in touch with the most over the years. And even among the women who don't become Miss Nevada, because we all compete in the organization, we all love it, we all benefit so much from it — and of course not all of us can become Miss Nevada — but we also maintain such beautiful friendships. Some of my friends that I’ve had for years from middle school, high school, and beyond don't come from this program. I know there's such a stereotype that we all dislike each other. But it’s not true!

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Speaking of pageant stereotypes, there is a lot of criticism that they objectify women and harm their advancement. What’s your take on this? 
I would point (people who think this) to the four points of the Miss America organization: style, service, scholarship, and success. One thing I always tell the people who don't believe in the mission of pageantry is that almost everybody you know, in your life personally, can relate to one of those four points, because there are lots of people out there who are very passionate about their education, which aligns with scholarship; very passionate about their careers, which aligns with success; or even style or service … And so to all the people who don't believe in the mission of the Miss America organization, or don't believe in pageantry and what it symbolizes, I ask them to reflect on those four points. And if they can align with even just one of those four points in their life, then they know why this program is still relevant for women.

You’re vocal about your community service initiative, Text 2 Regret: Reducing Online Risks. What is it? 
It’s a nonprofit organization I founded in 2022, and its mission is to fundraise, educate, advocate for youth online safety by donating internet safety curriculums to middle schools and youth programs across the state of Nevada. And the way I primarily do that is, I work with an internet safety curriculum provider named Cyber Civics, they're out of California. I fundraise for their curriculum to be purchased and then donated to schools and youth programs that might be in need of it.

What was the motivation behind this? 
I realized in high school and middle school that, unfortunately, a lot of my peers did not have internet education or just general knowledge, and they spend a lot of time online. And for my generation specifically, it was very difficult because we're the probably the oldest group of people who can remember what it was like before smartphones, but we are still young enough to be adapted to it and to understand the whole community that exists online ... I remember one story, specifically: I had a friend who was messaging with a complete stranger on Snapchat, and he ended up convincing her to send explicit photos of herself. And so, (there are) very serious things that were very dangerous, that are connected to a lot of very deep social issues like exploitation, trafficking, mental illness — it all goes back to internet safety education. So, when I started to realize how significantly these things were connected, it really told me that I had to do something about it.

What's next for you, after you finish competing in Miss America? 
From a high-level viewpoint, it's just serving Nevada in any way I can. But on a more specific level, I'm looking to expand my service initiatives. I want to reach every Boys and Girls Club in the States. One of my ultimate goals is to have a meeting with the Department of Education to reevaluate the cyber safety standards they have implemented in schools across Nevada right now.