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Social Good

Olivia Jordan

Miss USA

When Olivia Jordan crowns the next Miss USA on June 5, she will end her reign as… the oldest woman to ever win that title. Which, considering she’s only 27, is a bit shocking.

“You have to be 18-26 years old to compete in the Miss Universe system,” Jordan explains. “But I competed in and won Miss USA at 26 and, of course, had my birthday within the year. So, I was 27 by the time I competed at Miss Universe.”

While competing at Miss Universe — yup, with Steve Harvey — Jordan was shocked at the backlash around her age. Folks who would call her “grandma” or “too old to be chasing this dream.”

“Some people would flat-out say that at my age, I should be focused on getting married and having babies,” she remembers. “And in a lot of ways, that affected me — it hurt. But it was worth the pain to be put in a position where, as a public figure, I could start a disruption around our society’s views on women. If I could leave one legacy from my time as Miss USA, it would be an end to the idea that females have expiration dates on their dreams.”

Miss USA wants to change society's views on women

Oliva Jordan Miss USA Disruption

It’s funny because prior to competing at Miss USA, I wasn’t nearly as aware of the artificial limits society places upon women — the idea that you need to be a certain age to do something, or that you should pursue a certain life course. The backlash I felt as a female trying to pursue a dream in her late 20’s was honestly shocking. But it’s okay to have career goals you want to achieve before focusing on a family, and you’re never too old to say that. We need to disrupt the idea that women are “too old” to do anything. Ever.

If you could disrupt one idea, what would it be?

As Miss USA, I stepped into a position where I unknowingly became a role model — something that primarily happened through the social media following I gained almost overnight… I’ve tried to use that power to inspire women to be happy being themselves. I know that might not sound like a huge a disruption, but I think being comfortable in your own skin — being okay with your flaws — really is unique and different in today’s plastic culture.

How are you spreading this message?

Oliva Jordan Miss USA Disruption

Yes. I received the most touching letter the other day from a young girl who struggles with the same insecurities I’ve been open about: body image, accepting who you are. For me, that means accepting I’m a little weird and awkward. The letter said one of this girl’s favorite things about me was that in my final question at Miss Universe, I said, “I want to be the mex Miss Universe” instead of the “next Miss Universe.” Here was this moment I’d beaten myself up about so many times, but it had shown a young woman it’s okay to be imperfect. That made me feel like a success.

Have you had any indication your efforts are working?

I often feel like people think we lead these incredibly charmed lives — that our troubles stop after the swimsuit competition. Which is honestly just so funny: I competed against Miss Spain, who is a doctor… competed against women who have overcome serious personal obstacles. I know I personally have struggled with body issues for the majority of my life. If you’re ever watching a pageant, just try to remember those are real women up there. Be nice.

Speaking of pageants, do you think they're misunderstood?

Oliva Jordan Miss USA Disruption

The impact I try to make on men I encounter is that I don’t need someone to rescue me. I want the men in my life to be equals — in work, in relationships, in whatever. Let’s come together. Let’s be partners. Let’s use the different advantages we have for a common good. Don’t put me down; don’t demean me. And don’t act like I need your help. We can help each other — and that’s definitely a disruption I want to make.

What's your message to men?

…on Olivia, follow her final weeks as Miss USA on Instagram, and tune into the 2016 competition on June 5.

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