Next Sunday (January 14), Marsh will compete with other candidates to become Miss America at the Florida ceremony, with different phases of the pageant that include physical preparation stages, an evening dress and a public interview.
She explains that pageants are changing as “what it means to be physically fit for women” becomes more important. “It’s great for me because I have to stay in good physical shape and in the gym for the army, so it already coincides with training for the contest,” she says.
Marsh has wanted to be a pilot and astronaut since her childhood obsession with science, so her parents sent her to Space Camp when she was 13 to meet astronauts and fighter pilots. Just two years later, she began taking flight classes upon learning of the existence of the United States Air Force Academy, and two years later, she obtained her license and began working to become a cadet.
Just before Marsh was named Miss Colorado, she was commissioned as an Air Force officer after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). As if that were not enough, she enrolled in a master’s degree program at Harvard Kennedy School through the Civil Institutions Program of the Air Force Institute of Technology.
Competing in pageants was just an extracurricular activity for Marsh, who said he had a “hard time” finding his identity in a “difficult environment” when he was a freshman at USAFA. “My cousin had competed in pageants for a long time, and one of the big things I love about it is the community service aspect and the focus on public speaking.”
After three years of competing, Marsh was crowned Miss Colorado in a moment she describes as “very surreal.” She says she is the first active duty officer to represent nationally in the Miss America pageant.
But Marsh is keen to downplay the stereotypes she believes accompany beauty pageants and contestants. “The Miss America organization that I’m a part of now focuses on what you can contribute to the community through your social impact, making sure you have a stellar resume and that you know how to speak in public,” she explained.
Marsh’s niche is speaking to young women about military service, with the goal of dispelling stereotypes about military women. “In the military, there is an open space to lead the way you want, with and without uniform. I felt like pageants, and specifically winning Miss Colorado, was a way to really exemplify that and set the tone for helping other people feel more comfortable finding what means the most to them.”
Tragically, Marsh lost his mother five years ago. Immediately, this winner created a non-profit organization with her family to raise funds and awareness about pancreatic cancer in the city where she lived. “Now I try to take it a step further and take advantage of my studies at the Kennedy School to learn the ins and outs and difficulties of politics,” she explains. “Issues such as the economic environment and other social pressures that could be inhibiting our ability to pursue policies that could affect all Americans.”
After graduating from the USAFA, he obtained a coveted pilot position in the Air Force, but now he has to decide what his future is with the world at his feet.