Performer Kirsten Haglund was born in Farmington Hills and graduated from Walled Lake Western High School. A year later she was named Miss Michigan, following in the footsteps of her proud grandmother, Iora Hunt, who had captured the Miss Michigan title in 1944. In 2008, the talented singer’s rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow led to Kirsten being crowned Miss America. Since then she has traveled the country extensively, representing her home state and passionately advocating against eating disorders, from which she suffered. Kirsten recently crowned the new Miss America, is pursuing her career in the performing arts, and has started her own Foundation to raise money for eating disorders treatment. She will be back in Michigan to sing, speak about her personal battle, and sign autographs on March 13th & 14th. For details visit www.4FCC.org.
BMN: How do you think growing up in has Michigan impacted you and your life?
KIRSTEN: Three things I'll always be thankful to Michigan for: 1. Teaching me kindness and respect. Growing up in the suburbs in the Midwest, but especially Michigan, people are always nice. Having traveled a lot, I've met so many people from Michigan, and I can always tell. They are always warm, open, and friendly, REAL with a great sense of humor. 2. Appreciation of the beauty of nature. I love to do things outdoors, so growing up around hundreds of lakes, and then being able to live a mile from the beaches of Lake Michigan during my time as Miss Michigan, was really a blessing. The fall colors are always so beautiful too, the sloping hills in Northern Michigan, even the Detroit skyline...our state is naturally stunning. 3. Perseverance. Even though there is 10 feet of fresh snow and ice on top of your car, school isn't cancelled, nobody cares that you have to spend 30 minutes defrosting your car and locks BEFORE venturing out into the snowy oblivion. You still need to be there, and be on time. Find a way to make it work. It'll snow again tomorrow.
BMN: What advice do you have for Michigan girls who have big dreams like becoming Miss America?
: Get involved at the local level first. Go to www.missmichigan.org
and find the local franchise that you qualify to compete in, depending on where you live, work, or go to school. It costs nothing to enter the pageant. I wore my senior prom dress as my evening gown, and my talent costume was $5 from Salvation Army! The program is the world's largest provider of scholarships for women, and that is why I did it--to get money for school. What I didn't realize, but came to LOVE was that the pageant isn't really about the 'glamour', and being Miss America isn't always peaches and cream all the time; because it is a JOB. It is a program that rewards scholarship for service. I was so thrilled to travel the country as Miss America because I was able to speak, every day, to media, to lawmakers, organizations, and families, about an issue I was passionate about. I had the chance every day to give back and somehow impact someone else's life for the better. That is an incredible responsibility. So, get involved for the right reasons, and be prepared to work--Hard.
BMN: Why is it so important to you to speak about Eating Disorders?
KIRSTEN: I personally struggled with an eating disorder, and I know how painful the journey from diagnosis to complete recovery can be. I also did not know anything about anorexia when it began to develop, nor did my parents, so they didn't recognize the symptoms. It is an issue that so many people are in the dark about, and like many other serious mental illnesses, they are stigmatized as vain, selfish illnesses, or in this case, just a 'diet' phase. But the truth is these illnesses, which include bulimia, anorexia, binge-eating disorder (which can lead to obesity), and others, are deadly, and for those suffering, it was not their 'choice,' and they need professional help. I've been there, and I wanted to come out with my story in an effort to say 'Hey, nobody is perfect, we all struggle with things in our lives. If we open up about these things, realize that we're all human, discard the shame and guilt, people will not be afraid to reach out for help.' Similarly, my goal to help young women especially get the right information about food and how it HELPS their bodies, and learn to appreciate all the amazing things their bodies can do. The slogan for my foundation is Love Your Body. Rock the World. And that is what I intend to do.
BMN: Speaking of eating right, March is National Nutrition Month. What are some Michigan made or grown foods that you recommend for a healthy lifestyle?
KIRSTEN: Everybody loves Michigan cherries! Am I right here? The cherries themselves are wonderful, and dried, they serve as a good carbohydrate to boost energy-- great on salads, in yogurt or cereal. You can also buy Michigan blueberries and apples, which of course serve as excellent sources of cancer-fighting antioxidants! And of course, while all our Michigan fruits are best fresh, for a sweet treat, you can bake them in a pie too. Try using brown sugar, skim milk, low fat butter, and egg whites in that next recipe. It’s incredible how much healthier, and guilt-free that pie can be.
BMN: Michigan is one of the greatest sports states in America. Do you have a favorite team or event?
KIRSTEN: DEEEE-TROIT, BASKETBALLL!!!! I love my Pistons, and support them through thick and through thin. I really love the grace and athleticism of the sport and am just in awe of the ability of the players. I, however, am horribly uncoordinated and cannot play any sport (especially those involving a ball) to save my life. While I did throw the opening pitch for the Tiger's season opener in '08, and I did a great job of looking purposeful, running up and down the court at Curtis Granderson's Charity Celebrity Basketball game, my best skill is cheering from the stadium seats.
BMN: As Miss Michigan you traveled extensively throughout the state. What are some of your favorite places?
KIRSTEN: I love love LOVE Mackinaw Island. It is breathtakingly beautiful, whether you love the historic sites, the beaches, sailing, the nature trails, sand dunes, it has it all. AND no automotive pollution! How can you go wrong? I also love the DIA and performing arts district in downtown Detroit. Saugatuck on Lake Michigan is one of my favorite Michigan summer getaways, and I also love Traverse City, where I have lots of family.
BMN: What is your favorite thing to tell people who are unfamiliar with Michigan?
KIRSTEN: The only state where you can use your hand as a map!! Who needs GPS? I always brag about our lakes and beaches, especially in south and west Michigan, and let everyone know that with the help of some great tax incentives, Michigan is soon to be the new Hollywood.
BMN: What are your thoughts on Buy Michigan Now and the idea of supporting local businesses?
KIRSTEN: Buying local is one of the easiest ways to help stimulate our Michigan economy. Whether its going to a farmer's market, looking for that MICHIGAN sticker at the grocery store, or doing simple research online about what products are made in our state--its simply a matter of being mindful. For instance, I LOVE Kashi cereal, which happens to be manufactured and owned by Kellogg's, a Michigan-based company. Be proactive, do a little research, and you'll find buying Michigan not only helps out our state, but will probably save you some pennies as well.
BMN: What Shout Out do you have for your fans and friends in Michigan?
KIRSTEN: Thank you to my wonderful family, friends and supporters across our great state. It was an honor to serve our state and represent Michigan at Miss America, and I will always be outspoken about just how GREAT products and folks from Michigan are! I feel so lucky to have grown up in Farmington Hills, Michigan. I know where I came from, and I'll never forget it.