D: What is your favorite way to pass time? M: Netflix! I love getting lost in binging. I have come to a point where I will just get really curious in my very little free time, which turns into lots of murder mysteries.
D: What is something people generally don’t know about you? M: I would much rather stay home and chill than go out. People think that Miss Iowa leads a glamorous life 24-7, and that is so far from the truth. We are people. We have limits. Sometimes, that limit just happens to include pajamas and a tub of ice cream.
D: Who is Mikhayla? M: A pageant queen, a mental health and suicide awareness advocate, a storyteller, a violinist, and a woman of faith.
D: What gets your fired up about the disability movement? M: Taking the "dis" away and highlighting ability. Taking away the overly inspirational headlines. Looking at people for who they are and learning how to treat people of all walks with the upmost respect.
D: What is your advocacy platform? M: My advocacy platform is that of mental health and suicide awareness. It is called "How About HOPE", with the HOPE standing for Helping Others & Providing Encouragement. Your voice and your story matter. Stigmas are meant to be broken.
D: What barriers or challenges do you face in this movement? M: Mental health and suicide are still topics with great stigma attached to them - even in 2019. They are the hard truths we don't want to face. 1 in 5 adults will experience a serious mental health condition in their lifetime. Yet, with 20% of the population dealing with these issues, we are so quick to overlook the diseases that we can't physically see. As Miss Iowa, I do my best to use this crown as a tool to bring light to issues in a new way.
D: What areas are you still growing/hope to grow? Personally? Professionally? I will finish my last year of an undergraduate degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of Iowa in 2020, and plan to venture into the world of communications. The art of storytelling in various capacities has always intrigued me.
D: Who was the person/role model who inspired you to look into disability advocacy? Why/how did they inspire you? Nikki Kelly. She is a former Miss Iowa, which automatically ties us via this amazing sisterhood. I look up to her for various reasons - one being her willingness to share realness on social media, while others share facades of who they think they should be. Her outspokenness about issues that matter inspires me and challenges me to think deeper.
D: When people look at you/up to you, what do you hope they see? M: I hope that people see authenticity. My life has been one full of pain, struggles - but most importantly overcoming. I tell my story in a vulnerable fashion as much as possible to help others know they are not alone. Just the other day, I was at a school appearance where I shared that my father was away in prison while I was in high school, and a young girl shared her own story with me after the assembly. There were tears - but most importantly, there was a true human connection that I will never forget. We need more of that. We need to take care of one another. I hope that people know that they are not alone when they see me.
D: What are your next steps? M: I am currently working to gain 501c3 status for my organization How About HOPE! It is a big, but important step!
D: How do we follow you?! IG: @mikhaylahughesshaw & @missamericaia
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