OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - It seems the entire city of Opelika and most of east Alabama is hoping a young lady from this area will be crowned Saturday night when Miss America airs live right here on ABC Channel 9.
News Leader 9's Elizabeth White spoke with Miss New York Mallory Hagen about representing the Big Apple and why hometown support from east Alabama means so much to her.
Mallory Hagen is a remarkable young woman whose hard work has led her all the way to the Miss America stage.
The 23-year-old was raised in Opelika. She graduated from Opelika High School in 2007, then moved to New York with $1,000 in her pocket, and she is thriving.
She's about to graduate with a degree in marketing, paid for through the jobs she's held since she was 14 and her scholarship earnings from Miss America.
She says her platform, preventing child sexual abuse, is personal for her.
"Women in my family were abused for many years by people that were close to them and it's such a taboo topic, something people don't want to talk about but you have to talk about it in order to prevent it," Hagen says.
Hagen says the statistics are alarming. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused in this country by the time they are 18.
Hagen says as Miss New York and hopefully as Miss America she will lobby to have sexual abuse prevention education mandatory in all public schools.
Hagen has become a celebrity in Opelika. Her supporters are gathering at Niffer's at the Tracks to cheer her on Saturday night.
America is allowed to vote one contestant into the top 15, just visit the Miss America website to vote. The deadline is midnight Thursday night.
Hagen says even though she's wearing the New York sash, Lee County will be in her heart.