Jaelyn Wratchford, a Shepherd University student, will compete in December at the Miss America pageant during the organization’s 100th anniversary as the representative of West Virginia.
Starting in high school, Wratchford began her journey in pageantry and became Miss Berkeley County’s Outstanding Teen in 2018. As a first-generation college student, her number one goal at the time of competing was to gain scholarship money to pursue higher education. However, as she continued to be a part of the organization, it became so much more.
“I fell in love with the sisterhood behind it, community service, the public speaking, and self-improvement opportunities,” said Wratchford.
After going on to become Miss Jefferson County in 2020, she did not stop there. She was crowned this past June as Miss West Virginia and has been working hard in making her year as the state’s representative count.
Upon having the responsibility of being Miss West Virginia, Wratchford is also a full-time student tackling two degrees. She plans on going into public relations and strategic communications for non-profits. She is also a member of Tri Sigma at Shepherd, a women’s sorority, as the vice president of operations.
From juggling schoolwork to managing tight-fit schedules, she admits that her life can get hectic. However, she says that in the end, it is worth it.
“As cliché as it sounds, you only get one life, so who cares if it’s a busy one,” remarked Wratchford. “I’d rather it be busy and be able to have the opportunities to make these memories and impact my community and do things I will never be able to do again.”
According to Wratchford, the people around her help keep her grounded through this ever-changing time in her life. With the help of compassionate professors and a supportive group of friends and family, it is possible for her to manage this busy lifestyle.
Among the encouraging figures in Wratchford’s life are her sorority sisters. She mentions their ample support and how grateful she is to be a part of its community. “When I competed for Miss West Virginia, they were the best fan club a girl could ask for,” remarked Wratchford, detailing the massive amount of text messages she received from her sorority the night she was crowned.
Along with the love and support she receives, Wratchford does face criticism because of her title. Whether they are negative comments made online or harmful remarks said in-person, she faces judgment for being a part of the pageant industry.
“Sometimes it can be a little discouraging as Miss West Virginia. You get people that say all I do is smile and wave or I’m just sitting there being pretty, like I do nothing else,” she noted. In the face of these assumptions, she holds her head high and pushes to educate against the stereotype associated with the Miss America Organization.
As time rolls closer to December, Wratchford is preparing for the different events in the competition. She will be performing a power poem as her talent, a monologue she wrote when she first started competing at 16. Her poem has changed over the past four years as she evolved and grew into the person she is today. This part of the competition is one of her favorites and she is excited to be able to share her talent with the rest of America.
A primary topic Wratchford wishes to focus on as Miss West Virginia is women’s empowerment and promoting their strength in our society. As she goes forward in her year as the state’s representative, she hopes to continue to support her community and show women everywhere that anything is possible.
“That’s definitely one of my goals as Miss West Virginia, is to show young girls and women that this is an obtainable thing,” said Wratchford.
The 100th Anniversary Competition for Miss America will be televised and take place on Dec. 11-16 in Uncasville, Connecticut. To follow Jaelyn Wratchford’s journey, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.