Miss Michigan Encourages Faith, Healthy Lifestyle

Post a Comment » Written on July 27th, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

MUSKEGON, MI (July 27, 2007) – The new Miss Michigan says she wants to use her own experience with anorexia and recovery to encourage other young women with eating disorders.

Kirsten Haglund, who has grown up attending Faith Covenant Church in Farmington Hills, won the state pageant in July. She chose “Raising Awareness of Eating Disorders” as her platform.

“I’ve gone through it,” Kirsten says. “I can speak from my own life. I’ve seen the effects on people and their families.”

Miss MichiganKirsten, who performed in soloist roles in the Nutcracker in Key West, Florida, and was the principal dancer in Cinderella and Aladdin ballets, once longed for a career in ballet.  She began to diet when she saw how thin other dancers were and thought she had to be the same. “Then I started cutting out more and more food.”

Against her will, Kirsten was forced to tackle her own problem when she was 16. “When I came home from ballet camp, my mom said, ‘You’re way too skinny,’ and she took me right away to the doctor. I didn’t think I had a problem, and I was very upset.”

Kirsten won’t discuss the depth of her weight loss. “(Advocates) try to stay away from numbers,” she explains. “Otherwise someone might say, ‘Well, I’m not down to that.’ ”

Six months would pass from the time her mother took her to the doctor and Kirsten accepted the fact that she needed help. She worked with doctors, nutritionists and therapists to get well. Now 19, Kirsten says her intense Type A personality contributed to her illness, but also helped her recover.

She says she needed the help of others as well. “My church and my family have been so supportive,” Kirsten says. “I have had the most amazing church.”

Now that she is healthy, Kirsten is critical of the perfect body image to which women are encouraged to aspire. She adds there is no incongruity between the ideals of the Miss America organization, explaining that the organization promotes the whole person, women in leadership, and community service.

In fact, she says, “This job has been completely therapeutic,” adding, “I need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I can’t be a hypocrite. I really want to help young women.”

Kirsten says it is important for people with eating disorders to redefine themselves. “I know who I am,” she says. “I define myself by my accomplishments, my character, and my faith.”

Kirsten already has accomplished a lot. She is a peer advocate for the Women’s Center at the University of Cincinnati and program coordinator for SEED (Students Educating About Eating Disorders), a member of the National Honor Society, and leader of the choral group Musica Octavius, which was featured at the Michigan Youth Arts Festival.

Her faith has been nurtured in the church and through her family, she says. “My parents have an amazing faith, and the women in the church have been real role models for me.” Kirsten’s mother, Iora, is Faith Covenant’s pastor of congregational care, and her father, Valdor, is the lead guitarist for the worship team, with which Kirsten also has sung.

Kirsten laughs as she recalls that at children’s camp, “I think I recommitted my life to Christ every year.”

Ken Larson, pastor at Faith Covenant, says Kirsten “takes her faith very seriously.” She currently attends Forest Park Covenant Church in Muskegon, where she has temporarily relocated because it is the home of the Miss Michigan program.

Kirsten is taking a year-long break from her studies at the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music. No longer pursuing a ballet career because of what she believes are unhealthy demands on the body, she is working towards a degree in musical theater performance. (She performed “Adele’s Laughing Song” from the Johann Strauss operetta “Die Fledermaus” in the Miss Michigan contest).

The new position already is keeping her busy crossing the state to various events, including parades, festivals, and meetings with service organizations. “It is a little crazy right now,” she says. A chaperone from the program or her mother always accompanies Kirsten.

Kirsten’s mother was surprised by her daughter’s decision to enter, explaining, “She’s not competitive at all.”

For her part, Kirsten says winning was “a wonderful gift and surprise,” but she was calm and peaceful when she won. “I didn’t feel like it was a competition. I felt like I was living out God’s plan.”

Kirsten has followed the Miss America pageant since she was a girl and volunteered at different Miss Michigan events. She never planned on entering the competition, however, but the cost of out-of-state tuition changed her mind.

She initially won the Miss Oakland County competition to qualify for the Miss Michigan contest, which awards a $10,000 scholarship to the winner. Kirsten hopes to add to her college fund in January, when she travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Miss America contest.

She is not the first person in her family to win the contest. Her grandmother garnered the title in 1944, but offered little advice to her granddaughter. “She was the only brunette on a stage of all blondes,” Kirsten notes. “She just said be yourself. If you’re the one they want, then they will pick you. If not, then they won’t.”

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