The Road Less Traveled: How Miss America 2013 Wound Up Calling Madison, Alabama Home

Mallory Hagan grew up in a community very similar to Madison just a few short hours south of here in Opelika, Alabama. Growing up, she could never quite put her finger on exactly what she wanted to do with her life, but that’s surely because she couldn’t begin to imagine what the near future would hold: a Miss America crown and a fast-paced trajectory into politics, heavy community-based work, and much more. 

Hagan was crowned Miss New York in 2012 and went on to win the highly coveted job of Miss America in 2013. Eight years later, life is a smidge quieter and she’s enjoying calling Madison her new home.

We recently sat down to talk about all of the twists and turns that led her to where she is today.

After just a year of studying at Auburn University, Hagan was ready to hit the road and try something new. She headed for New York City with less than $1,000 to her name and now laughs about how she “had no idea that that wouldn’t be enough money to survive on!”

After working for a few years, she decided to enroll at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) but needed some financial help to pay the tuition. She had dance and pageant experience during her teen years, which she says initially showed her from a young age that there was a whole world ready to explore outside of Alabama.

She knew that Miss America was a scholarship program, so she began pursuing the Miss New York crown to help pay for college.

“I was the runner-up two years in a row, which essentially paid for two semesters of college. I finally won Miss New York in 2012 and received a $10,000 scholarship,” shared Hagan.

She then began heavily advocating for causes that she believed were important, such as child sexual abuse prevention. 

Her whole world changed in January 2013 when she won the Miss American crown, which came along with a $50,000 scholarship and a full-time job. 

“I was in a different city every other day while I was Miss America,” shared Hagan. “I was averaging 20,000 miles per month on an airplane. So many people don’t realize that it’s a real job.”

During her reign, Hagan served as an ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network and lobbied with the National Children’s Alliance to restore funding in the 2014 budget for Child Advocacy Centers across America, something that she says she is incredibly proud of.

Fast forward to 2016, and Hagan found herself in Columbus, Georgia working as a news anchor. Shortly after she began this career, she became embroiled in controversy that surrounded the former Miss America organization CEO Sam Haskell and dealt with other generally “terrible things behind the scenes with the organization”.

Though Hagan says that the controversy with the Miss American organization around 2017 brought tremendous personal turmoil, she firmly believes that it led her right into what was waiting around the corner: the opportunity to run for political office.

Hagen found herself back in Alabama with a community that was asking her to run in the 2018 Congressional Race on the democratic ticket. She was up again incumbent Mike Rogers.

“To this day, running for office is the thing I’m the single most proud of,” shares Hagan.

Hagan, who describes herself as a moderate and very “middle of the road”, says that she applied to run in February 2018 and spent the entire year working hard to learn the ins and outs of issues Alabamians were facing.

“We had a very loud and very memorable campaign,” she laughs.

Though Hagan was ultimately defeated by Rogers, she says that she is still so proud of the work that was done during that year. 

“One of my goals was to show other women that politics can be for them. I also wanted to show young people that politics is for them too!”

“I look back and I’m so proud of all of us that worked together during that time to show that there is way more diversity in the state of Alabama than people realize,” she beamed. “We really reinvigorated the democratic party.”

She continued to share that there were things within both parties that she believed needed to be fixed and that she and her team as well as others that campaigned during that time were able to do.

When asked if she plans to run for a political office again, she says that she “absolutely sees herself running again, and though I’m not sure when or in what regard, I do know that it’s in my future.”

As far as what led Hagan to Madison, she says that she was back in Opelika longer than she anticipated and was ready to make another change.

“I love it there, but I knew I didn’t want to stay long term. I do want to stay in Alabama long-term though, so I looked at Birmingham and Huntsville as potential places to move.”

Hagan says that she was ultimately drawn to the general nature of the Huntsville area and the idea that people move here from all over.

“There’s great diversity and even greater diversity of thought,” she says. “I love that our young professional crowd is growing by the day, and I’m generally just excited to be a part of everything going on here right now.”

Hagan moved to Madison in August 2020 and worked hard to find a job where she could work in racial and economic justice reform. She ultimately found a great fit at the business center outreach network as the communications manager. 

“As an organization, we provide business counseling, resources, and all kinds of access to capital to those that are in traditionally underserved communities, especially immigrants and women.”

She says that she’s passionate about the opportunity to tell her clients’ stories and loves meeting people who came here with nothing and are now on their feet.

As far as what the future holds for Madison’s very own former Miss America, Hagan says that she cares greatly about the state of Alabama, preserving its history, and making sure that youth in our state have opportunities to cultivate their talents in big ways.

“I want to be more involved in organizations locally that will help see all of these things through.”

Hagan is also busy keeping up with public speaking events and would love to speak to your group soon. If you or someone you know would like to have Hagan speak, please contact her via her website ItsMalloryHagan.com.

Don’t forget to follow along with Hagen on Instagram too!


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