Named first alternate in the Miss America pageant, Jennifer Davis – currently Miss Missouri – is big on cultural unity.

Named first alternate in the Miss America pageant, Jennifer Davis – currently Miss Missouri – is big on cultural unity.

Davis recently spoke to a group of Waynesville High School students and said that when she was younger, she liked to write because she  faced mental health challenges and never talked to anyone about them.

Her family didn’t like talking about the bad stuff in life, only the good stuff. Consequently, Davis thought she was the only one who  felt like she wasn’t good enough. She didn’t like how that felt, so instead of talking to someone she decided to write about it.

“I wrote about my daily life and it wasn’t too happy,” said Davis.

When she got to middle school and high school, that’s when she started to evolve. She wrote a lot of poetry, but was scared to turn in

 her work because it had to deal with happy thoughts and she really wasn’t too happy. But when her teacher got on the Holocaust topic, Davis got excited because she was able to write her poem and turn it in without her teacher questioning it.

This is when Davis knew her writing could be impactful. Her poem got submitted and she was recognized at the Missouri State Capitol and  given an award. 

When she was in high school and preparing for college, Davis gradually lost what she calls her “dark writing voice.”

So instead of writing, Davis decided to enter her very first Miss America Pageant where she could promote a personal platform – a cause that society needs to talk about. Davis chose diversity because she wanted to talk about everything that “makes us different as a society.”

­One day, Davis talked with preschoolers about diversity. She said, “It’s probably one of the scariest things to talk to little kids about.

 They have to get the message, otherwise they’re going to grow up and see the society that we see today.”

Davis then wanted to get back her writing voice so she could better connect with children and tell them about diversity without feeling  bad.

Every pageant girl’s traditional wish is for world peace, but Davis needed world peace. That is why she wrote her children’s book, “Diversity  Matters: Hello, My Name is Diversity” through the eyes of a fifth grader who is focused on the biggest fear of her entire life.

“It’s about a girl named Diversity and on the first day of school she is the only one that looks like herself. Fun fact: This story is  loosely based on my life.”

Davis grew up in St. Charles, Mo., which lacked diversity at the time. She says that her family was the first to integrate her school

 in St. Charles and the only time she saw anyone who looked like her was when she at home. She thought it was a normal life and there was nothing wrong with that, until she went to college.

At St. Louis University, she was shocked because she met so many different people. “You experience so many new people from all over the state, some who barely speak English. They’re going to be your best friend and it’s so amazing,” Davis said.

Davis graduated from St. Louis University in May of 2016.

As far as being an author in general, Davis has, at times, been asked to skip or glance over sections of her book. “They don’t always  want me to bring my book, especially with the part of the two dads, but the book is about accepting our differences from all walks of life. This is the number one issue I face, especially with the book.”

Davis’s Motto is, “We are all humans fighting for a chance of happiness and nobody should stand in the way of that.”

In her personal life Davis said, “I’m constantly told my hair isn’t the right color, my eyes are too dark, my skin is too dark, and I’m  not a size zero.It’s always about overcoming those challenges and being true to yourself, which is the hardest thing in the world. It sounds easy but it’s really not. It takes a lot of hard work to get to that point,” said Davis.

Without her family Davis said she could not have served as Miss Missouri. “They support everything that I do. This is my job and they  never once told me that Miss America was too lofty of a goal. Having the parents and family that I have is the reason I’m still here.”

Her Talent: Bollywood Dancing

Jennifer Davis has always been a dancer and her talent for the pageant was Bollywood dance. She started doing this dance back in 2012,  and wanted to do an arm exercise without going to the gym and lifting weights.

“Within my first class I fell in love with the dance style, the culture and the meaning,” Davis said. “So I reached out to the choreography  from ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and went to California once a month for five years to train with the choreographer.”

Davis wanted to be classically trained and didn’t want to be disrespectful to a whole culture of people especially one that is not her  own. She said, “that moment when I decided to do Bollywood it was more for me – that I was going to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I’m not going to tell you to embrace our differences without doing it myself.”