For one local woman, being selected to participate in the 2020 Miss Missouri USA pageant is providing a platform for raising awareness for mental health issues.

Elexandria Simon, 20, of Sedalia, a student at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, will participate in the pageant Nov. 30 through Dec. 1 in Columbia.

Simon, the daughter of Alfred and Jennifer Simon, began entering pageants at age 9 while living in Georgia. Simon’s mother said the 2008 Atlanta Georgia pageant provided a surprise for the family when Alexandria won the crown. The win set her on the path of pageant competition.

“The Atlanta pageant was my very first pageant,” Simon said. “And it basically was just for confidence (and) public speaking, just because I was young …”

Since moving to Sedalia in 2009 she has competed periodically in pageants that included Orlando, Florida, where she won Miss Photogenic, which led her to a competition in Los Angeles. Many of the pageants Simon competed in were for the National American Miss system; this particular pageant is for the Miss USA system.

For the upcoming pageant, Simon will compete with 35 to 50 other women and will compete in the categories of activewear or swimsuit, evening gown and personal interview. She said she was excited to find out she was selected.

“At first, I was a little nervous just because I hadn’t done a pageant in a couple years,” she noted. “But I was excited because when you get older and get into the Miss USA system, the focus of the pageant kind of shifts.

“When you’re younger it’s about developing good public speaking skills and really just being comfortable in your own skin,” she continued. “Whereas when you’re older, you’ve basically reached that point. So then, from there you advocate for charities and do something bigger …”

If Simon wins she will spend time advocating for mental health.

“It’s really great too because my take on it is mental health is a really big problem that we have today,” she explained. “Personally, I’ve dealt with a lot of problems with mental health.

“And I feel that with all the legislation that other states are passing, they’re making it mandatory for schools to provide mental health education,” she continued. “That’s really my biggest driving force, is the importance of getting that legislation passed all over the country.”

Simon has taken advocacy a step further and is an anonymous crisis counselor through the Crisis Text Line.

“It’s basically a text for people that are dealing with mental illness and they’re in crisis,” she said. “’They will text the line and we’ll guide them into paving a road for themselves to figure out the solution. That’s been a real eye-opening experience too.”

While attending UCM Simon is majoring in political science with an emphasis in legal studies. She said from a young age she has always wanted to impact people. She has worked as a waitress since age 16 and enjoys people.

“I’m constantly around people and being around people,” she noted. “It gives you ideas of how to make things better for the world around you. With doing legal studies, I’ve found my passion and also my passion for helping people.”

Simon offered advice to other girls and young women interested in competing in pageants.

“Personally, the pageant world is hard,” she noted. “Because a lot of the girls that compete in pageants do it for years. Running in the same systems for multiple years at a time. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance of doing something well.

“Every girl has something different to bring to the table,” she continued. “You gain so much from a pageant other than just winning a crown. From scholarships to marketing opportunities, to building connections with people.”

Simon is available for speaking engagements about mental health issues. She may be contacted at elexn.simon@gmail.com.

Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Faith Bemiss is a reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering general assignment, arts, food and entertainment stories. She can be reached at 660-530-0289.

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