Miss Haiti International pushes anti-bullying platform
After a serendipitous win at the Miss Haiti International pageant in March, Katia Hughley found herself in the midst of a journey she never expected to take. Although it shocked her to walk away with the title, Hughley is filling the shoes of queen quite nicely.
Katia and her mother Wilda both competed in the Haiti International pageant in March as representatives of Cap-Haitian, as they are both of Haitian descent. Her mother walked away as the first runner-up and Katia took home the crown.
“It’s a great experience because we are far away from our country but we found all these Haitian women and were able to get into our cultures. The Haitian culture was awesome and I wanted (my daughter) to have a taste of it because she left Haiti when she was like six months old,” said Wilda Hughley.
Over the course of the next two months, Katia, with the help of her mother, will spend her free time fulfilling her duties as Miss Haiti International and promoting her anti-bullying
platform. Then, it’s off to the Miss International competition in July.
“I’m not really a pageant girl. I had my mind on winning but I wasn’t really too caught up in that part. Just being there was such a great experience for me but once I won, I couldn’t believe it. Now, I can actually promote what needs to stop. Not just in Arkansas or America but internationally,” said Katia Hughley.
The mother-daughter duo holds their anti-bullying platform very near and dear after realizing how widespread and detrimental bullying can be. Both women were bullied as students and Katia nearly took her own life as a result.
“I did not choose this platform; this platform has chosen me. In Haiti, the beauty standards are different. They like girls to be a little chubby because they say no man likes a skinny woman, so I was always made fun of. They called me Olive Oil until I was in 11th grade,” said Wilda Hughley.
According to national statistics from http://www.stopbullying.gov, almost 30 percent of American students in grades six through 12 have experienced bullying first-hand and up to 70 percent of students have witnessed someone else getting bullied. In recent years, reports of an increase in teen suicides linked to bullying have shaken the nation.
“Then, my daughter started getting bullied, not only physically in school but online cyber-bullying as well. Finally, the last note (Katia) put was that if she was no longer living, life would be better for everyone. That’s when the bully said, ‘Why don’t you do it and give us more space,’” Wilda said.
“When I saw that, I was like ‘Woah!’ We finally got the message and my husband and I decided to find counselors to talk to Katia. We even had to get a restraining order at the school so the bully would be away from Katia. Other students started to blame Katia for what happened and it was the hardest moment for her,” she continued.
Katia’s parents worked diligently to ensure they snuffed out the bullying, kept their daughter safe, and kept a close eye on her at home. Eventually, Katia began to see that she was not at fault for anything that happened.
A few years later, Katia began dissecting her situation, looking for a way to prevent this from happening to someone else. She soon discovered that speaking out about bullying was a way to educate her peers and let others who experience bullying know that they are not alone.
“What I’m mostly pushing forward to is letting people not be afraid to use their voice. If I didn’t speak out, I wouldn’t know that there are so many other people out there that have been bullied as well,” said Katia Hughley.
“Another thing I hope to accomplish is bringing the discussion further up the line. From what I experienced, the focus on bullying and all the ‘say no to drugs’ stuff only happens in elementary school. It just stops when you get into middle school and high school,” she said.
After Katia’s experience in middle school, her mother’s eyes were reopened to the harsh reality of the bullying culture. In an attempt to combat the growing rates of bullying cases and instances where a child commits suicide as a result, she set up the Miss Victorious pageant in 2016. The pageant focuses on inner beauty, acceptance and anti-bullying.
As Miss Haiti International, Katia will work closely with the girls who participated in the pageant. She has already spoken at the pageant in April and will accompany the winners on their community service tour. In the past, the pageant winners have been involved in the community festival Seeds of Peace, anti-bullying assemblies at area schools and volunteering in the community.
In addition to working to promote her platform in the United States, Katia will travel to Haiti to spread the word about how detrimental bullying can be and the importance of speaking out. While she is there, she will also meet with the president of Haiti and eventually begin working with her sister-queens on a collaborative effort that will positively impact their nation.
In July, Katia will compete against women from all over the world representing their nations and states in the Miss International pageant. While she hopes to walk away as Miss International, Katia said she is already very proud of how far she’s come both personally and in the pageant world, and plans to continue working towards eliminating all forms of bullying in the future.