ELKHART — After Elkhart-native Mekayla Diehl was crowned Miss Indiana USA 2014 in November, she stepped off the stage with a mission — to use her crown as a microphone.
Diehl, 25, lives and works in Elkhart. When she’s not working as a full-time pageant consultant at Ashley Rene’s or preparing for the Miss USA competition in June, she’s advocating for organizations close to her heart.
Her main mission as Miss Indiana USA 2014 is to advocate for Bashor Children's Home, a Goshen non-profit child welfare agency that provides services to troubled children and their families, according to its website.
Diehl's relationship with the home began several years ago when she got involved with fundraising. As a survivor of child abuse, Bashor's mission — “Help for today and hope for tomorrow” — struck a chord in Diehl.
“I was sexually abused as a child and I didn’t get the help right away that I needed. Eventually I was able to seek counseling through my grandmother after she adopted us,” Diehl said.
Now, she wants to motivate the children at Bashor to go after their dreams no matter what their past was like. She'll speak at a luncheon at the home Wednesday, March 19, about her difficult experiences and how she overcame them.
“Fortunately I had a great support system after my grandmother adopted us. She’s very wonderful. She raised me to be the woman I am today. But these kids don’t have that, and it’s important to me that Bashor has the funds and he resources so they can do the same thing,” Diehl said.
Pageants like Miss USA emphasize external beauty, but for Diehl, beauty is all about confidence. She credits the Miss USA Organization for being a source of empowerment for women.
“It motivates us and lights a fire under us to be the best we can be,” Diehl said.
When Diehl won Miss Indiana USA, she made history as the first registered Native American to win the title. Her next goal?
“I want to be the first Miss USA from Indiana,” she said.
The next step in Diehl’s pageant journey is competing in the Miss USA competition in Baton Rouge, La.
The Miss USA competition will air on NBC from 8 to 11 p.m. June 8.