Ahwatukee native Holly Hansen

Ahwatukee native Holly Hansen, an honors student at Northern

Arizona University, is Miss Coconino County in her bid to be Miss Arizona USA.

Don’t let the title ‘Miss Coconino County’ fool you – Holly Hansen hopes her hometown of Ahwatukee will be supporting her as she embarks on her quest to become Miss Arizona USA.

The Northern Arizona University sophomore splits her time between the Flagstaff campus and the Ahwatukee home of her parents, David and Cristina Hansen, and so she’s hoping businesses and others in both communities will line up as sponsors as she competes for the title.

“When looking for potential business sponsors, I am looking to both Flagstaff and Ahwatukee as I feel that in order to be a good candidate for Miss Arizona USA, it will be helpful to have connections from all around the state,” said Hansen, 19. 

“I would love to represent Flagstaff as much as possible, but since I grew up in Ahwatukee I would be happy to represent my hometown as well.”

Of course, lining up sponsors has been a challenge.

“It has been difficult due to the pandemic,” she explained, since “walking into businesses to talk to them is not an option anymore.”

“I have done my best to reach out to a few businesses in Flagstaff and will continue to once I go back up north for the semester,” she said. “However, going into small, local businesses to ask for sponsorship is tough during a pandemic as well just because they could be struggling to keep their business open.”

There are both personal and philosophical reasons why Hansen is a beauty pageant contestant.

The Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School alum graduated in 2019 from Desert Vista High School, where she was a member of both the social studies and science honors societies, a member of the varsity cross country and track-and-field teams and part of the Desert Vista Dance Company.

After graduating from Desert Vista, she said, “I was offered the opportunity to compete in the Miss US International pageant.”

“I was appointed the title of Miss Arizona US International and went on to compete at a national level for my first pageant in Celebration, Florida,” she explained. 

“I actually ended up making the semifinals, which was super exciting. After that pageant, I knew I wanted to compete in more. I have always wanted to model ever since I was younger, and my family had encouraged and supported me to compete in my first pageant to hopefully build connections in the modeling industry.”

There’s also a family legacy of sorts to uphold.

Her mother competed in the Binibining Pilipinas Pageant and won the title of Miss Maja Philippines International 1986 and later went on that year to compete at the Miss Maja International pageant in Mexico. 

“I was very inspired by her to compete in pageants and am grateful to have much support from all of my family,” Hansen said.

But Hansen also has a more serious purpose in entering the pageant, one that reflects a student who is majoring in both biomedical sciences and chemistry with a minor in math and who hopes to pursue post-graduate studies in pharmaceutical sciences for a career in drug development.

“My goal in competing is to break the pageant stereotypes that pageants are all about looks and to show that they are for everyone,” she said.

“Living in Flagstaff has opened my eyes to be more environmentally conscious and by competing I will be an advocate to help stop climate change. Additionally, I will be a representative for women in STEM as they are a vital part to the industry.”

At NAU, Hansen is an Honors College student, a member of the Student Philanthropy Council, the Ambassadors for the College of Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences, and the university’s track and field and runners clubs.

She also is a math tutor – something she also was at Desert Vista – and a “sustainability ambassador” for the NAU’s College of Environment, Forestry.

“Flagstaff is an extremely environmentally conscious city,” she said. “Around campus, there are so many initiatives that the university and the student environmental caucus have installed so that we can live more sustainable lives.”

“There are initiatives in the dining halls where food waste can be minimized; using bikes and public transportation is highly encouraged; there are installments of sources of renewable energy, and even a Green Labs Certification program where research and educational labs can reduce their environmental impact of chemical waste.”

Her environment-related activities up north, she said, have fired her up to use the pageant to become an apostle for green living and green awareness.

“I believe that everyone has the ability to make at least one change to their daily routines in order to live a more sustainable life,” she said. “Whether, it be eating less meat, thrifting clothing instead of buying new, or recycling more… any small bit helps to save the planet.

“I believe education is a huge factor when it comes to climate change. Therefore, I hope to create a program for elementary schoolers to teach them about what is currently occurring with the planet and what the future will look like if we do not act now. This would be my first initiative if I win the pageant.”

She also hopes to use a pageant platform to increase awareness among women of the opportunities offered them in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

“In high school, I was a part of a two-year biotechnology program, where I truly fell in love with working in a lab setting,” she said. “We learned a lot of lab techniques that are not usually taught until the upper division years of college, so I am very grateful that Desert Vista offered a program like this, thanks to my teacher, Jeremy Williams. 

“I knew I wanted to pursue a career where I could help people... I did some research on potential careers and found pharmaceutical sciences, which allows me to go into a career where I can work in the lab an develop potential medicines that may save people’s lives.”

Besides finding sponsors, Hansen has other challenges in preparing for the pageant, which is tentatively set for May and which is one of the stepping stones to master on the way to the Miss Universe Pageant.

“The pageant is judged based upon the evening gown presentation, swimsuit presentation and interview,” she explained.

“I am constantly practicing my walk in the 5-inch heels we wear to ensure that I do not trip as well as staying graceful and confident in my presentation. 

“The interview is one aspect that I have been putting a lot of effort into as that is an area where I could always use improvement. I enjoy practicing for interview, however, as it is a transferrable skill that can be applied to any job that I apply for.”

Ultimately, Hansen also looks at her pageant participation as something that will provide life-long benefits.

“Pageantry is more than just winning,” she said. “Along the journey, one can gain a lot of confidence, build new connections, and empower other women through the process.”


Businesses interested in sponsoring Hansen can reach her at hollymhansen321@gmail.com.

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