As a sometime model and a contestant in the Miss America 2013 pageant, Allyn Rose is no stranger to using her body to send a message. But the message she wants to send is about health, not beauty.
On Saturday, Jan. 12, the 24-year-old Miss District of Columbia winner will compete with 52 other women for the coveted Miss America Crown at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. She'll flaunt her fit figure in a bikini, grace the stage in an evening gown, and show off her unusual talent for roller figure skating.
Sometime after, she'll undergo a double mastectomy to remove both her breasts as a preventive measure against breast cancer. The disease has already killed three women in her family, including her mother and grandmother.
"My mom would have given up every part of her body to be here for me, to watch me in the pageant," the University of Maryland politics major told the Associated Press of why she plans to take such a drastic measure. "If there's something that I can do to be proactive, it might hurt my body, it might hurt my physical beauty, but I'm going to be alive."
Rose's father first suggested the surgery when she was a freshman in college, but she rejected the idea at the time, telling him she liked her body the way it was. Now that she's a little older, though -- just three years away from the age at which her mom, Judy, was first diagnosed -- she's realizing that being healthy is more important than being perfect.
Miss America CEO Art McMaster has said Rose is "an incredible example" of strength and courage. But not everyone supports the Newburg, Md., beauty queen's decision. Some pageant die-hards have criticized her for "mutilating" her body or using the surgery to curry favor with the media and the public.
Still, Rose (who plans to have reconstructive surgery) is standing behind her decision. And though she initially said that if she won the crown, she would wait to have the mastectomy until after her yearlong reign, she's now considering undergoing the procedure sooner rather than later as a way of promoting breast cancer prevention.
"I've been thinking how powerful that might be to have a Miss America say, 'I might be Miss America, but I'm still going to have surgery. I'm going to take control of my own life, my own health care,'" she told the AP. "So I guess it's up to what happens on Saturday night."