Photo courtesy of Billy Brown.
0113 Anna Laura Bryan
Miss Alabama 2013 Anna Laura Bryan.
Miss Alabama 2013 Anna Laura Bryan was one of the top 12 finalists in the 2013 Miss America Competition held Jan. 12. But wearing the crown that night wasn’t her only goal.
Bryan, 22, was also one of seven finalists for the Quality of Life Award, which is given based on a candidate’s involvement and community service regarding her platform. She is an advocate for PAWS for Autism: People and Animals Working Side-by-side, and her dedication to the cause earned her the Award and a coinciding $6,000 scholarship.
“I had not been nervous all night until they were going to give away the Quality of Life Award,” said Bryan, the former Miss Hoover. “It’s the one thing – besides the scholarship program – that separates Miss America from other competitions.”
In 2011, Bryan wrote a bill supporting the use of service animals in public places – including schools – for blind persons, hearing impaired persons or persons diagnosed with autism. It was introduced in the Alabama Legislature as House Bill 502, and it passed both the State House and Senate unanimously.
She said her mission now is to form PAWS into a non-profit organization, and her experience in the program alongside winning the award has garnered much support for the cause.
“As soon as I gave my acceptance speech, people began asking for interviews,” Bryan said. “And many of the girls wanted to know what to do to help get the law passed in other states.”
Overall, Bryan said her experience with the Miss America competition provided one of the most enjoyable times in her life. She said she didn’t grow up involved in beauty competitions and didn’t know what to expect, but at Miss America she made friends she’ll stay in contact with the rest of her life.
“Everyone was so excited to be there,” she said. “They were all so much fun, and there was none of the cutthroat competition some might expect. I laughed harder than I ever have in my life.”
Just three weeks before the 2012 Miss Alabama Pageant, Bryan, a native of Decatur, graduated from Samford University. There she was a member of the Dean's List and the Gamma Sigma Alpha Greek Academic Honor Society, and was a recipient of the Samford University Academic Achievement Scholarship.
She said the title of Miss Hoover 2012 was one she sought because she knew how supportive the community was. She won $4,600 in scholarships in the contest.
“I feel like resident of Hoover just based on how supportive they are,” she said.
In all, Bryan has earned more then $30,000 in scholarships by participating in competitions including Miss America, and she encouraged every girl to consider competing.
“Everyone needs to do it not because they need to win, but because so many doors open for you,” she said.