Vanessa Munson has worn many hats and a sash while representing the state of Washington in the past year, and with five months left in her reign as Miss Washington, she is looking forward to the future.
Munson, who is currently Miss Washington, recently returned from Orlando, Florida, where she competed in Miss America 2024 pageant from Jan. 6 to Jan. 14.
During the pageant, Munson developed nationwide best friends. Munson said she became “besties” with Miss Rhode Island, Miss West Virginia and Miss Montana.
“I have best friends all over the country now,” Munson said. “So I thought that was a very unique and very special part of my Miss America experience.”
She also competed in five events during the pageant. In the talent competition, she honored her time serving in the military. During that portion, Munson performed a jazz dance to the song “Salute.” She said it was a jazz-hip hop routine, and she wore pink camo in honor of the military.
“It was very true to who I am being in the military,” Munson said of her jazz dance.
Munson dreamed of competing for Miss America since she was 5 or 6, she said.
Last year Munson began her journey to the national stage, when she won Miss Clark County; then in July she was crowned Miss Washington during the pageant in Olympia.
“I really latched on to this idea of becoming Miss America, and I really think it transformed me into the woman I am today,” Munson said. “... Knowing that at 23 I accomplished my dream, it is a lot more than other people can say, and so I just feel very privileged and very grateful to kind of cross that off my bucket list.”
If she could tell her 5-year-old self one thing, Munson said she would tell her that “being Vanessa is enough.”
“I think I placed a lot of value in the idea of becoming Miss America, and I think we all have this thought that once we accomplish a certain dream or a certain title or a certain role or job or goal or whatever it may be, that we won’t feel this happiness,” Munson said, adding that the journey was enough to feel like “she accomplished her goal.”
“But for me to make it to Miss America is to say that I was so happy with who I am and that I love me was the end goal. It was never to become Miss America. It was just to be able to say that, because I did struggle with confidence … in who I was growing up [that] to be in the position I am today to know that just being Vanessa is enough, it is something that I would love to share with my younger self because I needed that.”
Since realizing her dream, Munson said her future plans are to go “wherever the wind takes me.”
She will be working on a master’s degree in business administration next fall. Munson has also served four and a half years in the United States Army where she has been a sergeant and human resources specialist at Joint Base Lewis McChord.
Munson added that her time in the service has given her a lot of personal and professional growth.
Munson said, upon entering the military, she didn’t believe she needed the experience to grow as a person. Now with a month left, she said she is very proud of herself to have served and to have done something she never thought would help her grow as a person.
“It’s kind of amazing, and it’s not something a lot of people can say that they have done …” Munson said of being in the military. “And to also be able to be active duty and to go represent that at Miss America was truly the best possible display to show that you can wear multiple hats and [that] what you do doesn’t define you,” Munson said.
Follow the rest of Munson’s reign as Miss Washington on Instagram, @missamericawa, and on Facebook.