A Face of Grace

As a young woman growing up in the world of pageantry, Chloe Burkett was presented with countless opportunities to mature and leave her mark in the world. No matter what trials and tribulations she faced, Burkett has taken each hurdle in strides.

Now as she prepares for the Miss Louisiana USA 2018 competition in October, Burkett is using her own personal experience with domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment to help impact the lives of women and children in and around her community who have gone through these struggles as well.

Burkett began her pageant journey at 10 years old by competing in the Livingston Parish Fair Pageant. Her mom, Melodie Stewart, described Chloe as very timid and introverted at this stage in her life, so she urged her to participate in hopes of boosting her confidence.

Stewart said, “I saw so much of myself in her shy side and the one thing that changed and shaped my life was pageants.”

Burkett competed for the title, but fell short of the crown. She remembered the disappointing experience of not placing, but in that moment, she said, “The 10 year old version of myself finally started to understand what feeling beautiful meant.”

In the years to come, Burkett would utilize the life lessons and confidence she gained from falling short of that crown to help her forge her own path into a successful pageant career.

At 13, Burkett began her journey within the Miss Universe organization and RPM Productions by clinching the title of Pre-Teen Miss Northshore USA and gained the opportunity to participate in the Miss Louisiana competition as a Fantasy Camper.

“I was a part of the Fantasy Camp portion of the state competition. This is where young girls between the ages of 9 and 14 get to have a behind the scenes experience of pageant weekend. I loved it and walked away that weekend with the Miss Congeniality award and many different friendships,” Burkett said.

Burkett fell in love with the USA system and has held the dream of wearing the Miss Louisiana USA crown close to her heart. She competed for Miss Louisiana Teen USA three times, and is now continuing to vie for the title of Miss Louisiana USA.

Burkett is currently the Miss Northshore USA 2018 and is representing the Northshore area for the second year in a row. As a Miss Louisiana USA contestant, you must choose a platform to promote and raise awareness for throughout your reign. She had to look no further than her own personal experiences to find a cause to promote that would help her change the lives of so many people around her.

“At ages 10 and 15, I was a victim of domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment. It took a while for me to snap back into some type of reality and it took even longer for me to talk about those experiences. Now as an adult, I have grown to know that the adversities that I have faced are similar to what other people go through, and I didn’t want to stay in the shadows any longer,” Burkett said.

Stewart explained that her daughter was assaulted at 10 years old by a man who broke into the family’s home. Burkett was brave enough to escape him and make it to her mom and stepdad, but the experience completely changed her life.

At 15 years old, Burkett was again faced with the effects of domestic violence. Her boyfriend at the time verbally, physically and mentally abused her, leaving her with permanent scars, but giving her a voice and story that could benefit others.

Burkett at a Princess Day event where she read to young girls. Here, she is interacting with a young girl who is telling her about her experience with bullying. Photo courtesy of Melodie Stewart.

In light of her life-changing experiences, Burkett’s platform, “More Than Pretty”, is raising awareness for domestic violence and sexual harassment in the classroom. She has partnered with Iris Domestic Violence Center to help fundraise for maintenance and supplies for the facility, as well as by working with the residents on communication skills, professionalism, and how to rebuild their lives by sharing her experiences with domestic violence.

Due to the strong conviction and philanthropic heart Burkett has, she decided to take “More Than Pretty” to the next level so that she can further her journey with impacting the domestic violence victim community around her.

In January 2017, Burkett began the legal process of turning her dream into a reality by making “More Than Pretty” a non-profit organization.

She said, “I wanted to make my platform a non-profit because of how I felt when I was going through my experiences with domestic violence, and I did not want anyone else to feel alone like I did. So I founded “More Than Pretty” and it all came to life from there.”

On September 14, 2017, Burkett received the official paperwork from Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler stating that “More Than Pretty” was a non-profit organization.

With the organization legally incorporated, Burkett has since started an outreach program with Iris Domestic Violence center. She promotes “More Than Pretty” by going to schools, businesses, and Greek life organizations to speak about the dangers of domestic violence and how to combat this issue, as well as methods of protection if the situation was to arise. Of course, Burkett drives these appearances by sharing her testimony with others.

Burkett posing for one of her headshots. Photography by Jonathan Carter at Carter Studios. Courtesy of Melodie Stewart.

On Oct. 20-21, 2018, Burkett will have the opportunity to compete for her dream job of Miss Louisiana USA 2018 at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center in Metairie. The weekend will be filled with personal interviews, as well as swimsuit and evening gown competitions.

Brianna Jones, a first time Miss Louisiana Teen USA competitor, says she looks up to and was inspired by Burkett’s journey when she decided to represent as Miss Walker Teen USA and vie for the title.

“Chloe is very well-known in our community and the pageant world. She is the epitome of what a role model should be,” Jones said.

Stewart says that no matter what the outcome of the pageant is, Chloe is still a winner in her eyes. “She’s won so many battles and she’ll continue to fight for people who just can’t seem to do it on their own. She’s already my Miss Universe,” Stewart said.

If she were to capture the title, Burkett hopes that her legacy will be recognized as “the girl who cared”. Promoting domestic violence awareness will not be put on hold if she becomes Miss Louisiana USA 2018.

She said, “I would continue to use my non-profit organization to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual harassment in the classroom, while branching out to incorporate different charities into my year as a titleholder. My legacy would hopefully be remembered as the girl who never changed for the crown and never let the crown change her.”

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