Meet the real Miss Americas.
Since 2012, a pageant featuring women of the armed forces has been held in Las Vegas to bring awareness to the plight of homeless female veterans.
Called Ms. Veteran America, it has everything you’d expect from such a contest: gorgeous gowns, special talents and personal interviews. But what sets this glamorous show apart are the harrowing, inspirational stories of the participants, who have been through and seen things that most Miss Ohios couldn’t fathom.
The documentary “Served Like a Girl,” out Friday, follows the lives of four of its contestants, from the Army, Navy and Air Force, during the 2015 competition.
‘They raised their right hand and offered to die for us. How could I not only have so much respect for them, but also just think they’re badasses?’
Like most people, director Lysa Heslov had never heard of the contest, which has so far raised $330,000 for female vets. Two years ago, Heslov had been on the hunt for her next project when a journalist pal offhandedly mentioned the pageant at lunch.
“She said, ‘You know there’s a Ms. Veteran America competition?,’” Heslov tells The Post. “Immediately my bells went off and, I thought, ‘Oh, God, I could tell this story.’”
In an average year, there are about 25 finalists, and there is no age or height and weight requirements. Without knowing who would eventually win, Heslov got to work and found her four hopefuls: Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rachel Engler, Navy Master at Arms 1st Class Hope Garcia, Army Sgt. Nichole Alred and Army Sgt. Andrea Waterbury. Heslov knew some sparse details about their lives, but selected this group because of their genuineness.
“I just really focused on which characters were the same on camera and off, and really didn’t have [an] edit button,” she says. “The outline that I wrote … has absolutely nothing to do with what’s on film. Events just kept happening in these women’s lives, and we’d get on a plane and go cover it.”
Many of their struggles stem from arriving home from war only to discover an America that is particularly inhospitable to women vets. They had difficulty finding jobs, homes and medical help.
Engler, a talented dancer, suffers from a neuromuscular illness called myasthenia gravis that makes it tough to pursue her passion; Garcia had no permanent residence, and was forced to live away from the children she loves; and Alred’s father was murdered years earlier. Waterbury is a mom of four, while juggling a job as a librarian and college courses at Ohio State University.
“We just became a family,” Heslov says. “They raised their right hand and offered to die for us. How could I not only have so much respect for them, but also just think they’re badasses?”
While the adversity and troubles these vets face at home are extreme, the pageant uplifts them with its support and the spirit of sisterhood. Ms. Veteran America even maintains a house where displaced women can live with their children for up to three years.
“We are mothers, daughters, sisters and wives,” Army Maj. Jaspen Boothe, the competition’s founder, says in the film. “As a woman veteran, I’m sometimes ignored on American soil. We are not second-class veterans, we are not damsels in distress. We are warriors.”
An especially badass participant is Army Spc. Marissa Strock. The competition’s second runner-up in 2013, Stock lost both her lower legs in 2005 when an IED blew up beneath the Humvee she was driving in Baghdad.
Her obsession? High-heeled shoes.
“Before I got my feet amputated, I had a size 11 foot,” she says, in the doc. “I was 6-foot-1, and as a chick, size 11 means you’ll never get to wear cute shoes ever.”
So, she decided to look at her accident as a unique opportunity.
“When [the doctors] asked me what shoe I wanted, I jumped on that like a grenade and told them that I wanted a size 9. So, now I have a whole bunch of cute shoes!”
This News Credit Goes To >> Source link