Mountain View’s cheerleading squad got an interesting opportunity last week as Miss Arizona USA 2017 Tommy Lynn Calhoun attended their practice to talk to the team. While her message focused on being a good role model, the real heart of the message was much deeper.
Calhoun does not shy away from the fact that she had a rough childhood and the core of her talk was about never giving up and believing in yourself. She admitted that she was abused as a child and suffered from low self esteem. She actually began competing in pageants because her brothers told her she couldn’t.
She attempted to better her situation and left her mother’s home, bouncing around from place to place for some time.
“Have you ever seen ‘The Blind Side’?” Calhoun asked the team, referring to the 2009 movie about the life of a homeless teen who eventually finds a home. “I was ‘Big’ Mike.”
She was eventually adopted as a teen to a stable family who had no children of their own and made her the centerpiece of their family, but admits she had her share of trouble and issues when she was younger. She was a country kid living in near poverty and a bit of a tomboy, hardly the vision one has for a beauty pageant winner with the nice dresses and shiny tiara.
“If you would have told my 15-year-old self I would be here talking to you I would not believe it,” Calhoun said.
She is forthcoming with her past because she wants to be a role model to those who come from similar backgrounds. When she was younger, she did not have a role model to emulate and wants to become one for girls who may be in a similar circumstance.
“I don’t want anyone to succumb to being a product of their environment,” Calhoun said.
Her perseverance continues into her pursuit of the Miss USA contest. She competed in five previous pageants in both California and Arizona before finally winning Miss Arizona last year. She not only proved she could do it, but became the first competitor from Southern Arizona to win the title in nearly 20 years.
Since winning the crown, Calhoun has done a number of charity events and speaking engagements and is now preparing for the Miss USA pageant. She just learned she will get to participate in New York’s Fashion Week. However, she may best be known for getting run over by Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins during the Arizona/Arizona State game. A graduate of Arizona and a diehard Wildcat fan, she was on the sideline when Dawkins ran her over. He picked her up and later apologized while she was being interviewed on the sideline.
“Yes, I am the girl who got run over by the Arizona football player,” she joked.
Her message to the cheerleaders was not just about her life and overcoming obstacles, but about being positive role models in their own right. She stressed the word “perception” and discussed how important it is to carry yourself in a positive manner and be someone people can look up to and admire.
She spent much of the talk answering questions from the team, ranging from everything from pursuing dreams to all of the famous people she has met.