Allissa Latham stood on stage at the Lowell Auditorium in an evening gown, waiting to hear if her dream had come true.
When the announcer delivered the good news, she fell almost to her knees. She was named Miss Massachusetts USA 2018 Sunday night and will compete next year in the Miss USA pageant.
“When you work hard for something, sometimes you just feel it. But you never really know until it happens,” said Latham, 26. “And this is only the beginning.”
Latham has dreamed of competing in the Miss USA pageant since she was a young girl, watching the competitions year after year with her mother and sisters in her hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala. She was attracted to the idea of these confident, beautiful women who also had so much to give to the world. She competed in small pageants throughout her teen years, but it wasn’t until she moved to New England three years ago that she began to take her Miss USA goals seriously.
After completing her undergrad in health management in 2013 at the University of Alabama (where, she says, “Roll, Tide” is an acceptable greeting), Latham got a job in Lowell with Cerner, a health information technology company. She now works at Lowell General Hospital as an integration architect.
While living in Nashua for a few years, Latham participated in the Miss New Hampshire USA competition twice. In 2015, she placed in the top 10; in 2016, she was first runner-up.
Two years ago, Latham moved to Lowell and set her sights on the Miss Massachusetts USA competition. She started modeling for Maggie, Inc. in Boston in 2016, and has posed for photos for wedding blogs and magazines. She recently started volunteering for House of Hope in Lowell, a nonprofit that advocated for homeless families.
As someone who has dealth with anxiety and depression, Latham uses her pageant platform to talk about the stigmas surrounding mental health, particularly its intersection with homelessness.
“We tend to neglect our mental health,” Latham said. “We feel like we have to push that to the back and make everything seem perfect. But we don’t.”
Latham will appear at several events throughout the state in the coming year, and she plans on further addressing these issues.
“The whole message is pretty short and sweet: ‘It’s OK to not be OK,’” she said.
But during the prep for the Miss USA pageant, Latham will make time for her favorite passtime — crocheting — and continue working toward her master’s in business administration at Suffolk University. One day, she hopes to combine her two passions by becoming an executive at a healthcare organization, or even starting a nonprofit, where she can work to help those in need access mental health care.Laura Elyse King can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lauraelyseking.