Nerves filled Hallie Jacobs’s body as she stood in Venice Island Performing Arts Recreation Center in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, waiting for the results of Miss Philadelphia 2022.
When the announcer revealed she won, she almost did not believe it.
“I feel like my entire life has been leading up to this moment,” said Hallie Jacobs, senior media studies and production major. “I feel like all the hard work that I put in, all the dedication, all the time, you have finally paid off, and in the best of ways.”
After years of competing in pageants, Jacobs was crowned Miss Philadelphia 2022 on March 26 by the Miss Philadelphia Scholarship Organization, a volunteer-based organization within the Miss America program that promotes charity work. Jacobs received a full scholarship to Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, for graduate school and a $5,000 cash scholarship.
She will spend the next year making appearances around Philadelphia at charities, red carpet and sporting events.
To compete, Jacobs submitted an application about why she would be a good fit for Miss Philadelphia and an essay about the impact of her nonprofit, the Literacy Dream Project, which she started in high school while tutoring children at her mom’s library to promote reading by donating 5,000 books to schools and libraries in Pennsylvania.
After submitting the application, essay and resume of her volunteer work and hobbies, Jacobs attended workshops and interviews and was selected to compete in this year’s pageant, she said.
In the months leading up to the competition, Jacobs attended orientations and rehearsals, practiced interview techniques and learned more about current events to prepare for questions from the judges, she said.
Jacobs sang a rendition of “Yesterday” by the Beatles for the talent portion to reflect on how strong and resilient people became during the pandemic, she said.
Winning Miss Philadelphia has been a goal of Jacobs since her freshman year because it’s an important local competition and she wants to use the title’s platform to promote her charity, she said.
She competed in the 2019 Miss Philadelphia pageant but lost and decided not to compete the following year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When she found out the pageant was going to be in-person for the first time since 2019, she decided to give it one last shot her senior year, Jacobs said.
Bobbey Biddle, executive director at Miss Philadelphia, felt Jacobs stood out against other competitors because she is well spoken and consistently performed in each part of the competition, he said.
Biddle first met Jacobs in 2019 and appreciates how determined and dedicated she is to constantly grow and improve her performance, he added.
He admires how professional Jacobs is and looks forward to working more closely with her and her family this year, he said.
Jacobs has competed in pageants since she was 10 years old when she and her cousin competed together.
She recalled walking on stage at her first pageant to give a speech, forgetting it, crying and running off stage, never wanting to compete again.
However, two weeks later, she came to her mother, Stephanie Jacobs, to tell her she wanted to try competing again.
Her mother was shocked because she felt Hallie was an introvert and wouldn’t like the attention, said Stephanie, a librarian at Schuylkill Valley Elementary School.
Stephanie also disapproved of pageants, believing they were sexist for focusing on women’s bodies, but quickly got over her hesitations because she wanted to support her daughter.
Stephanie spent much of the following years taking Hallie to walking and voice coaches, piecing together Hallie’s outfits and traveling across the country as she competed in Glitz pageants, Stephanie said.
At age 15, Hallie joined the Miss America Program and competed in pageants like Miss Pennsylvania, winning titles like Miss Greater Reading Outstanding Teen.
“What I found was that it was empowering for her,” Stephanie said. “It may not be for everybody and even when she was a teenager and she did do swimwear, it was very empowering for her.”
Stephanie also made reading a big part of Hallie’s childhood, often listening to audio books as they traveled, which became the inspiration for the Literacy Dream Project.
Hallie feels advocacy for initiatives like learning programs are important, especially for children, and hopes to become a political analyst on television to better understand and represent her community, she said.
“I don’t want to just be another Miss Philadelphia,” Hallie said. “I want to stand out and be looked at as an inspiration.”