Madison Marsh, a 22-year-old second lieutenant in the US Air Force and master’s student at the Harvard Kennedy School’s public policy program, was crowned Miss America 2024 on January 14th, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. Marsh is the first active-duty Air Force officer to ever receive the national Miss America title in the competition’s 100-year history.
Marsh represented the state of Colorado at the 2024 Miss America Competition, which was held over three nights at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. 51 contestants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia competed for the coveted crown.
Madison Marsh Miss America 2024
|Madison Paige Marsh
|22 years old
|Colorado Springs, Colorado
|Bachelor’s degree from Air Force Academy (2022), Currently pursuing Master’s degree from Harvard Kennedy School
|Second Lieutenant and Aircraft Maintenance Officer, United States Air Force
|Current Duty Station
|Creech Air Force Base, Nevada
|Spoken word poetry
|Social Impact Initiative
|“Limitless Horizons: Building a Pathway to Aviation”
|Encouraging young women to pursue aviation careers, closing the gender gap in aerospace fields
|Evening Gown Designer
|First active-duty military service woman to be crowned Miss America
The Miss America competition began with three nights of preliminary competitions, where the 51 contestants were judged in the following categories:
- Talent (35% of preliminary score)
- Evening Wear (15% of preliminary score)
- On-Stage Interview (50% of preliminary score)
At the end of the preliminaries, 10 contestants were chosen by the judges as semi-finalists. An additional semi-finalist was voted in by viewers through the “America’s Choice” contest, bringing the total semi-finalists to 11.
The semi-finals took place on the final competition night, and consisted of the following rounds:
Fitness Runway Walk: The 11 semi-finalists did a runway walk modeling athleisure wear.
“Hot Topics” Discussion: Replacing the traditional Q&A portion, contestants discussed a range of “hot topic” issues such as technology, nutrition, terrorism, drugs, and climate change.
Talent: The semi-finalists performed their individual talents before the judges. Madison Marsh did a spoken word performance.
Evening Gown: Contestants walked the stage in evening gowns as the judges evaluated their grace and poise.
From there, the pool was narrowed to the top 5 finalists:
- Madison Marsh (Colorado)
- Ellie Breaux (Texas) – 1st Runner Up
- Cydney Bridges (Indiana) – 2nd Runner Up
- Mallory Hudson (Kentucky) – 3rd Runner Up
- Caroline Parente (Rhode Island) – 4th Runner Up
The finalists answered one last question about their goals as the potential Miss America before the winner was crowned.
How Madison Marsh Won : Key Moments
Marsh impressed the judges with her poise, intellect, and heartfelt performances throughout the various rounds of competition:
Talent Performance: For the talent portion, Marsh delivered an original spoken word poem that she wrote herself, centered around receiving her pilot’s license at age 16. Her poetic words highlighted her passion for aviation and motivated other young women to achieve their dreams. The performance earned her enthusiastic applause.
“Hot Topics” Round: When asked to discuss the issue of “drugs in America,” Marsh gave a personal response highlighting her late mother’s battle with pancreatic cancer, and emphasizing compassion and health education over punishment for those struggling with addiction. Her empathy resonated with judges.
Final Question: In the final round, Marsh was asked about her goals as the potential next Miss America. In her response, she emphasized her unique background as an Air Force officer and how it embodies her commitment to leading with passion and continuing to learn and develop as a servant-leader.
With her impressive skill-set – a STEM degree, an Ivy League education, pilot’s license, and military service – combined with her captivating stage presence and heartfelt advocacy, it is clear why Marsh ultimately clinched the title of Miss America 2024.
Madison Marsh’s Background and Accomplishments
Family and Hometown: Madison “Maddie” Paige Marsh was born on March 11th, 2002 in Colorado Springs, Colorado to parents Mark and Jennifer Marsh. Her mother Jennifer tragically passed away from pancreatic cancer when Madison was 17 years old. Her father, Mark Marsh, still resides in Colorado Springs and made the trip to Orlando to support his daughter throughout the competition.
Education: Marsh graduated as the distinguished graduate from the US Air Force Academy in 2022 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She was the female cadet wing commander, the highest ranking cadet leader at the Academy. She is currently taking a two-year leave of absence from active duty service to pursue a Master in Public Policy degree at the Harvard Kennedy School as a George and Carol Olmsted Military Scholar.
Military Career: Marsh was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force upon her graduation from the Air Force Academy. She earned her pilot’s license at 16 years old, and is a qualified aircraft maintenance officer specializing in Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). She is stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
As part of her duties, Marsh leads airmen conducting maintenance on the MQ-9 Reaper drone. Prior to Harvard, she served as the squadron executive officer and management of the $9 million drone maintenance program. After completing her Master’s degree, Marsh will owe the Air Force five more years of active duty service.
Pageant History: Marsh entered her first pageants while attending the Air Force Academy, competing at the Miss Colorado competition in both 2020 (as Miss Falcon) and 2021. Though she did not yet win the title, her talent and ambition led her to continue pursuing pageantry.
In June 2023, on her third attempt, Marsh was finally crowned Miss Colorado 2023. This win granted her entry to the national Miss America 2024 competition in Orlando five months later.
Social Impact Initiative: “Limitless Horizons: Building a Pathway to Aviation” As a former 16-year-old pilot license holder as well as a current aircraft maintenance officer, Marsh is a vocal advocate for encouraging more young women to pursue aviation. Her social impact initiative as Miss Colorado and Miss America is “Limitless Horizons: Building a Pathway to Aviation.”
The initiative calls attention to the gender gap in aviation professions, where women make up less than 10% of commercial pilots and 25% of aircraft mechanics. Marsh uses her platform to partner with nonprofits like the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals and Women in Aviation to promote STEM education and flight scholarships specifically for young girls.
As Miss America, Marsh states she wants to continue using her unique experience as a pilot and officer to inspire the next generation of female aviators. Statistically women only represent about 7% of pilots – Marsh aims to double that number with her advocacy work during her time as Miss America 2024.
Key Issues from the “Hot Topics” Round
The “Hot Topics” round replaced the traditional pageant Q&A segment. Rather than asking individually crafted questions, all semi-finalists responded to the same set of predetermined discussion topics about pressing national issues. They were judged on their comprehension, clarity, and ability to take a stand.
Below are highlights of Marsh’s notable responses:
Drugs in America: As highlighted earlier, Marsh gave a poignant response emphasizing rehabilitation over punishment, informed by her mother’s battle with cancer. She believes America should invest more in mental health resources and addiction counseling rather than treating drugs purely as a criminal issue. Education and awareness are also key.
Technology in Society On discussing technology, Marsh focused her response on artificial intelligence ethics. With emerging AI capabilities like chatbots becoming more human-like, she raised important considerations about ensuring transparency from tech companies as well as questioning how we define sentience. Marsh believes introducing ethics courses on AI development in higher education could help new computer scientists grapple with these philosophical debates.
Climate Change Goals
Given her Air Force background, Marsh centered her response on innovating more fuel-efficient flight technology to reduce carbon emissions from extensive air travel. Investing in electric planes and alternative jet fuels are critical for the airline industry to reach net zero 2050 goals. Enhancing green infrastructure at airports can also make the travel hub carbon neutral as more flights take off.
Overall, Marsh demonstrated sharp insight and nuance on a wide range of complex issues – undoubtedly impressing judges with her intellect and analytical skills.
The New Miss America’s Future Goals
When asked about her objectives as the newly crowned Miss America 2024, Marsh emphasized wanting to enhance the relevance and reputation of the competition moving forward.
She aims to showcase how pageantry can help develop well-rounded women with both brains and talent. Marsh believes her non-traditional background as a military officer and graduate student defies outdated stereotypes about beauty queens.
By breaking barriers as the first active-duty Miss America, Marsh strives to inspire other accomplished, intellectual women to see pageants as a platform rather than just glitz and glamour.
She also stated she wants to expand the reach of her social impact initiative “Limitless Horizons” to encourage aviation passion nationwide. Marsh plans to partner with major organizations like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Ninety-Nines Inc. International Organization of Women Pilots, and more.
Through speaking engagements, school visits, flight scholarship funds, and awareness campaigns, her goal is to boost youth female aviation participation from under 7% currently to 15% by 2030.
With women dominating most STEM fields but lagging in aerospace, Marsh sees huge potential to inspire the next generation to reach for the skies. She believes achieving her target goal would lead to a more innovative, secure and prosperous American aviation industry in the long run.
Beyond advocacy work, Madison Marsh also aims to complete her Master’s degree at Harvard while balancing her responsibilities as Miss America 2024. She will spend her year of service speaking across the country, advancing her social impact goals, and preparing to compete at the 2025 Miss World pageant.
Marsh will continue serving part-time in the Air Force Reserve while taking a leave of absence from active duty. After passing along her title next January, she will return to military service as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Maintenance Officer.
As the first active-duty service woman ever crowned Miss America, Marsh said she feels honored to pave the way for more diversity and inclusion in pageantry. She Credit hopes her boundary-breaking victory will allow more women of different backgrounds to envision themselves as the face of Miss America someday.
Miss America Competition Scoring Breakdown
The Miss America competition has evolved over the years, but interview skills, talent, and presence still make up the majority of scoring:
- Talent: 35%
- Evening Wear/On-Stage Presence: 15%
- Interview: 50%
Fitness and lifestyle rounds have been reduced to showcase elements rather than competitive categories.
Madison Marsh’s Interview Skills & Public Speaking
While Marsh’s talent and poised performances stood out, her ability to intelligently discuss complex policy issues in the “Hot Topics” round was equally as impressive.
Her clear comprehension and nuanced analytical skills indicate exceptional critical thinking and communications abilities – no doubt honed through her military officer training and Harvard education.
Marsh’s poise under pressure and articulate, thoughtful interview responses demonstrate she has the speaking capabilities necessary for public appearances, advocacy work, and being an impactful voice as Miss America.
Family Support System
While Marsh’s mother tragically passed away from cancer when she was 17, the new Miss America has a robust support network made up of both blood relatives and chosen family:
- Father Mark Marsh traveled to Orlando to cheer Madison on throughout the competition
- Fellow cadets from her Air Force Academy class flew in to see their friend and peer achieve her dream
- Boyfriend Nathan Wagner, an economics teacher and former Air Force squadron mate, has been by Madison’s side as her biggest fan
This rooting section gives Marsh strength during difficult moments as well as trusted confidantes to celebrate joyous milestones with.
Potential Future Military Career Trajectory
Madison Marsh still owes the Air Force five years of service commitment after completing her two-year Harvard Master’s program. Some future career paths she could embark upon:
- Continued aircraft maintenance leadership roles, like directing drone operations from Creech AFB
- Transfer to the Air Force Reserves rather than active duty
- Apply to become an Air Force pilot once she returns from her educational leave
- Foreign area officer managing international relations
- Pentagon assignment coordinating national security policy
The possibilities for Marsh’s ongoing military contributions seem limitless – much like the horizons she envisions for aspiring female aviators nationwide. Miss America is just one milestone along her voyage.
FAQs About Air Force Officer Madison Marsh Crowned Miss America 2024
How old is Madison Marsh and where is she from?
Madison “Maddie” Paige Marsh is 22 years old as of January 2023. She was born on March 11th, 2002 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
What does Madison Marsh do – what is her career?
Madison Marsh is a second lieutenant and Aircraft Maintenance Officer in the United States Air Force. She specializes in remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) like drones. Marsh is currently stationed at Creech AFB in Nevada and leads airmen conducting maintenance on the MQ-9 Reaper drone.
What university did Madison Marsh attend?
Marsh has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the United States Air Force Academy, graduating as the distinguished graduate in 2022. She is currently on a two-year leave of absence from the military to get her Master’s in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Is Madison Marsh the first military Miss America?
Yes, Madison Marsh is the first active duty military service woman ever to be crowned Miss America. There have been other military veterans and reservists to receive the title, but Marsh is the first pageant winner serving on current active duty in the armed forces.
What will Madison Marsh do as Miss America 2024?
During her year of service, Marsh will continue her advocacy work through her social impact initiative “Limitless Horizons: Building a Pathway to Aviation.” She aims to encourage more young girls to pursue aviation careers. Marsh will also serve as spokesperson and goodwill ambassador for the Miss America Organization, speaking across the country and advancing her policy goals.
After passing down her crown, she will return to military duty as an aircraft maintenance officer managing remotely piloted aircrafts.
What was Madison Marsh’s talent at the Miss America competition?
For the talent portion of the competition, Marsh performed an original spoken word poetry piece that she wrote herself. Her poem centered around her receiving her pilot’s license at 16 years old and highlighted her lifelong passion for aviation.
What evening gown did Madison Marsh wear when she won Miss America?
Marsh wore an dazzling navy blue evening gown adorned with rhinestones when she was crowned Miss America 2024. The dramatic gown featured a high leg slit and sweetheart neckline. Marsh complemented the look with silver jewelry and glittering hair clips.
Who were the other Miss America 2024 finalists?
Alongside winner Madison Marsh, the top 5 finalists were:
- First Runner-Up: Ellie Breaux (Miss Texas)
- Second Runner-Up: Cydney Bridges (Miss Indiana)
- Third Runner-Up: Mallory Hudson (Miss Kentucky)
- Fourth Runner-Up: Caroline Parente (Miss Rhode Island)
How can I contact the new Miss America Madison Marsh?
You can contact Madison Marsh through the official Miss America Organization website. As she carries out her national speaking tour and advocacy work, events and public appearances will be listed on missamerica.org with contact information.
The Miss America Organization office can also direct any interview requests, messages of support, or coordination for charity events to their 2024 Miss America Madison Marsh.
Where will the next Miss America competition be held in 2025?
The Miss America 2025 competition location has not yet been announced. The pageant returns to its longtime home in Atlantic City, New Jersey every 3 years. 2025 would be the next potential year. Locations will be determined this year based on bids from cities and convention centers wishing to host the national competition.