Tonight, the reigning Miss America winner, Cara Mund, will be handing over her crown to a new titleholder.
The North Dakota native, 24, has spoken out in recent weeks about changes in the pageant organization, and the direction she hopes it is headed. She has also told tonight’s prospective winner to “know what she’s getting into.”
Here’s what you need to know about Cara Mund:
1. She Recently Accused Miss America Leaders of ‘Bullying [Her] into Silence’
In August, Mund penned a five-page letter in which she called out Miss America CEO and chair Gretchen Carlson for having “silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a daily basis.”
Mund’s letter stated that she was prohibited from ‘big interviews’ and that she was forced to stick to specific talking points in the interviews she was able to do.
The letter was not the first time that Mund had discussed issues within the organization. On August 6, two weeks before she wrote it, Mund said during a public appearance, “It’s been a tough year… There have been a lot of things I can’t control. It’s felt I wasn’t always heard or utilized or appreciated.”
In response to her claims, the Miss America organization released a statement that said, “It is disappointing that she chose to air her grievances publicly not privately. Her letter contains mischaracterizations and many unfounded accusations. We are reaching out to her privately to address her concerns.”
2. She Graduated with Honors from Brown University
Mund graduated from Brown University in 2016 with a degree in business and entrepreneurship. During her time there, she served as president of the sorority, Kappa Delta. Mund is the first Miss America to have graduated from an Ivy League school.
Speaking to the Brown Daily Herald, Jardelle Johnson, who took over the role as president of Kappa Delta after Mund, said, “[Cara] was a big force behind our big philanthropy event … because she’s genuinely very interested in philanthropy, and she’s done a lot for the Make-A-Wish Foundation… As president, everyone really loved her… She was a big role model for me coming in as a new member because she was always very bright and smiley and so accomplished. We love her a lot, and we’re very proud of her.”
Prior to winning the crown, Mund was accepted to the law school at Notre Dame University. She plans on attending the school in fall 2019. She tells The Brown Herald that the Miss America Organization has supported her on her academic journey by giving her “nearly 100,000” in scholarship money.
3. She Is Heavily Involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation
Since she was 14, Mund has held an annual fund-raising event to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Her platform for the year she was crowned Miss Dakota 2017 was “Make A Wish Passion with Fashion.”
According to the Grand Forks Herald, Mund’s passion for the Make-A-Wish foundation was sparked by the death of her friend on her 14th birthday. Her friend’s parents requested that all their daughter’s memorial funds go to Make-A-Wish, and she has been involved with the organization ever since.
Her goal in conducting the first fashion show for Make-A-Wish was to raise $1,000; Mund ended up raising over $2,500. She has since raised over $78,000 to help finance wishes for 23 children in North Dakota, according to the Grand Forks Herald.
4. Her Mother Has Been Diagnosed with Cancer Three Times
Mund has been open about her mother’s battle with cancer.
During the 2018 Miss North Dakota competition, she cited her mother as her greatest role model.
“She’s been diagnosed with cancer three times,” she said during the competition. “Despite the circumstances, she’s always told me, you can’t control the cards you’re dealt, but you can control the hand.”
5. She Has Openly Voiced Negative Opinions About Donald Trump
Mund has openly voiced her opinion about some of President Trump’s decisions in the past couple years. In an onstage interview during the Miss America pageant, Mund said that she believes Trump was wrong to pull out of the Paris climate accord.
“It’s a bad decision,” she said. “There is evidence that climate change is existing and we need to be at that table.”
In a press conference after the pageant, Mund continued, “I wasn’t really afraid if my opinion wasn’t the opinion of my judges… Miss America needs to have an opinion and she needs to know what’s happening in the current climate.”
She did, however, say that she will support him. “I may not agree with all of his opinions, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to support the president.”