Human Trafficking, a nice way to say “selling sex for profit” solicits and sells young women throughout the United States in a clandestine industry without a safety net to catch escapees or punish the solicitors who profit from adolescent victims.
What in the world would combine the terms Miss America and Human Trafficking into a single conversation? The answer: an outspoken young Miss America hopeful from Overland Park, Kan., currently serving as Miss Capital City with hopes of capturing the Miss Kansas title next week. Her further aspirations include a run at the coveted Miss America Crown. That’s the answer.
Abigail Lopez, Miss Capital City, and Miss Kansas/Miss America hopeful hosted a gala, “Fiesta de Alegria” recently to serve several purposes in her quest to run for her next title. She said she needed to raise awareness to the platform she advocates, educate more people on the problem of human trafficking, and generate funds for her expenses.
“To be a real competitor at the Miss Kansas competition is challenging. I knew I would need to do a fund-raiser. I also wanted to do one for human trafficking, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and my director’s friend Jane Tetuan who is a cancer patient. This many beneficiaries required something huge. I decided to do a charity gala with the help of my family so I could help all areas. So, that is what I did. I held it on Sunday, April 13, 2014,” Lopez said.
Lopez said that she has always dreamed of reigning as Miss America and the crown would give her a voice on the national stage for an issue that is seldom addressed but continues to grow and thrive–especially in the Kansas City area and the Midwest in general.
“I have gone through the grooming process, which is what a predator, such as a trafficker, uses to make their victim isolated and dependent on them. Thankfully, the Lord used my family to bring me out of it before it was too late. I wouldn’t be here, especially like this, today, if it were not for them. So, to me, it is a huge testimony being a Miss Kansas contestant,” Lopez said.
Her brush with Human Trafficking is all too personal, and she said she could have easily been victimized by a pimp who attempted to gain her confidence and prepare her for entry into the marketplace. Her personal vendetta is to illuminate the problem and help others understand the need for interaction. Lopez said that Kansas City ranks fourth in the number of cities where human trafficking occurs mostly.
Education, understanding, and vigilance can stop the growth of the problem. She speaks on that topic at every opportunity. Lopez credits her family with her rescue. She said they helped her immensely, and she is forever grateful for them.
“My dream is to win Miss America. Not only is she an inspiration in everyday life, but Miss America standing against Human Trafficking could be huge in drawing the attention needed for the prevention and abolition of Human Trafficking. The average age of children enslaved in Human Trafficking is 12 years old. The State Department estimates that there are 100,000 U.S. Children who are victims of human trafficking. It affects everyone. Human Trafficking will stop when we educate ourselves and crack down on the buyers of Human Trafficking,” Lopez said.
Twelve-year-olds–yes, 12 years old is the average age of young children sold as a commodity. Girls and boys about seventh grade level become the sex slaves in the United States. And, that is the average age. Younger children also get bought and sold in the seedy business of Human Trafficking.
“Many people share information that I post about Human Trafficking, and my inner circle support group of family and friends always take whatever events I do seriously, such as Fiesta de Alegria. Beyond that, the topic needs to have more exposure in the media to really do it justice. That is my plan as I proceed with the Miss Kansas, and, hopefully, the Miss America title,” she said.
The arduous path to climb the rungs to Miss Kansas starts with a lot of paperwork and then competitions at each step and miniature pageants help prepare contestants for the next rung on the ladder. To compete, Lopez said she had to initially win a local title. She began her climb with the Miss Agusta/Butler County pageant but did not win. Next up, Miss Topeka/Capital City pageant allowed her to perfect her “pageant walk” and gain more personal confidence.
All worked in her favor and Lopez holds the title of Miss Capital City 2014 with the next rung on the ladder, the Miss Kansas Title that will be decided in early June, she said. And, this is her preliminary attempt to capture the Miss Kansas title, she said.
“Next is the Miss Kansas pageant in June. I really want to see where the Miss America Organization can take me. I believe there is great expectation on the women of this organization, yet they have lost some visibility. I’m hungry to put the Miss America Organization back on the map, continuing the legacy previous Miss Kansas title holders, such as Theresa Vail.”
Lopez competes next in Pratt, Kan. during the first week of June. Contestants arrive in Pratt June 1, with preliminaries on June 5 and 6. Finals are June 7. According to Lopez, this year they are doing a Kansas’ Choice Award, where people can vote for their favorite contestant online at misskansas.com for $1 to guarantee them a spot as a finalist.
“I have always wanted to be Miss America. I figure somebody has to win. Why can’t it be me? Every day, I act like Miss America because I feel the best to prepare for something like that, is to actually do it. I am going in like I am Miss Kansas already. With that being said, I just keep picturing myself blowing the roof off all parts of the competition from Swimsuit to Interview,” Lopez said.
A graduate of Shawnee Mission South High School, Lopez attended K-State for a semester as a college freshman. For her second semester, transferred to Johnson County Community College in order to prepare and appear as Miss Capital City. With her first year of college almost completed, Lopez said she wants to double major in political science and theater.
Poise and confidence in hand, Lopez said that she will dance as her talent in the upcoming pageant for Miss Kansas.
“I will be performing a Salsa Routine. This is in honor of my Hispanic Heritage, as was the Fiesta de Alegria theme. I have been on a professional swing team, Swingsters, at Alegro Ballroom for about two years, which has helped my dancing tremendously.”
“I am Hispanic. I have ten siblings, and a fierce love for Ballroom and Swing dancing. I teach Latin Dances, such as Salsa and Bachata. It’s time for a Hispanic Miss America.”
As she enters the competition for Miss Kansas, Lopez set her sights on two lofty goals, bringing an end to human trafficking and claiming another Miss America title for Kansans to be proud.