CAMDEN — Shannon Hopkins, a Camden resident, is poised to compete as Miss Knox County in June at the Miss Maine competition, where the winner of the summer event will represent the state in the Miss America competition.
Hopkins was inspired to vie for the Miss Knox County title as, according to her, there has never been a plus-sized individual on the Miss America stage.
“After multiple conversations with friends and family, I came to the conclusion I had to do this not only for myself, but for the great individuals of Maine and beyond who feel like they aren’t comfortable in their own skin or accepted for being their true authentic selves,” she said. “I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone in fear of being made fun of or laughed at and be Acceptable ME for the individuals that are too afraid to be themselves.”
During her time as Miss Knox County, Hopkins is using her platform to promote body positivity for herself and the community.
“I want it to be known that I’m standing up to break stereotypes based on weight and body image in today's society,” she said, noting she has spoken with more than 200 women about body image perceptions and struggles.
“I feel as society has placed such a standard stereotype on being ‘big’ or ‘too small.’ Why can’t someone just be confident in being themselves and others be okay with a person loving themselves or looking a certain way? Why does it always have to be about losing weight and dieting, or anorexia and bulimia? Why can’t we promote a world that is focused on accepting individuals the way they are and to prevent the self-conscious minds of individuals.”
After speaking with the women, Hopkins concluded it would be important to base her Miss Maine candidacy around body positivity — a decision she acknowledges is not only for herself, but the other Mainers struggling to find their place in accepting themselves and others accepting them by being their true authentic selves.
“This social impact initiative that I have founded, Acceptable ME, is very important to me because this is something near and dear to my heart,” she stated.
Hopkins, who grew up with her grandparents, experienced childhood trauma and thus her days growing up was difficult for her.
“I was always defined as an outcast, struggling being overweight growing up and struggling to fit in,” she said. “I’ve always felt like I haven’t been accepted due to being myself. I’ve always been taller, bigger, and different than most. I’ve always been outgoing, and have had an infectious personality but by being myself, I was always made fun of for something or told to be something I’m not. This often led to depression and anger in myself and others for many years.”
After graduating in 2015 from Camden Hills Regional High School, Hopkins enrolled at Southern Maine Community College, where she graduated in 2018. It was at SMCC Hopkins promised herself she would stop allowing myself to feel like a burden to others and began to live her life for her own true self.
“My own personal message to anyone struggling with personal acceptance of body image, is to know you aren’t alone,” Hopkins said. “Some days are better than others, but you are always beautiful in your own ways despite whether you believe it or not. You are confidently beautiful in your own ways, and don’t let what others say get you down.”
Hopkins pledges to use her platform to stand up and fight for the justice of all individuals struggling and to help break stereotypes based on diet culture, weight, and body image in today’s society.
“Acceptable ME stands for standing up against societal ‘norms’ to break stereotypes based on weight, body image, and diet culture in today's society,” she said. “Through Acceptable ME we are leading the way for all individuals in today’s society fighting to be accepted for the way they are whether ‘short,’ ‘tall,’ ‘big,’ or ‘small’ and to help them stand up against society stating that they can be accepted for themselves and be treated with respect while being authentic to themselves.”
The initiative will focus on bringing awareness to living a healthy lifestyle — the Acceptable ME way.
“By implementing health as another focus, we begin to realize that size and health doesn’t go hand in hand,” Hopkins commented. “We always hear ‘you aren’t healthy you weigh this much’ or ‘you need to do this to be healthy’ but health isn’t defined by a number on the scale, or the way you look. There is more beyond health and size to living a happy healthy life. I want to help others build the confidence to be themselves and not let their size and what others say hold them back from being their true self, together we will help individuals be Acceptable ME.”