At the Miss America pageant on Sept. 13, 2015, the organization's CEO, Sam Haskell, opened the show with a heartfelt apology to former Miss America, Vanessa Williams.

This was the first time Williams had returned to the competition in decades.



Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp.

In 1983, Vanessa Williams made history for becoming the first black Miss America. Then, 10 months after being crowned, she made history again — for resigning.

Williams has had such an amazing A-list career as an actor and singer — racking up plenty of Grammy, Emmy, and Tony award nominations without the help of a crown on her head — it's easy to forget why the Miss America organization forced Williams to resign all those years ago.


Back in 1984, nude photos of Williams (taken before she became Miss America) leaked without her permission.

Penthouse magazine published the pics, without her permission, in its September issue that year. And the Miss America organization reportedly pressured Williams into relinquishing her crown just seven weeks before the end of her reign.

It's funny how an organization that emphasizes women's looks and still factors in a swimsuit competition ended up shaming one of its competitors for expressing her sexuality offstage...


Of course, the resignation was a whole bunch of bull. Sometimes, especially when it comes to women's sexuality, society has a tendency to blame those who've been wronged instead of blaming those who actually did the wronging.

It's called victim-blaming, and it's all too common. Williams should not have been pressured to resign because a magazine made the decision to publish unauthorized, private photos of her. But the Miss America organization blamed her instead of supporting her and criticizing Penthouse for its poor editorial choice.

But in 2015, the Miss America organization finally took a significant step to right its past wrongs.

With Williams at Haskell's side on stage, he apologized on behalf of the Miss America organization for how it treated her all those years ago:

“You have lived your life in grace and dignity and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned. Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today's organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be."

After 31 years, the Miss America organization finally acknowledged that it treated its 1983 winner like garbage.

We see this kind of victim-blaming against women time and time again. But most victims never get the apology they deserve.

Instead of blaming rapists, state agencies not-so-subtly blame women for drinking too much. Instead of teaching teenage boys to respect their female classmates, schools kick girls out of dances for wearing dresses that may cause "impure thoughts." And instead of blaming the hackers who shared private photographs of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lawrence, male celebrities (and others) felt the need to advise Kim K. and JLaw they shouldn't have taken the pictures in the first place.


Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images.

If your friend's house got robbed and the thief stole an expensive TV, would you say, "Well, you knew thieves exist. You probably shouldn't have bought an expensive TV"?

No, you'd blame the idiot who stole their television.

So why blame Williams for a magazine's unethical decision?

We're making progress, though. Miss America's apology wasn't just important for Williams — it was important for everyone watching.

The apology was witnessed by about 7 million people last night. Hopefully the message was loud and clear: We shouldn't fault victims for the actions of those who wrong them.

Watch footage from Haskell's apology below:

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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