On the Job With Miss America: Madison Marsh

Meet Madison Marsh, a fearless force for women’s empowerment donning both the Miss America tiara and the Second Lieutenant badge of honor, showcasing beauty, brains, and bravery like never before.

Miss America Madison Marsh
Photo courtesy of Miss America.

At just 22 years old, Madison Marsh of Colorado made history as the first active-duty service member to win the title of Miss America. Her journey began early, earning her pilot’s license at 16 before enrolling in the Air Force Academy, where she studied physics and astronomy. During her time there, Marsh conducted groundbreaking research, collaborating with NASA on gamma-ray bursts and spearheading innovative projects with Harvard Medical School for her Whitney Marsh Foundation, which pioneers AI technology for pancreatic cancer detection—a cause inspired by her mother’s terminal battle with the disease. After her year of Miss America duties, she will continue pursuing a master’s in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School where, driven by her unwavering passion for empowerment, she hopes to shape legislative initiatives for pancreatic cancer patients worldwide.

On being Miss America: “I’m the first active-duty military member to ever hold the title of Miss America. This shows how forward the opportunity is and the doors that it opens. Because Miss America is really about education as one of the largest women’s scholarship providers. I’ve won $70,000 in educational scholarships through them. That’s helping break down financial barriers to ensure women can continue in their education and become the doctors, the lawyers, the people in the boardroom or Congress.”

On this year’s responsibilities: “I will stay active duty but move into a public affairs and recruiting role. So, every time that I’m doing Miss America duties, I’m also promoting the mission of the Air Force and showing people more tangible ways to join the military as well as highlighting different branches.”

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On how her military training prepared her for Miss America: “The Air Force Academy has mock interviews for a year as the cadets compete to be nominated, which along with community service and public speaking initiatives, helped me prepare to compete. My training also armed me with excellent time management. You are very, very busy as Miss America, and being able to balance and prioritize is so important.”

Madison Marsh in military uniform
Photo courtesy of Miss America.

On her talent portion: “I thought talking about flying would be eye-opening for the young girls in the audience. I try to bring people into the cockpit with me. But the whole speech is about how things don’t go as planned and stuff gets scary, but at the end of the day, you have to rely on yourself. You’re training your confidence. Because the sky is not the limit anymore. We have women flying planes and going into outer space. So now, we are the ones limiting ourselves. We have to be able to instill confidence to achieve anything. And it doesn’t have to be going to the moon. It can be right here on Earth.”

On Barbie: “We thought it would be so cool if we could get Barbie to do a Miss America Military Barbie where one of the outfits is a gown and the other is a flight suit. And so kids can interchange them to show you can do both.”

On her engagement: “I want the wedding to be in Colorado. We really want to do it at the Garden of the Gods Resort because it’s right by the Air Force Academy. It’s got the beautiful mountains in the background that we woke up to and looked at every single morning as cadets. And so it’s important to us to be at the home of our relationship.”

On her free time: “I’m a huge bookie. I read 60 books last year. I love fantasy and just read Harry Potter for the first time. Having the time to escape into these alternate realities is important for unwinding.”