Photo Credit: David Becker/Getty Images; Splash News
When I first saw headlines about Miss America Mallory Hagan being criticized for her weight gain accompanied by photos of her on the beach in a black bikini, I thought there must be some confusion. Surely these shots of her looking gorgeous and healthy are the before photos -- not the ones that inspired some Internet haters to call her fat.
After I compared the "scandalous" photo (right) to the one of Hagan from the pageant on Jan. 12 (left), I admittedly could see that she had gained a few pounds. In the beach shot (taken on March 11), her six-pack is slightly less defined, but she still looks amazing.
Of course, celebrities are subject to these harsh critiques every day -- and after Hagan, 24, won her crown, she became an instant celebrity. But what sets her apart is how she reacted to the insults.
During a visit to Anderson Live, the blonde beauty explained her curvier figure. "I think that I'm human…and I'd like to equate getting ready for the Miss America pageant, you know, to getting ready for a boxing match," she said with a smile. "We get into shape and then afterwards life goes back to normal."
When she put it that way, my first thought was: "Exactly!" Hagan seemed to feel just the way I did after my wedding, a.k.a. the closest I'll ever get to competing in a beauty pageant. After I set a date, I decided I was going to work my butt off to look my very best. (After all, the photos would last forever!) In the past, I had made half-hearted attempts to shed a few pounds here and there but never had much success. But with such a motivating force, I actually found myself hitting the gym six days a week, avoiding carbs and cutting waaaay back on my wine intake. When my Big Day arrived, I had lost about 25 pounds -- and I looked and felt the best I ever had.
I imagine Mallory felt the same way when she slipped into her bikini for the swimsuit competition. And after winning the crown (and following a rigid diet for so long) she wanted -- and deserved -- to celebrate.
After my wedding I relaxed a bit and realized that missing out on boozy brunches with my girlfriends wasn't worth it in the long run. So I settled into a more manageable routine and accepted the fact that my skinniest self wasn't necessarily my happiest self.
For most normal women (Angelina Jolie, we are not talking about you), being at your absolute ideal weight is not easy to maintain when life gets in the way. But I applaud Mallory Hagan for having the discipline to even get there in the first place. I think it's okay not to stay there for long -- and Tina Fey agrees with me.
In her hilarious memoir Bossypants, Ms. Fey reflects on her short-lived skinny phase:
For a brief time at the turn of the century, I was very skinny...We should leave people alone about their weight. Being skinny for a while (provided you actually eat food and don’t take pills or smoke to get there) is a perfectly fine pastime. Everyone should try it once, like a super-short haircut or dating a white guy.
Fey then goes on to suggest that everyone also try being "a little bit fat" at some point in their lives, which sounds like a much more fun goal.
So congrats, Mallory Hagan, for winning the title of Miss America and for looking flawless while doing it. For now, enjoy your honeymoon phase and ignore the haters. If you feel the motivation to tone up again in the future, I'm sure you can do it. And if not, you'll always have those photos.
Ali Gray is iVillage's Senior Associate Entertainment Editor. Follow her on Twitter: @thealigray