EXCLUSIVE: Miss Michigan Emily Sioma Talks About Why She Brought Up Flint During Miss America Pageant

"Never was it meant to be a mic drop statement."

September 10, 2018

(Dreamstime)

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(WOMC) Even without the swimsuit competition, Miss Michigan Emily Sioma made a splash at the Miss America pageant on Sunday when she used the platform to discuss the Flint water crisis.

“From a state with 84 percent of the U.S. fresh water, but none for its residents to drink, I’m Miss Michigan Emily Sioma,” she said.

The moment lit up social media with people praising Sioma for talking about something other than herself.  What made her use the pageant for such a serious discussion? Sioma revealed it first to JoAnne Purtan on WOMC Mornings.

"This has been an issue that I've always been passionate about, and it's not just the Flint water crisis," Sioma told Purtan. "We're the Great Lakes state. I get to represent such an amazing place. Yet there are people in this state who don't have access to clean water. There are now so many communities that have Pfas (contaminants) in their water." 

"There are places in Lansing, in Kalamazoo, in Lansing, Alpena, in Ann Arbor even, where I've been living, that have Pfas in their water... Detroit Public Schools have had to shut off all of their drinking water because so many of their drinking fountains have tested positive for high levels of lead and copper.

"I just couldn't bear to think that I have this amazing opportunity to represent this state on a national stage and I wouldn't take that opportunity to make sure that I'm having a call for action for people in our communities and saying, 'Water is important to us, water is a part of our life and we need to be making sure we're taking care of that and taking care of the people in our state." 

Purtan asked why Sioma wanted to call out the bad parts of the state on such a prominent national stage instead of focusing on more positive aspects of the great Mitten State. Sioma also drew attention for wearing a Black Lives Matter T-Shirt during rehearsals.

"We have to acknowledge our failings in order to make ourselves better," Sioma said. "We have an opportunity as representatives of each of our states to represent not just the good, but unfortunately also the things we to improve upon... Never was my comment meant to be shady as some people have called it. Never was it meant to be a mic drop statement. It simply was a call to action."  

Sioma said her phone has been blowing up with mostly positive reaction since then.

"I was proud to be able to use this moment to talk about something that's really important to me," she said, adding that it was difficult and she was nervous about the negative reaction.

In the end, her statement made world news and Sioma was proud she said it.

"This is what Miss America does," she said. "It empowers women to be able to use their voice."

Sioma, a women’s studies major at the University of Michigan, did not move on to the top 15. Many, though, thought Miss Michigan stole the show.