How Courtney Rice is Using Her Title as Miss New Jersey for America Pageant to Empower Women During Women's History Month

How Courtney Rice is Using Her Title as Miss New Jersey for America Pageant to Empower Women During Women's History Month

"I am Miss New Jersey but I am more than just a person with a tiara and a crown. I am here to raise awareness," says thirty-two-year-old Courtney Rice.

Courtney Rice began her journey in pageantry at seventeen when she competed for the Miss New Jersey Teen USA title. She explains how it was a culture shock for her, but it was a rewarding experience overall. Following this pageant, she competed for the Local Miss America title Miss Atlantic County. Even though she did not place in either one of these categories, she learned a lot from her experiences while competing for those prestigious titles and knew one day she would come back competing in pageantry. Ultimately, she decided to take a break from pageants to focus on school and her career. She attended Atlantic Cape Community College, majoring in Performing Arts, and received her associate's degree in 2012. She then transferred to Rowan University, where she majored in communications and received her bachelor's and master's degrees in communication studies and public relations. Following college, she started her healthcare communications career but soon switched to hospitality PR.

In 2022, she stumbled upon the New Jersey America Pageant when a friend competed for the title of Miss New Jersey for America Strong. Seeing her friend, Danielle Sammut, compete inspired her to get back into pageantry, and she competed for the exact title the following year, in 2023, and won the title of Miss New Jersey for America Strong and attended nationals in August of that same year, where she met other contestants in the same category. 

"Even though we are competing for the title, we were doing respective work in our respective states with our platform, so it was really nice to see like-minded women who are so community service-driven have big goals," she says.

Rice partnered with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey as part of her platform, which tackles food and menstruation equity. She always understood where food came from because of her father's career path and her job in hospitality PR, where she worked with various clients within the food and wine industry, inspiring the food part of her platform. Additionally, she attended one of the community food bank seminars in New Jersey. She became aware of the lack of feminine products at work, school, and extracurricular activities, which inspired her to raise awareness of this issue. 

"I was [thrilled] to tackle this issue, and it [played a role in] the creation of Operation Barbie because even though it was inspired by the Barbie movie that came out last summer, it also made me tackle menstruation equity," she says.

Rice collected and donated just over one hundred feminine products to the community food bank in two weeks, which was a huge success. In addition to her admirable assistance in helping women in need, a law was recently passed in New Jersey requiring all public schools to provide free menstruation products for students.

Source: Courtney Rice

"For me, raising awareness on not just my social accounts but also everywhere I go and continuing to educate people on [issues they aren't aware are happening] and learning about how important hygiene is [while ensuring full access to feminine products is so important]," she says.

Partnering with the New Jersey Community Food Bank has given Rice many opportunities to raise awareness. For example, she hosted a holiday drag brunch at Cardinal Restaurant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she raised $1,298.90 for the food bank.

"When I talk about food and equity, nobody should be excluded regardless of gender, sexual identity," she says.

Source: Courtney Rice

While Rice's reign is up in a few months, she still aspires to raise awareness and help those in need. One of her future goals is to establish a community food bank specifically for the LGBTQ+ community. She was motivated to pursue this goal due to the lack of reliable resources, unsafe environments, and the uncertainty of where to obtain food. She also aspires to work closely with national organizations focusing on menstruation equity because some states do not take this issue seriously.

"When I was younger, I had a very different view of pageantry, but it changed me when I was a little bit older. I realized how much of an impact I've made this past year. It has been life-changing for me because this is something I didn't even think I could do, and I exceeded my expectations during my reign," she says.

Rice hopes to inspire others to take action on critical social issues and positively impact their communities by finding their voice along with an issue that is very near and dear to their heart.

"Always remember your why," she says. You are doing this for yourself and because you want to make a difference in people's lives."

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