The reigning Miss Amory shares her experience with breast cancer on the pageant stage and beyond. written by Melanie Crownover photographed by Joe Worthem
very beauty queen on the pageant circuit has a philanthropy, a platform that she advocates for in competitions and throughout her reign. But not many women vying for a crown have a cause as close to the heart as Miss Amory, Molly May. Born in Amory and raised in Houston, Mississippi, Molly was only 8 years old when her mother, Debra May, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. “Even then, she just wanted to help,” Debra said. “She didn’t know it, but she did just by being there. She gave this scared single mom a reason to fight.” Molly watched as her mother endured a double mastectomy and aggressive chemotherapy treatments to beat the disease. She’s now a 15-year survivor. Unfortunately, Debra tested positive during treatment for BRCA1 — a gene mutation associated with an increased risk of breast cancer that frequently passes to the next generation. Knowing that she could carry the gene shadowed Molly through her formative years and led her to take on breast cancer awareness as her cause in her first major competition. Winning the crown as Miss Mississippi’s Most Outstanding Teen in 2012, Molly moved on to place in the top five finalists and win the talent portion of Miss America’s Most Outstanding, singing “I Am Changing” from “Dreamgirls.” Following her state reign, she decided to take a year off from the pressures of the pageant circuit to enjoy her first year at Mississippi State University. But the year off didn’t turn out quite as she’d planned. “They called it stage zero,” she said. “I tested positive for BRCA1, and they found a radial scar [lesion] in my right breast. I think they said six in every 15,000 get that diagnosis.
20 INVITATION | May 2018