The 2018 Miss Massachusetts Pageant offers women more than just a chance to wear dazzling evening gowns while vying for a shiny tiara. For many, it’s become a way to draw attention and make noise for social causes close to their hearts.
No one understands this better than 25-year-old local resident Stephanie Masky. Her platform when she takes the stage for the Miss Massachusetts title Saturday is one that has affected her and her family deeply.
“I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was 19,” she said. “It was really tough. I spent a year in pain because the doctors couldn’t diagnose me.”
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Masky explained that it can sometimes be hard for doctors to diagnose because the symptoms can present themselves in so many different ways.
Through Miss Massachusetts she hopes to continue a path of awareness and support for those living with the disease that was sparked when she, too, was a patient.
“I eventually got it under control, and now I have more good days than bad days,” Masky said. “My family and friends have been an amazing support system.”
To help raise awareness for the disease, Masky and her family created the Steph’s Hope foundation.
“We do a lot of fundraisers,” she said. “Since 2012, we’ve actually been able to raise $10,000 for MS research.”
But a win this weekend would mean Masky could continue on to compete in the Miss USA pageant, giving her an even greater opportunity to speak out about MS.
“It would be amazing to talk about MS on such a large scale,” she said.
This will be Masky’s first pageant.
Despite doing some modeling in middle school, Masky has spent most of her time since then focusing on schoolwork. She graduated from Middleboro High School in 2011 and received her bachelor’s in psychology from Bridgewater State University in 2016.
She now works as a counselor at the McLean Hospital in Belmont for kids struggling with mental illness.
“It’s hard, but it’s very rewarding,” she said. “It’s amazing getting to see them leave so much happier and healthier.”
With the pageant rapidly approaching, Masky says she feels more excited than nervous.
However, one thing is especially weighing on her mind.
“Walking in heels,” she said, “is very terrifying for me! MS affects my legs, and sometimes they can get shaky.”
But despite her fears, Masky said she’s not letting her MS hold her back anymore. And she hopes walking in the pageant will inspire others with MS to fight back against the debilitating disease.
“Tomorrow is never promised,” she said. “So you have to go for everything you want today.”
The Miss Massachusetts USA Pageant will take place at the Lowell Auditorium this Saturday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $95 and can be purchased at www.clementeproductions.com/tickets-mass/.