In the final round of the 2023 Miss New Mexico pageant, two contestants are left on stage, one from Alamogordo and the other from Las Cruces. After some stress-building time passes, the speaker announces the words that Miss Las Cruces had been waiting to hear, “first runner-up, Miss Alamogordo.” As of June 10, the title of Miss New Mexico belongs to NMSU student Lianna Hartshorn.
“I was kind of in shock that I was the winner because the year before I was the runner-up for Miss New Mexico Teen,” Hartshorn said. “You know, it feels very rewarding at that stage because you have already put a lot of time and effort into being where you are now.”
Hartshorn’s coach, Hector Chavez, helped Hartshorn prepare for the competition by making changes as small as perfecting her walk. According to Chavez, he believed Hartshorn was a “well-rounded girl, a strong competitor and someone who could go to nationals.”
Chavez also helped Hartshorn prepare for her interview. “Interview practice, actually, there’s a lot to it,” Hartshorn said. “You’re doing your research about what’s going on, and I would sit down with my coach or he would bring in other people that had experience about judging pageants or being within that industry. They would just ask you questions about yourself, what’s going on within your community, what’s going on within the world and what you’re planning to do with your title.”
This pageant appearance wasn’t Hartshorn’s first time being called on stage for her achievements. Prior to being crowned Miss New Mexico, she won multiple STEM and community service awards. Hartshorn is also proud to embrace being the first Jewish Miss New Mexico, she said.
“What is most important to me is my relationship with God,” Hartshorn said. “The fact that I am able to glorify him and be able to use this position for spreading his love and his message is really amazing.” According to Hartshorn, her father is the head rabbi at their synagogue, but her connection to God is one she made on her own.
“Being able to do more through God from the position I was able to acquire really came from myself,” Hartshorn said. “I mean, I really do thank [my parents] for, you know, pushing me as a child to learn more about God, but if you don’t have that strong foundation in yourself then I feel like there’s no reason to try to do that within your life.”
Hartshorn has also worked with multiple local organizations for community service, including the Children’s Reading Alliance as part of her Education Across the Nation initiative. Her appreciation and belief in the power of education is rooted in seeing how school improved the lives of her own parents, she said.
“My parents grew up very poor,” Hartshorn said. “So, it wasn’t until they took their own initiative to take their education in their own hands that they were able to get a good degree from New Mexico State, get a good job and kind of build their life from scratch. [The Children’s Reading Alliance] is a focus to help students become more appreciative within their education, especially since we’re seeing an all-time low in testing and overall comprehensiveness in education across America. Especially in New Mexico, considering we are ranked dead last. It’s my passion to try and instill that appreciation of education in the children within New Mexico, specifically.”
Another way Hartshorn spreads her influence is through the Missy Initiative, designed to help bring other women into competition in states with low pageant participation. She makes this possible through the online accessory shop, Lianna’s Closet, which eliminates the cost of buying competition attire by reusing donated clothes. Additionally, Hartshorn began her days as Miss Las Cruces by spreading awareness about the importance of a healthy heart at local schools.
“We are seeing such an uprising in children abusing alcohol and vaping,” Hartshorn said. “So, I use my love for anatomy and science to go to schools and teach students about what physically happens within your heart whenever you do these unhealthy practices, how you can keep your heart healthy, and teaching them CPR.”
Hartshorn is currently an NMSU senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. After graduation, she hopes to continue her education through medical school to complete her life-long goal of becoming a physician, she said.
Hartshorn will compete for the 2024 Miss America crown in the organization’s 96th competition. The date and location of the pageant have yet to be announced.