Cyberbullying Sparks Outpouring of Support for Alabama Pageant Queen

Last week, the newly crowned Miss Alabama from the National American Miss pageant, Sara Milliken, found herself at the center of a cyberbullying storm after a viral Facebook post. The post garnered thousands of comments, some supportive but many critical of Milliken’s appearance. This incident has prompted a discussion on journalism ethics and the standards for moderating online comments.

Sara Milliken, a 23-year-old woman from Atmore, had been dreaming of winning a pageant for years. Her journey began eight years ago when she responded to an open call from the National American Miss pageant. After competing twice without success, Milliken finally clinched the title of Miss Alabama in 2024. Described as a “plus-size” participant, Milliken’s win was met with a mix of praise and harsh criticism.

While many congratulated Milliken on her achievement and commended her for breaking beauty stereotypes, others voiced their disapproval, questioning the pageant’s decision and making hurtful comments about her appearance. The backlash extended to WKRG-TV Digital Reporter Summer Poole, who interviewed Milliken, with both receiving personal attacks on social media.

In response to the flood of negative comments, Poole and WKRG decided to limit comments on their posts, invoking the practice of comment moderation to minimize harm. This action is in line with the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which emphasizes the importance of respectful and diverse storytelling while upholding the principles of truth and fairness in journalism.

Despite the cyberbullying, Milliken has found support from across the country, gaining thousands of new followers on social media and receiving offers of sponsorship for the national pageant. While she has been able to move past the hurtful remarks, Milliken hopes to raise awareness about the impact of cyberbullying and the potential consequences it can have on individuals’ mental health.

As the conversation around cyberbullying continues to grow, Milliken remains focused on spreading positivity and turning a negative experience into a platform for advocacy. She emphasizes the need for empathy and understanding in online interactions, highlighting the power of words to either uplift or harm others. Through her resilience and determination, Milliken is working to combat cyberbullying and promote a culture of kindness and support in the digital realm.