Jessie Bennett

Senior Oncology Specialist

Eisai US

White Hall

Age: 38

Jessie Bennett

Jessie Bennett is on hiatus from her volunteer position as executive director of the Miss Arkansas pageant because she’s helping reshape the Miss America pageant alongside Gretchen Carlson.

Bennett, a former Miss Arkansas, first sought the crown because she needed money for school. She transferred to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock after one year at another college and became ineligible for funding available to entering freshmen. But the Miss Arkansas program connects women to scholarships regardless of whether they win, she said.

At UA Little Rock, Bennett earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, but she gained so much more from the pageant: confidence and a broader perspective.

“I think when people think of pageantry they think of ‘Miss Congeniality’: ultra competitive and a very strange environment for women. But our program is really not that way. … It’s a village of women supporting other women.”

“The older you get, the more you understand that the world is a whole lot different from you and you have to learn to embrace it and that you are responsible for encouraging and creating a better environment,” Bennett added. And she does that by working for the pageants.