Living a full life after taking off the crown
by Heather French, DAAP '97, MDes '01, Miss America 2000
Continue to speak out. Winning the Miss America 2000 title gave me the opportunity not only to travel across the United States speaking about the plight of our nation's forgotten heroes, but also to gain a national perspective on the issues. My concern, as the daughter of a veteran, is to find ways to increase awareness, education and funding for veterans' needs.
Put words into action. We have already made some progress against homelessness. Partnering with the Manufactured Housing Institute and SENCO, we created the "Homes for Heroes" program, which provides houses to formerly homeless veterans. The Heather French Foundation for Veterans was also formed to serve homeless veterans, and we have established a dot-com to help raise funds. I am also the spokesperson for the campaign to help Vietnam veterans fight Hepatitis C.
Keep on lobbying. Throughout my Miss America year, my platform often took me to Washington to lobby members of Congress and the Senate on veterans' issues and legislation. Recently, the "Stuart Collick-Heather French Henry Homeless Veterans Assistance Act" (H.R. 2716) passed with flying colors before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and the Senate version of the bill is currently being reviewed.
Finish school. Traveling more than 20,000 miles a month as Miss America, I saw first hand the importance of education as the way to better the lives of all Americans. I committed to live by example and made education my No. 1 priority. After my Miss America year, I returned to UC and completed my master's degree at the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. My graduate thesis focused on designs for garments inspired by heroic events throughout American military history.
Have a storybook wedding. After completing my Miss America obligations in September 2000, I married Lt. Gov. Stephen Henry of Kentucky at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, followed by an old-fashioned carriage ride to our reception for 1,500 guests at a historic Louisville hotel. As a fashion-design graduate, I was pleased to be able to create my white silk peau de soie gown in collaboration with designers in New York and Nashville.
Start a family. A beautiful daughter, Harper Reneé Henry, arrived the following July. She weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces and was named after her mother and grandmother.