While serving as Miss Rocky Gap, Emma Lutton, of New Windsor, had to combine her philanthropic efforts and pageant-winner responsibilities with another entirely separate set of duties as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Coast Guard.
Lutton won the Miss Rocky Gap title in March, and the last several months of her title reign have overlapped with her final deployment with the Coast Guard in the Caribbean. Now that she's back in the states, Lutton is looking to expand her role in the Miss America Pageant system as she competes against other local title holders for the role of Miss Maryland this week.
Unlike many others who began their pageantry careers earlier, Lutton said the Miss Rocky Gap competition was only her second ever attempt at winning a crown. She said she was inspired after seeing the work her younger sister was doing as a title holder.
"I had this misconception that pageants were just about looking pretty and being dumb," Lutton said. "Then I realized how big of a difference I could make with charities and community service."
Under the recommendation of current Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer, a Hampstead resident, Lutton decided to compete in the Miss Rocky Gap contest — the very same contest that started Brewer on her path to the Miss Maryland title.
Lutton said she was attracted to the Miss America pageants due to their emphasis on scholarships, which she is currently eying to help pay for graduate school. Lutton graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2015 and is currently interested in studying to become a patent lawyer.
Though her father and older brother both served in the Navy, Lutton said she wasn't initially interested in the military.
"I thought, 'You guys are cool, but I'm going to do my own cool thing,'" Lutton said. "My senior year, I realized I really wanted to be an engineer, but I love people and I love making a difference while not just sitting in a cubical."
After visiting the Coast Guard Academy, Lutton said she knew it was the place for her. She said one of the main draws of the Coast Guard over the other military branches is the high percentage of women in the service and the lack of barriers for females.
"I didn't want to work really hard and find out that a certain path is closed off to me just because I'm a girl," she said.
For her platform, Lutton chose to support the Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, providing care packages to service members overseas. She said she's also passionate about supporting military family members, who don't always have the support they need."
"There's not enough out there for families who are picking up and moving when we go," Lutton said. "The most popular jobs for military spouses are nursing and teaching, and it's extraordinarily difficult to get re-certified every time they move."
Emma's mother, Patty, said she is appreciative of her daughter's service in and out of the military.
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"When she decided to go into the Coast Guard, we were a little apprehensive to have two out of our three kids in the military," she said, "but we're incredibly proud of her."
Lutton has been competing in the Miss Maryland pageant throughout the week, with preliminary interviews, swimsuit, talent and evening gown competitions taking place. Saturday, the field will be narrowed down to the top 10, one of whom will be crowned Miss Maryland by the end of the night.
Lutton said she's excited just to make it this far, and is thrilled that both the pageantry and her service can complement each other.
"I think the two things really help support each other," Lutton said. "Being in the Coast Guard helps make me a stronger woman that little girls can look up to, and being in the pageant can help the visibility of the Coast Guard which is a smaller service."