Mekayla Diehl, the Miss USA contestant drawing national attention and praise for being a "normal" size, went all out with friends and family at the pageant's conclusion Sunday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
They hit the town and did like the locals, consuming beignets, fried gator, crawfish and wine — "to our heart's content," said the 2014 Miss Indiana in a phone interview from the Baton Rouge airport. She flew home to Elkhart Monday afternoon.
Diehl, 25, made it to the top 20 but was ousted when the group was pared down to the top 10.
But by strutting across the stage in a bikini and heels with confidence, even though she wasn't as thin as her competitors, Diehl seemed to steal the show.
"Miss Indiana shows you don't have to be super skinny to be beautiful," tweeted @Hi_ItsKenna. "Finally a contestant that's not a bag of bones," tweeted @terraj21. And this from @k_mck12: "The fact Miss Indiana is not a complete twig makes me really happy."
Diehl spent much of Monday doing interviews — a TV news station from back home (naturally) but also Inside Edition; and NBC has contacted her about a possible Today Show appearance, she said, and Fox News plans to have her on June 10.
Diehl did not contemplate the fuss and has no idea where it's leading. "I'm really just letting everything happen and seeing where this takes me," she said. "I'm advocating for child abuse awareness. I was sexually abused as a child, so I continue to raise awareness and funds for organizations" that help victims.
Most times the spotlight is trained on the extraordinary, not on what's normal. But perhaps Diehl is extraordinary for making the Miss USA pageant with a body that's, if not actually "normal," a bit closer to the norm than the typical beauty pageant contestant's.
She is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and wears a size 4, she said; the average American woman wears a size 12, according to a 2009 survey by Women's Wear Daily. She put her body mass index at 18 percent; the average American woman's BMI is 33 percent, according to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control.
"Well, I'm OK with 'normal,'" said Diehl. "Whatever defines 'normal.' I guess it's better than being weird."
She said she ate well but not crazy well. "I like to fill my plate with vegetables and protein," she said. Protein — does that mean tofu? "No, not tofu! I like a good steak, or grilled chicken. I love fish."
She said she exercises, but not crazily. "I take my dog for walks, ride bikes, go on hikes," she said. "I jump rope, I do plyometrics. I feel great."
As Diehl strutted her stuff wearing a bikini and a big smile during the swimsuit portion of Sunday’s Miss USA show Sunday night, Twitter responded with a flurry of flattery.
I really wanted Miss Indiana to make it to the top 10. She was the only girl up there who had a relatively normal body. #MissUSA2014— Abby Snyder (@NotTooShabby12) June 9, 2014
Miss Indiana shows you don't have to be super skinny to be beautiful.— kennaaa (@Hi_ItsKenna) June 9, 2014
Or for being a “bag of bones”
And for not being a “twig.”
The fact that Miss Indiana is not a complete twig makes me really happy!— Kadee McKoin (@k_mck12) June 9, 2014
There was one person who put it a less flattering way:
Y'all I love miss Indiana!!! She is a thicker pageant girl!!!! ��— Southern Sweetheart (@_sweetsouth_) June 9, 2014
And this seemed to be a compliment, but was it really?
People seemed to relate to her:
#MissIndiana looked beautiful and the most real girl out there ��— brooke conrady (@brookeeconrady) June 9, 2014
Unfortunately for her, she didn’t make it to the Top 10. But viewers were rooting for her.