From Overweight Teen to Beauty Queen

Miss America contestant Bree Boyce’s 112-pound weight loss has inspired her to spread the message about the real meaning of beauty—and how to get fit the healthy way.

Amy Spencer
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"It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest,” says Bree Boyce, 22, in her soothing Southern accent. The reigning Miss South Carolina is talking about how she felt at just 17, when, at 5 foot 7, she weighed 234 pounds and wore a size 18. Not only was Bree uncomfortable in her own skin, she says, but the extra pounds were taking a toll on her body. “I had to use an inhaler for a while because it was hard for me to breathe,” she recalls. “The weight was hindering my airways.” She also experienced painful knee problems.

Bree tried to lose weight by experimenting with carb-free and soup diets, but she always regained the pounds. Then, in the summer of 2007, right before her senior year of high school, Bree decided to give it one final shot. Her healthcare provider had told her the weight needed to go. Plus, “I was tired of getting out of breath doing the simplest of tasks—and not being able to go shopping with my friends or to pool parties and social outings because I wasn’t confident in myself,” she says. So she decided to cut out soda and processed foods and started taking a daily walk through her neighborhood.

By the spring of 2008, she was 54 pounds lighter and more confident. A teacher who worked with Bree on the pep squad suggested she compete in her school pageant, Miss West Florence High School. Bree thought, I may not be as thin as the other girls, but I have a personality and I deserve a chance. She competed and beat out 37 other girls. “I was shocked!” she says. “It was the moment I started to really believe in myself.”

When Bree lost 75 pounds, a family friend urged her to participate in the local Miss Florence pageant, which offered scholarship awards and the chance to spread the word about a healthy lifestyle. She won again. Then, she won the Miss South Carolina crown, more than $20,000 of scholarship money, and a spot on the Miss America stage.

Today Bree weighs 122 pounds and wears a size 0 or 2, and she couldn’t be happier. Not because she’s skinnier, but because she’s healthier. To Bree, that’s a big distinction—and why she competes in pageants in the first place. “I think when people look at Miss America they think about beauty, but my platform is about inspiring people and showing them anything in life is possible,” she says.

January 2012