There’s a criticism of millennials that their beliefs and convictions (if any) are very nearsighted—founded only by a concern for how something effects themselves. More and more, though, we’re seeing examples of young adults who smash this stereotype with their ability to influence positive change for others. They all wear different hats in the realm of the work they do, but in Carolina West’s case, it’s not a hat but a crown.

Meet Miss Pennsylvania US International 2017: the show jumping, game-changing, 19-year-old who’s using her super powers for good.

A horse-girl at heart, Carolina has trained with Jodi Ray, Jeff Katz, Santiago Rickard, Carlton Brookes, Kim Prince, and most recently, Kevin Babington through the hunter, jumper, and equitation divisions. She competed this winter in Wellington with her 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood Zabelle-S. “She took me from the children jumpers to the High A/O’s, and even to indoors,” Carolina says of the little bay mare. “I am obsessed with her, and she’s the fastest little horse I’ve ever had. She may be little, but she is spunky!”

She’ll always have a love for the show ring, but Carolina is hanging up her boots for the time being while she focuses on her collegiate education. Carolina previously attended Drexel University and will be transferring to Arizona State University (ASU) in the fall. “After WEF this year, I decided to take a break from riding and focus on my education now that I am in college. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make because riding was my life from such a young age, and it was weird to think about life without it. I plan on picking up the reins again after I graduate college.”

Of course, we love to watch her in the saddle, but Carolina is in a whole other element when competing in her other passion: beauty pageants. “I never really thought I’d ever see myself walking across a stage in a bikini in front of a crowd before or even being able to have the confidence in myself to speak publicly, for that matter. I had wanted to get into modeling for quite some time and didn’t know how to get my foot in the door, so I thought of this as a sign. It turned out to be so much more than that,” Carolina tells us.

“My first pageant was Miss Pennsylvania USA this past winter, and I had no idea what to expect. Honestly, it was the most exhausting two days of my life. Although I didn’t make finals, I walked off that stage feeling that I could do anything. So, I decided, why not try again? I competed for the title of Miss Pennsylvania US International, which is one of the big four pageant systems in the world, and I won! I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I believe that I can do great things with this title, and I will.”

Much more than her initial desire for an opportunity to model, Carolina has tapped into the power of her platform, bringing light and support to those struggling with eating disorders and issues with self-image. A former victim of an eating disorder, herself, Carolina is now in the business of promoting self-love. She’s rarely opened up about her personal struggle, but has graciously shared it with NF Style:

“I still remember the day I wanted to turn my life around for the better. I was jogging home from my third session at the gym, and a group of boys yelled out their window that I was the grossest looking person they had seen. Inside I was crushed, and I thought to myself, what more could I possibly do to make myself look better? I stay the same weight; I go to the gym three times a day, I just don’t know what people want from me? I got home a cried for a bit, at that point something in my head clicked, I didn’t want to feel like this anymore. I wanted to be happy for who I am.

I don’t think people realize how big of a health issue an eating disorder is. Not only are you messing with how your body is supposed to function, but you can develop different illnesses because your immune system is practically ruined. But, there is another part of it, which I found was the hardest to overcome, and that is the mental battle going on in your head 24/7. It never shuts off. At one point, hearing my stomach growl when I was hungry, was like an applause for only eating 800 calories a day. Talking to you in this interview is the first time I have told anyone about my struggle with my weight, besides a few of my best friends. I just want young adults, especially girls, not to idolize these ‘Instagram models’. It gives a false sense of what it takes to be happy.

I want not just to spread my platform and story locally, but, nationwide. I want other young adults out there to know that they are not the only ones in a battle with themselves and that they are not alone. The biggest lesson I learned is not to let yourself down. Once you decide to make a change, stick to it. It is an uphill battle, but that’s what makes us strong. I want to be a role model that everyone can relate to, not someone who is put above anyone else because I have a crown on my head.”

If this is the example that the potential Miss US International will set, then long may she reign. Here’s a look at the Instagram account of Carolina West:

📸 cred: @ajmatl

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Name:  Carolina West

Age: 19

Hometown: Park City, UT

Current location: Philadelphia, PA

Discipline and level of riding: High A/O

Approach to ‘gramming’: I like to post things that show who I am, I don’t like to give people a false impression of who I am.

IG Live or Snapchat: I use both. I love IG live because it is interactive, and Snapchat is huge right now!

Favorite riding clothes brands: I love Animo for my pants and shirts, and Grand Prix for show coats.

Favorite streetwear brands: Brands that I love are Vince, Lululemon, Rag and Bone, and Brandy Melville.

2-3 other accounts you like: @thepattenstandard, @kaliburns, and @fashionbombdaily

Words of advice for a good IG account: I think that you should be real on social media, and be proud of who you are. Don’t give people the impression you are something that you are not.

Not scared of heights or anything. Thank you @konnorwithakay for this amazing shoot 💕

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Already missing it and it hasn’t even been a full 48 hours 😭

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Even the monsoon can’t stop us☝🏼⛈

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You could say I’m kinda obsessed 💕

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Love this flying monkey so much ❤❤

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Whoever loves fine jewelry like me checkout and follow ❤️❤️

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Going Belly Go!! WIHS 2k15

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Photography by Peter Pham and provided by Carolina West and Hannah Patten.

For media inquiries and questions please contact Hannah Patten at [email protected]