Before the expensive gowns and diamond encrusted crowns, Kaitlin Monte had a bulls-eye on her slender back.
The current Miss New York was puny and “quirky” when she started high school, an easy mark for a bully’s barbs.
“They targeted me for everything from my physical appearance, to my grades, to my behavior in class,” Monte, 23, told the Daily News before flying to Las Vegas to compete in the Miss America pageant.
When she walked through the halls in school, her gaze was always fixed to the floor.
Every time she went online, a barrage of nasty, anonymous instant messages would fill her screen.
It got so unbearable that she remembers locking herself in the bathroom of her childhood home in Rochester, refusing to go back to school.
“I was so young at the time I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to about it,” she said.
“How many more lives do we have to lose before we really start doing something?” Monte said. “No one is immune to this issue. Nobody is safe.”
In 2011, Monte started Project Empower, a non-profit that teaches students life skills to make them less susceptible to bullies. “That so many kids now are getting to the point where (suicide) is a viable option is terrifying,” she said.
Monte credits her mother for helping her break the hold of her own pint-size oppressors, urging her to keep her schedule filled and enroll in theater classes.
“My scope broadened. It really helped me see there would be an end to this,” she said.
Before she knew it, she was enrolled in college at 16. Monte graduated from the University of Tampa at 19 with a 3.85 GPA.
The brunette beauty said the idea that she will vie for the Miss America crown still feels foreign.
“It really is like someone telling you that you’re going to the moon,” she joked.
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