Ozarks Life: From local police to a national pageant, Hayden Dugger is making a difference

Hayden is the first woman from Laclede County to be Mrs. Missouri American.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:09 AM CDT
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LEBANON, Mo. (KY3) - In Lebanon, the gateway to Commercial Street reads, ‘Our Town, Your Town.’ But it should also say ‘Home Town to Mrs. Missouri American.’

“No matter what happens in life,” Hayden said, “no matter what gets a hold of you, you can fulfill your dreams.”

Hayden’s dream as a little girl in Alabama was to compete in pageants. She did, but she never won one and moved on with life.

“I joined the military police straight out of high school; stationed at Fort Leonard Wood,” Hayden said.

Work and motherhood paused that pageant dream, until one day.

“In 2020, there was a little, local pageant and St. Robert,” Hayden said. “My daughter, Aubrey, was competing in (it) and she wanted me to compete with her; there was a married division.”

And they both won. Hayden then tried the Missouri America Pageant... twice.

“Definitely went back this year and knew I was gonna have fun,” Hayden said. “I was gonna give it my all. Did not expect to take home the title.”

Hayden is the first woman from Laclede County to be Mrs. Missouri American.

She’s the first police officer in the state to be Mrs. Missouri American.

“It was more of a calling for me,” Hayden said about becoming a police officer. “But once I got into it, it is rewarding to help people better their lives.”

“I think the biggest thing was, ‘Wow, we were just so honored to have one of our own police officers become someone famous,’” Lebanon Police Sgt. Kacie Springer said.

Every pageant contestant has a platform or a cause. For Hayden, it’s very personal. She wants to make sure that everyone knows that they have the right to feel safe and that they can reach out for help.

“I nearly lost my life to domestic violence eight years ago from a previous spouse,” Hayden said. “I found that many people are scared to report these issues or do something to kind of help better their lives. So my goal is to educate people on the warning signs, the warning signs I missed.”

As Mrs. Missouri American, Hayden wants to spread her message by visiting every county in the state. She has created “Survivors to Thrivers.” She speaks at many events and hosts the podcast series “From Victim to Victor.”

“She’s a very, very strong young woman,” Sgt. Springer said. “And being a survivor and being able to stand up and do this job every single day and see those domestic violence victims and help pick them up off the ground.”

“Last year (Missouri) ranked number three in the nation for people to most likely become victims of domestic violence,” Hayden said. “So I’m really looking to break that cycle.”

Hayden recently returned from the national pageant in Las Vegas, unfortunately not finishing in the Top 15.

For anyone facing domestic abuse, there are many ways you can get help.

The National Domestic Hotline is a great resource. Its number is 800-799-7233. You can also chat online with the hotline by clicking this link.

There’s also the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. You can click here to view more on that organization.

You can reach out to your local police.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com