What is Miss Vermont Earth up to?


BELLA WILLIAMS, WHO grew up in Orwell and was crowned Miss Vermont Earth in 2023, has raised hundreds of dollars to purchase and donate sanitary pads for girls at schools in South Africa, including here at Hindle High School in Cape Town. Photos provided

There’s so much most of us don’t know about pageant life. What we see — the nails, the skin, the makeup, the wardrobes, the glamour — is just surface… The girls and women who compete in these competitions are there for more than just the beauty; each one of them has a mission. Take for example, Isabella Williams from Orwell.

Did you know, Orwellian “Bella” Williams, was crowned Miss Vermont Earth in 2023? Yep, that’s a thing. It leads to national and international competitions.

“I took every little bit of Vermont I could,” said Williams on an Instagram post last month. “I showed our country just what we believe in: We believe in protecting our planet. We believe in staying authentic to ourselves. We believe in educating our children. And with these beliefs, and my community, and most importantly my family, I had a national platform to highlight these concepts before our peers. Showing them there is hope for a greener tomorrow. There is hope to be your real self. There is hope that education will stop coming with such a high price.”

Following her victory, Williams was “empowered to start an interview series about strong girls around the world,” which became the inspiration for her book “Strong Girls” (self-published on Amazon in November 2023).

“My first interview was with a local farmer in South Africa,” Williams said in a recent conversation with the Independent, adding that South Africa has become a home away from home for her. “This farmer learned how to farm to keep her township alive.” After that interview, Williams was invited to help a group of nonprofit leaders speak to school-age girls about menstruation and access to sanitary pads.

“Most girls here don’t have access to pads, which is a huge problem because they stay home and skip school to avoid free bleeding; and they are using newspaper,” Williams explained.


Using her social media platform, Williams put this message out to her nearly 13,000 followers and found an “uproar of responses.” So, she started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to purchase pads for the local girls. With the money raised she has been able to distribute “huge packages of pads.” But that’s really only the first step…

Williams hopes that the change can be more systemic. She is registering Strong Girls as a nonprofit, and aims to “help young girls around the globe get access to the encouragement, education and healthcare they deserve.

“We need to get the government’s attention, and make them responsible,” Williams championed.

With fervent passion and excellent stage presence (thank you pageant days), Williams has visited many townships in South Africa and led motivational assemblies for girls and young women at primary, secondary and high schools, as well as other public venues.

“We are the future, and we are going to change the world!” she excitedly shouts into crowds. 

“What started with donating basic necessities to girls who need them has completely transformed,” she wrote in a recent post. “That contribution you gave opened up a door for me to walk in and empower every single one of these young women and men to believe in themselves.

“I believe confidence is the first step in any change,” Williams continued. “Kids need to find the confidence to speak up for what they believe in and when they speak up, they will change the world.”

Such a nice message. But how does it sound to hundreds of low-income, black, South African girls and women coming from a white, 24-year-old pageant queen?

“In America, I’m poor, from a small town, and went through a lot of personal hardships growing up,” Williams said. “But here in South Africa, I’m a rich, white woman with a platform… When I speak to the girls and women here, they listen; they get pumped… After I’m finished talking to them, I notice they flock to be close to me. Everyone just wants to feel understood and supported.”

“Bella, what you have done here in South Africa — I am speechless,” said Buntu Rael Joseph, a member of a nonprofit group dedicated to helping youths. “You took from your empty pockets and you made sure our girls are smiling… you restored whatever was taken away from these young girls… Thank you, my friend. You are an angel sent from above.”

What’s next for Miss Vermont Earth 2023?

Well, she’ll be traveling to the Dominican Republic in March, back to South Africa in June and then onto Nigeria after that — spreading the message that “strong girls change the world!”

Editor’s Note: Support and follow Bella Williams @missisabellawilliams or @stronggirlschangetheworld. Find her GoFundMe campaign at gofundme.com and search “Healthier Futures for South African Strong Girls.”

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