In July, Salt Lake City resident Sasha Sloan jumped on the video-sharing platform TikTok, to tell the story of an elementary school student who was having behavioral problems.
He was taken to the principal, who asked why the boy was acting out. The boy said his back had been hurting, due to a sore from wearing ill-fitting underwear that were in his father’s size.
“We can’t expect kids to keep up in classrooms when their basic needs aren’t being met,” Sloan said in the video.
Sloan, who was named Miss Utah in June and has over 1.3 million followers on the social media app, announced she was helping the Granite Education Foundation with a backpack drive to help provide meals, hygiene kits and clothing to underserved children in Utah.
Sloan’s goal was to raise money to assemble 100 backpacks packed with school supplies. Within 24 hours, she had met that goal and more, with the post receiving more than 90,000 likes and 264,000 views as of Aug. 31, a little over a month after she’d posted it.
“I was super heartened by how excited the online community was about getting involved with the project. We ended up collecting more than $1,000 in cash, about $1,200,” Sloan said. “The Granite School District ended up vastly exceeding their goal for backpacks, and was able to send thousands of kids back to school prepared with what they received.”
From TikTok to tiaras
Sasha Sloan is a woman who wears many hats — or crowns. At 24 years old, she has over 52 million likes on TikTok, a hit series on the social network called “Noble House of Black,” a series she started on TikTok that follows characters from the Harry Potter series. She’s also started her own business, Archive Sunday, which sells “fandom-inspired” wall collages, accessories and apparel.
And, Sloan, who was also 2020′s Miss Greater Salt Lake, was named Miss Utah in June and will compete at the Miss America pageant in December and has dedicated her reign to giving back, inspired by her time working at Walt Disney World.
“My favorite thing about my Disney experience is that the most common wish of the Make-A-Wish Foundation is to go to Disney World,” Sloan said. “What I got to do at work was be the person in the room with Cinderella, as a child was fulfilling their Make-A-Wish wish to meet Cinderella. And that is powerful, to have a child’s literal dying wish fulfilled and to get to be the person to do that.”
“[Disney] really taught me that work does not feel like work to me if I know that I’m doing something good.”
Since winning Miss Utah, Sloan focused on using her platform for things like the Granite School District’s backpack drive, and on doing work for the refugee community in Utah.
One of the main organizations Sloan has worked with for several years is Utah Refugee Connection, a nonprofit that makes connections between refugees and the community.
“She’ll frequently share things on social media that we’re working on,” said Amy Dott Harmer, who runs Utah Refugee Connection. “And kids always, girls always, love a lady in a crown. Anyone that looks like a princess.”
Behind the crown
Although many may think of Miss America and Miss Utah as mere beauty pageants, a big part of Sloan’s year as Miss Utah is her social impact platform.
“The more organizations that I partnered with, I saw that a community that has sort of a magnified need for empowerment for support is in refugee communities, specifically,” Sloan said.
At the same time, Sloan said in 2018 she saw a “massive wave” of xenophobia, resulting in “hatred and frustration for people that are different.”
“To me, it was a no-brainer to switch gears, and try to focus all of my efforts on a community that I really felt needed it the most, and to use my platform as Miss Greater Salt Lake, and then as Miss Utah, to educate the Miss Utah community and my online following about the refugee crisis and help them understand their refugee neighbors a little bit better.”
This social mission is what connected Sloan with Granite School District, who actually reached out to her on the backpack drive, since “the vast majority of refugee students in Utah are resettled into the Granite School District,” Sloan said.
Miss Utah is a full time job. Although Sloan is an incoming senior at Brigham Young University, contractually she’s not allowed to go to work or school for the next few months while she prepares for the Miss America pageant.
After her year of service at Miss Utah, Sloan plans to do one more semester before she finishes at BYU, and then pursue graduate school, hoping to do pro bono legal work for refugees — with a dream to be a New York Times bestselling fantasy author also on the horizon, as she’s been writing stories since she was a child.
“I think it’s great when people that have influenced find ways to lift and lighten the burdens of the people around them,” Harmer said. “Sasha has things she’s passionate about, and she is wanting to use her voice for many of the voiceless people in our community. And I think that’s kind of remarkable.”
“I would hope, and I think I could say, that she’d probably do it regardless of if she was wearing a crown or not.”