BINGHAMTON, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – Miss Upstate New York is using her platform to bring awareness to a pair of issues close to her: debilitating forms of anxiety and discrimination against ethnic hair.

Kennedy Campbell is a senior at Syracuse University studying musical theater and forensic science.

As a young child, Campbell suffered from Selective Mutism, which meant that she did not speak outside of her home.

Campbell says singing and performing became her refuge and a safe space.

In high school on Long Island, she founded Arts for Anxiety, encouraging others to overcome their challenges.

With her new status within the Miss America pageant system, Campbell is bringing attention to the pain people of color feel when they are subjected to hair discrimination.

She’s advocating for other states to pass the CROWN Act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair.

New York passed it in 2019.

It outlaws discrimination against African-Americans in employment or education if they wear braids, an afro or other hair styles popular in Black culture.

Campbell says she loves being a source of inspiration for others.

“I have received several emails just saying how much I’ve helped and how much my website has helped and how much they’ve learned from me. It’s always nice to know you’re making a difference no matter what level it might be on. Just making an impact on one person’s life can have a snowball effect and could lead them to do great things. So, I’m very happy that I get to reach out to people.”

Campbell just released a book called Rock that Crown chronicling her own experiences with hair discrimination.

This Sunday, she’ll be meeting with members of the SUNY Cortland chapter of the NAACP from 11 to 3.

And in May, she’ll compete in the Miss New York pageant taking place in Corning.

For more information on her efforts, go to