Diva Interview : Harley Tilque

There are so many ovarian cancer advocates out there, and we wanted to shine the light on a few of them. This week we sat down with Harly Tilque, she is a young woman using her platform to spread awareness for ovarian cancer. We hope you enjoy getting to know this beautiful, talented, and thoughtful girl.

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Teal Diva: Tell us a little about yourself (What grade are you in, favorite hobby....)

Harley Tilque: I am going to be a rising senior in high school. I have been a competitive dancer since I was 8 years old. Throughout the years I have tried gymnastics, cheer and even swim so I am pretty active in sports. A fun fact is that I was adopted when I was 9.5 months old from China into a military family with 3 older brothers. I am obviously the favorite since I am the only girl, haha. During my free time I usually paint my nails, workout and just watch YouTube while shopping for clothes I probably don't need.

TD-How long have you been competing in pageants? They are called pageants, right? This is a world I do not know a lot about!

HT-I have been competing since I was 13 and I am now 17 but I have been involved in pageants since I was 10. I participate in the Miss America Organization. In North Carolina, there are 2 divisions you can compete in. There's "teen" which is 13-17 and then "Miss" which is 18-25. Before that there is an option for younger girls ages 6-12 to be a Carolina Princess. This is when they get an insight into what it's like to be a titleholder and compete. Your Carolina Princess is like a "mini-me" for a year. You take them to events and it's a mentoring program for young girls to learn life skills like stage presence, public speaking and patience. For me, I was a Carolina Princess for 2 years then I competed in the teen division for 4. It can be a lot to understand how pageants work. The Miss America Organization is actually calling it a competition now instead of a pageant. We are trying to get away from that stereotype because we are the largest provider of scholarships for women. I actually won $5,000 at my state competition which will help go towards my college education. The organization has changed so much since it started 99 years ago but we are evolving as a society and the organization is right there with it.

TD-What do you enjoy most about competing?

HT-I think just learning more about myself and other people. I am a competitive dancer too so I am usually on stage or in a competition for the majority of my life. I like being able to learn how I cope in different situations and help improve my performance each time. It can be stressful sometimes so I think knowing how to deal with that at a younger age is something that I will carry with me when I am older. I also enjoy meeting other people. Sometimes I can be shy but I love connecting with people from different backgrounds or areas.


TD-Why are you an advocate for ovarian cancer?

HT-It's all because of my Humma (my grandmother). She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and only given 2 months to live. Although she was given the opportunity to be a guinea pig for research trials that allowed her 5 more years with us, I realized this disease needed more attention. I didn't even know what ovarian cancer was until I did more research. I learned that it is very uncommon to be diagnosed in stage 1 which breaks my heart. It's because the symptoms are so vague and there is no screen test that makes it difficult to catch. From my own personal experience, I make it a priority to educate everyone on this disease, both men and women.

TD-How do you use your platform to spread awareness for ovarian cancer?

HT-This is a loaded question and I am going to try to keep it simple. Majority of it is through social media, each week I post a #Tealtuesday to my Instagram story. This could be a statistic, new community event, survivor story etc. Another way is just through community events and fundraisers I do. I host fundraising events at my dance studio that include a full day of classes and all the money goes towards research. Through COVID, I wasn't able to do a lot of in-person events so I took advantage of any online opportunities I could.

TD-How do you incorporate teal into competition?

HT-The organization I compete in, each candidate is required to have a social impact initiative. This is an issue that you are passionate about and advocate for. For me, mine is T.E.A.L- Take Early Action & Live. So incorporating it into my competition is actually quite easy because each candidate is required to submit a page long statement about their issue, what they have done and what to do with it in the future. It's usually a hot topic during our private interview portion of the competition. It's a big part that makes the Miss America Organization different from other pageant systems people could compete in it.

TD-What do you want young girls to know about ovarian cancer?

HT-Always listen to your body! I was able to do interviews with 4 different ovarian cancer survivors. Each person's story was different but they all said they wished they listened to their body and took action sooner. I think as a girl, we could think some symptoms are normal or won't last long but don't be afraid to speak up and go get it checked out. I would rather be safe than sorry.

TD-We've heard about a dance you choreographed a dance, tell us about that experience. What did it feel like to come up with the dance and then perform it?

HT-I actually didn't choreograph it, my dance teachers Tracy and McKenize Faggart did. There is no way I could create such an amazing dance like that all by myself. I did have to perform it 4 times on stage within the same week though. I learned this dance back in March of 2021 and it was rough. I didn't even have enough stamina to get through it but after months and months of hard work, I was able to showcase my best abilities on stage. It was great knowing all my hard work paid off but there were days I was crying or stressed I couldn't do it on stage but everything worked out in the end.

TD-Where do you see yourself taking this passion for ovarian cancer awareness?

HT-Although I will age out of the teen division next year and I am free to let go of any work I have done with ovarian cancer, I feel so much more connected to bring awareness and advocate for this disease. I have met and read so many amazing stories and I still want to continue making a change. I don't exactly know what will be the next steps for me but I still want to volunteer and participate in community events to help ovarian cancer.

TD-What are your next steps? (In life, in pageants, in spreading awareness)

HT-At this moment, the next step in pageants is competing at Miss America's Outstanding Teen. This is where a girl from each state competes and tries to win the national title. If I am lucky enough to win that, I will travel across the country for an entire year promoting the organization and putting my marketing plan into action. All that while still completing my senior year of high school. I hope we are back full time so I can have a great senior year with all the fun opportunities. I will still continue competitively dancing at my studio and making the most of the time we lost from COVID. I am also starting the college application process which seems overwhelming right now but I know my teachers and parents will help me figure that out. As far as spreading awareness, I hope to continue interviewing more survivors to get their stories out to a higher audience of people. Hopefully with schools back in session, I am able to visit schools and talk to high schoolers about what I have learned and ways they can help.

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We are so incredibly proud to have you as an ovarian cancer advocate Harley! Along with her advocacy she is also humble, but we can brag on her a little bit. Harley was just crowned “Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen 2021”! This Sunday if you’re in the Concord NC area, McKenzie Jade’s is having a Harley Party! In honor of Harley being crowned MNCOTeen and her journey to Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition!


You can follow Harley on her journey by following her on Instagram @harleytilque which is my personal or my pageant page which is @maoteennc. A favorite hashtag for Harley is always #tealfortilque because that was her "slogan" this whole year.

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