Before Brooke Bezanson answers any question, she seems to take a deep internal breath, giving herself an extra few second to compose herself.

For a Miss USA competitor, she is a little bit awkward.

Her sister, 26-year-old Heather Bezanson, said the state judges called her younger sister “a weirdo” and “a breath of fresh air.”

Bezanson, 20, is headed to Las Vegas this week to compete in the 2017 Miss USA pageant. Bezanson was crowned Miss Montana in September 2016, securing her place in the national competition.

The 2016 Miss Montana competition was the first pageant Brooke Bezanson had ever competed in. But she had watched her cousins compete and decided she’d like to try it.

“We’d just finished a round of golf and she just said, ‘I think I’m going to run for Miss Montana,’” Heather Bezanson said.

Part of the reason Brooke Bezanson wanted to compete was because she views herself as different than those she has seen win the competitions in the past. Bezanson grew up with ADHD and dyslexia. She didn’t excel in school and she saw the education system as flawed.

Because she didn’t learn things the way other people learned things, she felt like she was viewed as either lazy or stupid, she said.

“The thing that drives me crazy about education is, if you aren’t good at your education, you have no confidence, you get depressed,” Bezanson said.

When she felt like she was failing at being a student, Bezanson turned to art and movies as a way to remind herself that life is good and worth living, she said. She had to remind herself she was good at stuff, even if it wasn’t school.

Bezanson is studying media arts at the University of Montana and wants to animate movies. She imagines creating things like animators at Studio Ghibli, which produced "Ponyo", "Spirited Away" and "My Neighbor Totoro.'' She loves 2D animation and was angry at Disney for moving away from it.

Bezanson sees herself as a contestant people can relate to. No one likes to be judged, she said, but if she won the competition, she could show young girls they don’t have to fit one personality type, or take a certain path, to be confident.

Given the stories former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado shared about her time as the reigning champ of the competition, Bezanson wants to be clear about how she will live if she were to win. 

“If you pick me, you get me,” she said. “You aren’t going to get this person who is going to starve herself or wear outfits she doesn’t like.”

She has spent a lot of time prepping for the interview portions of the competition. She feels the emphasis the competition puts on the interview is why she stood out at Miss Montana.

As she heads off to Las Vegas this week, she hopes the Missoula community will support her. She doesn’t think Missoula sees itself as a big pageant town, but she thinks it would be cool for someone from the town to win the competition.

Picking Bezanson would show the competition is trying to change and head in a different direction, Heather Bezanson said.

The winner of the Miss USA competition moves on to the Miss Universe contest. President Donald Trump owned the competition from 1996 to 2015, before WME bought it from him. Deshauna Barber of the District of Columbia was the 2016 winner of Miss USA.