ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The Miss Alaska pageant requires contestants to perform a public service project. Under Debbe Ebben's silver tiara is evidence of hers.
She has raised more than $4,000 for children's cancer research, and last weekend she delivered on a promise to people who pledged by allowing her hair to be buzzed off.
She's proud of raising money, but the underlying message is for children who lose their hair because of cancer treatments.
"You're proving it's OK to be bald regardless of whether you chose to be or not," Ebben said.
Ebben, 23, was motivated to get involved with the St. Baldrick's Foundation by another beauty queen, Miss Virginia 2008 Tara Wheeler. Near the end of her reign, Wheeler decided to raise $50,000 for St. Baldrick's and pledged to become a "shavee" if she reached her goal.
"It's my job as a title holder to make a really bold statement, and to be someone that people can look up to, and make an impact on the community. And that was really why I fell in love with it," Ebben said. "It was something that was different. It was something that was unique. It was something that I could do and accomplish in a community and was something that everyone could get involved with."
Everyone included her mother Julie, who also pledged to shave her head.
Debbe Ebben's turn began with auctioning off ponytails of her hair. A barber finished the job.
Ebben has not decided whether to grow her hair out as the Miss Alaska Pageant approaches in June, with the chance to compete in the Miss America Pageant. She doesn't think stubble will hurt her chances.
"I don't see it as anything negative," she said. "Girls wear extensions. Girls wear weaves. Girls wear wigs. There's no difference. The true beauty is what you emanate yourself. That's really what the Miss America organization is about. It's not what you look like, it's how you represent and carry yourself."
Alisa Parrent, director of the Miss Chugiak-Eagle River program that Ebben won, calls Ebben courageous.
"There's a lot of young girls who are just recently being diagnosed with cancer, that are going to be faced with losing their hair, and maybe they've always dreamed of being Miss America, and the idea of losing their hair is just devastating to them," Parrent said. "So to see Debbe, who is a beauty queen, and who says it's OK to beautiful and to be bald, that's just really touching."