Miss America 2008, Kirsten Haglund, opens up about relapsing and her new I Am Second film. (Photo Source: I Am Second)

Miss America 2008, Kirsten Haglund, opens up about relapsing and her new I Am Second film. (Photo Source: I Am Second)

In 2008, Kirsten Haglund became one of the most recognizable figures in the country when she won the Miss America pageant in only her third pageant ever. Instantly, she became the embodiment of perfection. But as she traveled the country she began telling a different story.

Years before being crowned, she was in a dark place. As a young ballet dancer, she began chasing perfection and turned on her own body: She became anorexic.

The rules she created for herself controlled her. And it all came crashing down one day on a treadmill where she realized she was meant for so much more.

But while that started her down a road to recovery, the path wasn’t always straight. There were hiccups, detours, and relapses. In a wide-ranging interview with I Am Second, she delivered a message to those who struggle with addiction and eating disorders that have found, and may find, themselves relapsing.

“It’s very normal. It’s very common. Don’t beat yourself up about it,” she implored during a video interview from her New York City apartment.

“It’s not ideal, but it is OK. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t get up, brush yourself off, and make the next right choice. … One mistake does not have to mean the end of your recovery. It’s common, It happens. It happened to me.”

“It’s not a death sentence,” she added.

What happens if a slip-up turns into something more? Reach out and get help, she said. Recovery isn’t a perfect process, and there are those who understand that and can help.

“Perfection doesn’t exist!”

Watch the full interview below, in which she also talks about the craziest story during her time as Miss America, the parts of the film that made her tear up, and even a message for all the Gabby Douglas haters. (The relapse part starts at the 27:45 mark.)

And be sure to check out Haglund’s full I Am Second film: