Hannah Brown is stronger than ever.
The 25-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was the star of one of the most talked-about seasons of The Bachelorette last year. Though her televised love story had an unexpected ending, Brown went on to become a beloved Bachelor franchise lead for her open, no-BS attitude and confidence -- but that doesn't mean it was easy. Like most reality TV stars, Brown was met with both admirers and haters during her time on the show, which thickened her skin for the better.
"The biggest thing I've discovered about myself, now being in the spotlight, is I am so much stronger than I thought I was," Brown recently shared in ET's Unfiltered series. "At first, being on the Bachelor and seeing critical comments of myself, it would crush me, but now it's like a daily thing. Somebody has said something -- or not just somebody, hundreds, thousands of people have something negative to say about me."
"I have learned that if I'm going to continue to do what I'm supposed to do and move forward, then I cannot let that faze me," she continued. "And sometimes it still hurts, but I've been through a lot this year, and I still have hope of so much more for my life -- regardless of the limitations and expectations that people have for me and what people say about me."
Despite Brown breaking off her engagement with Bachelorette suitor Jed Wyatt, she continued to pave her own path outside of the popular series. She made her way to the dance floor to compete on season 28 of Dancing with the Stars, taking home the Mirrorball trophy and performing on the Dancing with the Stars: Live Tour.
It's no surprise Brown made it to the top. She has been performing from a young age and competed in pageants in her teens, eventually becoming Miss Alabama USA in 2018.
"I saw pageants as a way to be a role model. I think that was always very important to me, to live my life by a certain way that I was proud of and to have those opportunities for scholarship," Brown said. "I have always been an overachiever and competitive and [wanted] to win, but also for something that was going to be impactful for my life, and so I saw doing pageants and scholarships that could be gained from that."
Before taking the Miss Alabama title, Brown took a break from pageants for her mental health when she felt she was losing herself to the constant scrutiny and pressure of being the perfect pageant girl -- putting herself out there in front of random people, "who don't know your heart."
"I was trying to be a version of somebody else," she recalled.
After stepping back and self-reflecting, Brown returned and went on to compete in Miss USA 2018 with the reminder of why she started participating in pageants in the first place.
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Happy Mother’s Day to my crazy momma...who loves me so. I can’t do this amazing life without you. Thank you for all the blessing you have worked so hard to make possible in my life—what better way to celebrate this special day then at Miss USA! And also HMD to all my other mothers who have made me who I am! I love you so! A BIG THANK YOU!!
"I think that's when it all changed and I did become Miss Alabama in the USA because I was so candid about where my life had gone, where I had been and where I am now, or, in that moment, now," Brown explained. "And the judges that allowed me to start this journey -- I feel like it started there -- saw me for me and let me have the opportunity to serve others."
Staying true to herself continues to be a constant theme for Brown. She's the first to admit she isn't perfect, but says, "I really am proud of myself and that's what I'll be able to say: Still struggle. Still not perfect. Far from it. But proud of this girl."
"What makes me feel most beautiful is feeling confident and sure of myself and knowing that I am worthy and enough and powerful," she added. "That's the best feeling. And being honest about who I am, what I'm going through, and making human connection in that way. Makes me feel really good and makes me feel truly beautiful."
Watch Brown's full interview in the video above and check out more episodes of Unfiltered, ahead.