As I prepare for appointments, steam my gowns and interview attire, and go over my departure checklist for the millionth time, I can’t help but to feel those bits of nerves that come over me in moments of down time that make me ask myself, “Can I really do this?”
To be quite frank, I sort of stumbled into pageantry, I wasn’t a girly-girl growing up or your “toddlers and tiaras” type. I was the daughter of two collegiate athletes, who was involved in sports since the time I could walk, wore my hair in a pony tail most days and wasn’t what most would consider to be the next Miss anything.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a good kid, but I was quiet and comfortable falling into the background of most situations. I was a good friend, knew right from wrong and did what I was supposed to do. I didn’t like to draw attention to myself and have always loved to write – as it was my escape and moreover where I could best articulate myself. All in all, I never planned or even dreamed of being involved in pageants; Miss USA or Miss America just wasn’t something for me.
Yet, here I am preparing for my third pageant. Life has a funny way of doing things, doesn’t it?
Pageantry opened a door for me that I never knew existed. I know you’re probably reading this and thinking: oh please don’t say how’s it “much more than the crown”.. sorry to burst your bubble, but it IS truly so much more than the crown, in addition to signing autographs, making appearances, and looking pretty. It’s really, at the root of it, being a representative for something larger than yourself. Pageantry showed me leadership in a compelling way that made sense for me, I was able to connect with young people, be vocal about issues facing our community and represent those who are often left without a voice. Pageantry inspired me to be better for not just myself, but for others.
I’ll say it’s sort of an odd, yet humbling moment when you realize that people look up to you. Whether it’s a Facebook message of a young woman you’ve never met saying how much of an inspiration you are to her or a mother coming up to you at an event graciously thanking you for being a role model to her daughter.. it all really comes into perspective when learn just how many people are watching.
And that’s why I chose to compete again.
Being that I am an athlete and competitor at heart, losing wasn’t something I was taught to be good at. I show up with the mindset of a winner, but pageants don’t always work that way, sometimes it’s just not in the cards for you to be the titleholder/advance to the next competition. Yet, I’ve also come to accept this radical idea that.. Everything happens for a reason. Perhaps this isn’t the appropriate platform for you to serve on, or perhaps there’s a bit more groundwork that needs to be done before you have a title. Whatever the reason may be, I know losing sucks, but don’t let the lack of a crown stop you from making a change.
I walked away from a national pageant in June of 2015 without a title, at first I was devastated, frustrated and most importantly hurt but after those feeling subsided, I got right back to work in my community advocating for change and working on my nonprofit, Project Poise (a leadership development program for young women). I took a year off from pageantry, moved, changed jobs and thought that maybe I was done with competing overall. I turned down five opportunities to compete, simply responding, “I don’t have time” or “I don’t think this is the system for me” and just shy of two weeks ago I was offered once more and this time I said yes. I had less than a month to prepare but something inside of me said, now is the time.
I’m not the most religious or spiritual person, but I do believe in timing and living out your purpose. Pageantry was placed into my life for a reason. I’ve seen the growth within myself as a result of it and the positive impact that I can make on my community because of it so, why not?
I get asked quite a bit “why?” and that was really the purpose of this post, to provide a glimpse into my thinking of pageantry on the philanthropic side. It’s an investment from myself, my family and friends. Competing isn’t cheap and all that comes with it isn’t either, so why is a fair question.
But less than 48 hours till go time, I’l be competing for the titles of Miss Western Nebraska, Miss Gering, and Miss Twin Rivers, sharing the stage with 10 other beautiful women from my state. Whether it’s in the cards or me or not, it’s always a fun experience and one that you can learn a great deal about yourself too!
UPDATE: I won! I’m Miss Western Nebraska 2017. Follow my journey on Facebook!