At some point, we each have wondered about what our unique purpose is in life. What were we put on earth to do? Who are we meant to be? I’m not sure I ever thought about this when I initially stumbled into what became a guiding force in the direction of my now life. At the age of 13, I became infatuated with pageantry. As I channel surfed one evening, I came across the Miss USA pageant on TV and if I had to pinpoint a moment where it all started, it was there. I was in awe of the women who so gracefully and confidently sashayed across the stage and drawn in even further as I heard them speak so eloquently. I must be clear here, at no point during this viewing did I say to myself that I was going to enter a pageant and begin a life of public speaking – I simply knew that I enjoyed watching what I saw and somehow someway wanted to exude what these women were showcasing.
“The expert in anything was once a beginner.”
My experience watching Miss USA intrigued me. I wanted to find out more about what the pageant actually was; I didn’t quite understand it. So, I did what I could at the time. Unfortunately, the internet wasn’t as accessible as it is now – so I went old school and asked questions. I asked anyone who I thought might be able to give me more information and well that happened to be my mom. She knew pretty early on that I wasn’t just asking questions and that the wheels in my very active mind were turning.
Years later, my mom will tell that you she used to hide the advertisements coming to our house for pageants because she knew once I got started it would be something I could not stop and she was right. Soon after asking my initial questions, I talked my mom into letting me compete.My first competition was a Miss Teen USA state pageant. And well, if you know anything about pageantry, Miss Teen USA/Miss USA can be described as the Superbowl of pageantry. So with that being said, I pretty much jumped in head first and will be completely and utterly honest when I tell you I had absolutely no clue what I was doing or what I had gotten myself into.
As a walked into a ballroom of over 100 teenage girls, several whom had competed for a number of years prior, I was unprepared, styled all wrong, and downright overwhelmed. However, there was a mindset present that I carry with me until this day – “I’m going to do my best anyway.” And, I did. I didn’t place during that competition, but I did win a non-finalist best interview award and that was enough to keep the fire lit.
I went onto perfect my skills, do a ton of research, ask a lot of questions, recruit ‘experts’ in the field for their advice, utilized trial and error, practiced more than I care to admit, spent what seemed to be like days and nights in a number of gyms, purchased custom wardrobes,sacrificed times with friends and family, traveled to obtain the absolute best help, and so much more. This preparation led me to win a number of local and state titles in various pageant systems.
My eye was always on one particular prize; I wanted to compete at Miss USA. After over 7 attempts at a state crown, several Top 5 placements, and a 1st RU finish, I aged out of the system and a long-standing dream withered away.
“When it rains, it pours.”
I just gave you a very quick synopsis of the last 14 years of my life. The nature of pageantry and a lot of what I do tends to be very public – however; what you did not read were the very private battles that were going on behind closed doors during the same time. As you might imagine, pageantry and well just about anything in the entrainment industry warrants its fair share of both wanted and uninvited critiques and criticism. As a teenage girl and then young adult, I often was unprepared for the harsh realties that the spotlight brought.
Anything from my weight to assumptions about my personality and even the number of attempts I made to compete at Miss USA seemed to be open for debate. Many times these
remarks challenged my self-esteem, confidence, and my ability to put on a brave face. It was these things that I carried with me that aided in the construction of walls I put up to keep others out and what I thought protected me.
I wish I could say that those things were my biggest concerns, but in fact they were actually completely irrelevant to the largest battle I was fighting. During my freshman year of college,shortly after arriving on campus, I was sexually assaulted. I was raped. Sometimes, there are no words to truly describe the emotions that come along with this experience. Being as transparent as I possibly can, I did not deal with the incident when it initially happened. In fact,I ignored it and tried to pretend like it never happened. I told two people: a friend and a family member and swore them both to secrecy.
I spent the next several months and years following the encounter in a world of my own – it was one of the darkest times of my life but ironically some of the most successful years of my pageant career. There are still periods of time that I do not remember. I moved forward as best I could and 3 months later accepted a state title to compete at a national pageant and kept as busy as possible. I felt damaged and broken and instead of seeking help, I masked the pain and put on a smile. I didn’t tell my parents until approximately 3-4 years following the incident and a little less than two years ago decided to publicly share my story.
Talking about what occurred in my life was one of the best things I could have done in terms of healing. I did a one-hour radio interview on a widely listened to news talk show – it was one of the scariest things I have ever done – yet, it freed me in ways I could have never imagined. I had given my past so much control over who I was, that I lost myself in the process. I became a victim until I decided to stop running from reality and face the hurt and pain that I had numbed. I stopped pretending that I wasn’t hurt and bruised and accepted my vulnerability as a way to embrace growth and take back control of my future. I forgave my assaulter and then I
“Class is in Session”
If I told you everything I have learned over the last several years – we would be here for a while. So, I wanted to leave you with some of the things that have shaped the course of my life and helped me navigate even the roughest of waters.
1.) Make sure you trust what you know about yourself and stay true to it. If you are someone who is constantly trying to find out who you are or what you should be doing with your life. Trust me, you already know. It is that thing/hobby you rush to – where you feel the absolute happiest – that you would do even if you weren’t getting paid. Trust your heart – it will not lead you astray.
2.) Have a dream, goal, vision – never be thrown by failures, they happen. I didn’t win the
opportunity to compete at Miss USA. I do not regret a thing. The immense knowledge I gained
from preparing for competition and from competing enabled me to develop a skill set that
helped me find a true passion. Today, I am the Executive Producer of a blossoming pageant
system and everything that I learned along the way led me to this very moment. Don’t get me
wrong, failure hurts, it stings – but it always leaves a lesson.
3.) Learn from those who have walked before you, but pave your own road. I believe in mentors and coaches. I am so grateful for the unbelievable skillful guidance I have had – but,
you have to know who you want to be and where you want to go and make decisions that are
best for you!
4.) Learn to be quiet and still enough to hear your own voice. In a time when I needed to
be still so that I could heal and seek direction, I made myself as busy as I possibly could. As I
have matured, I have learned the importance of self-reflection and taking a time-out. Almost
weekly, I take at least a few hours to myself, no cell phone, social media, tv, etc. – I do this to
make sure I’m OK. I highly recommend it.
Saved by the Crown
My faith plays a pivotal role in my life – it has ever since I can remember. Everyone’s relationship
with God is different and I don’t ever intend to force my beliefs on anyone else. I believe God
has a purpose for everything. Looking over the last 14 years, pageantry saved my life – it
challenged me in ways that cultivated growth, independence, and poise. Most importantly, it
gave me a platform to share my story, impact lives, and be a change agent in my community.
God redeemed by story by surrounding me with people who have needed to hear it so that
they can heal and for that I am forever grateful. At my very darkest moment, I couldn’t see the
light at the end of the tunnel and I didn’t know how it was going to turn out but today, I’m
standing on my purpose and letting Him direct every footstep.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will
receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12