I know there are plenty of pageant skeptics, and it’s easy to understand why someone might be hesitant to embrace all that comes with the world of pageants. However, I would like to share some of the gifts embedded within the ‘pageant process.’ I could create an endless list of the gifts I have been provided through competing in pageants, but for the sake of your time, I’ll try to keep this brief. Pageants have provided me with the opportunity to touch and be touched by others; for that, I am infinitely grateful.
The position of a local, state, or national titleholder provides women with the unique opportunity to reach a wide range of people. The addition of a crown on one’s head and sash across one’s chest opens more doors than I thought imaginable and a broader platform on which to share a message of positivity.
The starkest example of this impact is in the opportunity to reach a large group of young students. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy or an Assistant Professor (both titles that I currently hold), I might be invited to a public school to speak with a classroom full of K-12 students for 5-10 minutes. In contrast, as Miss Virginia or Miss Virginia USA, that same public school would allow me an hour-long assembly to speak to the entire student population. In both instances, my level of education and message are the same, but the addition of the Miss Virginia (USA) title augments my access to the youth community tremendously.
Additionally, pageants have provided me an extended family. I did not grow up in Virginia, but instead moved over 600 miles from Georgia to attend college at Hampton University (HU). I knew no one when I arrived at HU, but quickly made strong friendships. After graduation, I decided to stay in Virginia to pursue my doctorate degree; however, once my college friends left for their next life adventure, I was left feeling very similar to the nervous college freshman I was four years earlier. Again, I knew no one.
However, after competing in (and winning) my first Miss America local title, my assigned pageant director and her extended family quickly adopted me as their own (sidenote: they later moved to GA and live less than a mile from my biological family). My next local title provided a similar sense of family. As dysfunctional as we are, we all look forward to our yearly beach and/or DC trips.
Lastly, the support system I gained in preparation for Miss USA forever changed my life. If you read my social media post following the Miss USA competition, this excerpt remains true:
“Next, I have to recognize a number of people who—through their generosity and faith—have helped me to strengthen my own walk with and trust in God. Preparation for Miss USA was not without its hardships, but the Lord showed up (and showed out) at just the right time.
Over the past several months, several strangers approached me with a similar message: God had called on them or moved them to help me. Kristen White of Kristen White Imagery,Thomas Barnette, Angelo Frasier, and my mother were at the core of my Miss USA preparation. Kristen is a hair and make up goddess; Thomas is an interview and modeling extraordinaire; Angelo has been creating perfect swimsuit silhouettes since before I was born, and my mother continues to ‘always be right.’.
Each of them gave selflessly without requesting any recognition in return. I am writing this with tears in my eyes because you will never know how much your faith in me based upon a calling from God has affected me and will continue to impact me. Based upon the way each of you came into my life, I truly believe you were my grandmother’s way of reminding me that she continues to cheer me on from Heaven.”
Lastly, and most importantly, pageants have give me hope for the future of our society. Through competing in pageants, I have met dozens of women who are not only pursuing a career and higher education, but are also champions for change in their communities.. These are women who are often juggling school and/or careers with competing in pageants, but still find time to volunteer their time and services in their community. The best part is I’m lucky enough to call these phenomenal women friends.
So to those skeptics, don’t knock it until you try it. Just check us out; we’re totally #squadgoals