Saturday, July 5, 2008

My post-pageant entry

How on earth can I share what I went through during the last week? I’m trying to split it up into different categories so that I can cover as much as possible. It was everything I thought it would be... except better. I was blown away by how much fun I had in one week!


Obviously I don’t how know Virginia did things in years past, but I’d have to say that I really loved having a roommate during the week. Of course, my entire life I’ve been blessed with great roommates. I spent the week with Shannon Oliver, Miss Virginia Beach, and I’m SO GLAD that I got the chance to know her. I really loved spending the week with her and we got along wonderfully. It was so much fun coming back to the room after a long day of rehearsal and having someone to laugh with!


Obviously my most dreaded aspect of competition. Since winning Miss Commonwealth, I went on a strict diet and worked with a trainer several days a week in addition to my own exercise regimen. I made great strides- I went from being able to do zero pull ups to doing three. I lost percentage in my body fat, which was small to begin with. And I lost a total of nine pounds leading up to Miss Virginia. But that didn’t make it any easier knowing that I was STILL one of the biggest girls at Miss Virginia. During my senior year of college, I felt as though I sacrificed a lot for pageants. Spending time with my friends, who have now graduated and moved other places. Spending time with my boyfriend, who leaves for a year-long deployment at the end of July. I gave that- and a social life- up because it was important to me to be on that Miss Virginia stage. And I wouldn’t go back and change any of that. That said, my priority while I was finishing college was just that- school. I was studying for the GRE, applying to six graduate schools, writing two senior research papers and an additional independent research assignment, and completing my 90-page American Culture Journal. Those were my priorities first because at the end of the day, I’m a student. I’m participating in this Miss America program because I believe in the job and power of titleholders, but also respect the great deal of scholarship money given out at every level. I physically could not devote any more time to working out during the year.

Maybe other girls have more time, or parents who can help support them in college. My family situation is different, and so in addition to a full course load, I worked a job on campus and one off campus- usually for a total of about 30 hours a week. Since the summer began, I work between 60-70 hours a week between my two jobs. I made this work because I didn’t’ have to focus on writing papers, and I’m proud of the progress I made. Certainly some people will always think I am “big”. I am almost six feet tall and currently 154 pounds. I have work to do, but I did an incredible amount in the short two and a half months between my local and Miss Virginia. I did the absolute best that I could in toning and losing weight in a healthy manner.

The worst part of my week was when we took the pictures for swimsuit. As soon as my roommate and I got downstairs, I was whisked away to do a TV interview- in my bathing suit. Knowing that the camera adds ten pounds, this was the most nerve-wracking part of my week. At least I got it out of the way on Monday!

I have to say that although I have work to do, this was the best I have felt about my body in years. Many wouldn’t understand, but I grew up in a home with a parent who constantly degraded the way you looked, your intelligence, etc. Although this has inspired me to work a great deal with my platform of domestic violence, for many years I had no self-esteem. Getting involved in pageantry has certainly helped me with that, although anyone close to me will tell you that I am my own worst critic. Walking on stage in my swimsuit on Friday and Saturday was nerve-wracking, but at the same time, full of pride, because I knew I had worked really hard. Perhaps some people can’t see that, but that’s okay with me. I know the improvements I have made. My body was never meant to be 100 pounds! Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I am grateful for the body I have. I lead a healthy, active life, and I’m proud of the changes I have made!

The cost:

Certainly, what we gain from pageantry is something you cannot measure in monetary terms. I learned more during Miss Virginia week than I did all year. I am an observant person, someone who likes to take in all that is going on around me. I felt like I finally adjusted to the stage on the final day of rehearsal, and I feel armed to go back next year with a lot more understanding under my belt. I feel as though I learned so much. Towards the end, I was getting frustrated that we just couldn’t find a red cocktail dress that flattered me. I know that the one I wore looked cheap in comparison to other contestants, and it wasn’t very flattering on me, but that’s just one of the many lessons I learned :make sure every aspect of your wardrobe is perfect.

My directors were absolutely outstanding. Their help, combined with my mother, the Pryors, and many anonymous donors, made this experience possible. I simply could not have afforded it on my own. The amount of clothing that I had to acquire in two short months was nearly overwhelming, and the fact that we did it at all was amazing. We picked up the last round from the seamstress on the day before I left for Roanoke, if that tells you anything. I also owe great thanks to the seamstresses who frequently turned my clothing around in one or two days, who spent hours searching for just the right rhinestone buttons or sequins, and the patience they gave to me when we had to keep bringing things in as I lost weight.

And please, anyone who wants to help me find evening gowns, please ask my mother, gown shop owners, or my directors, what a nightmare it is! I tried on 71 gowns to get the ones that I needed. They simply don't make evening gowns long enough for someone as tall as I am, and I have heard the words "custom made" (which I can't afford) many times from people in dress shops!

Much thanks also goes to the women backstage, and Taylor Witte, who graciously gave me safety pins, after my pants fell down during talent rehearsal (yes, they were that loose).

There were so many little mishaps during the week, and I truly felt like Miss Virginia week was more preparation to be Miss Virginia than anything else. There was a lot of stress, hours and hours of rehearsal, and little problems you had to overcome very quickly. When I arrived in Roanoke, I was still sick with laryngitis and a sinus infection. But you push through it.

The girls:

The girls were truly the best part of the week. It amazes me sometimes that you can hear negative things from people in pageant land about other contestants. After this week, I’m truly convinced that these naysayers don’t have a clue. I doubt they’ve ever gone through a pageant like this, and I certainly doubt that they have spent any time with any of the girls they have earmarked “divas”, “untalented”, or “rude”. Obviously this is the most competitive pageant I have ever been involved in, but I have to say that this group of women was outstanding. I think all of us were blown away by the skill level in talent, the intelligence of the other girls, and the inner beauty that shined in each area of competition. I feel so blessed to have spent so much time with these wonderful women!

It seems there are a lot of armchair judges in this world. For every compliment you hear about your evening gown, swimsuit, talent, makeup, hair, etc, there are equally as many people who didn’t like it. What matters at the end of the day is how you feel in your clothing and presentation, and how those 7 people in the front of the audience felt about it. For all the people who have supported each girl all year long, thank you for understanding the hard work and time we put into this because we believe in the power of this organization.

There are people who sit in the audience and miss the traumas that happen backstage. One of the highlights of the week for me was watching Kristena Wright perform her talent. During her talent rehearsal on Friday, she hurt herself so badly that she was taken to a doctor. Since Commonwealth and Fairfax were alphabetical neighbors, I was frequently near Kristena in the lineup. It was obvious that her back was in a lot of pain. But you’d never know it once she hit that stage. She was limping around backstage and clearly in terrible pain- but as I watched from the wings it was obvious this girl is a performer. She stepped onto that stage and seemed to leave any pain backstage with the rest of us. She danced her heart out, and those kinds of moments are the times that your heart is absolutely touched. As soon as she came offstage she was in tremendous pain again, but to push through something like that to give a memorable performance like she did was amazing. And Kristena is one of many girls in the Miss Virginia organization who show strength of character and a belief that “the show must go on” no matter what hardships you experience on or off the stage. I would encourage people to take the time to really get to know these women, because they are incredible.

The Top 11:

I’m thinking about changing my lucky number to 11. I won my 11th local pageant, and by some twist of fate, was selected as part of the Top 11 at Miss Virginia last Saturday. Whether I made it there on my own or through internet voting for the “People’s Choice” doesn’t matter to me. My goal was to make it to the Miss Virginia stage, and I made it there. I was more than thrilled to get to compete on Saturday night. I think I performed better than the preliminaries because I was just so excited to have made it to that point! I told Ashley Smith backstage that I had packed all my competition gear (and I did). I only pulled out the swimsuit production number and laid it on my dressing table because I thought that would be all I’d need. I was completely fine with not making the top 11, because I knew I had done my best. I had done the best I could with the resources and the time I had-which wasn’t much. But I had learned the ropes. I had proven to myself that I could survive a weeklong state pageant. And that was enough for me.

I have doubts that I was able to garner a majority of 10,000 votes. 5,000 of those votes were cast during the week I was in Roanoke. My directors were busy, my mom was driving from Ohio to Virginia, and I was competing. Who was voting for me? Do I really know enough people to get all those votes? I don’t feel like I do, but if I was the People’s Choice, thanks to the people who went out there and voted!

The experience overall:

Overrall, I had a great time. I’m not sure if they’ll hold the Commonwealth pageant as late as it was this year next time around, but I think all of us who lived through it would be hesitant. It really isn’t enough time to get ready for Miss Virginia. I was jealous all week of the girls who had more than 10 weeks to prepare for Miss Virginia. It was hectic and very stressful at times, especially the week before when it seemed like everything was going wrong! I had such a good time during the week and if nothing else it confirmed for me that this is something I think I can do, something I would be passionate about, and something to strive for. I’m not going to give up- I think most of my readers knew that about me already!

I am most relived to be able to finally focus on my life outside pageantry for a little bit. I’m moving to go to graduate school during July, and I’ll also be saying goodbye to my boyfriend as he leaves for a yearlong deployment in Korea. This is my opportunity to focus on my life and enjoy things that I had to “leave behind” in the wake of the insanity leading up to Miss Virginia. I have wonderful things ahead of me, and I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to be at Miss Virginia. Thank you for everyone who has supported me during the year, and taken the time to get to know me in and outside of the pageant arena. One of the best parts of this last year has been the many friendships I have gained as a result of pageantry! I truly poured my heart and soul into competing during the past year and one of the greatest rewards has been getting to know the other outstanding women in Virginia! You all make me laugh, give me hope when I’m being hard on myself, and inspire me to keep going!

I’ll be back… soon!

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