Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passing on the crown

While last weekend was the Miss Virginia workshop, it was also the Miss Commonwealth/Miss Virginia Dogwood pageant, the pageant held for runners up to local titles this year. On Friday night, we all packed into a ballroom at the Hotel Roanoke to watch ten women who worked extremely hard over the year compete. The entire night was full of great talent- and I had no idea who would walk away with the titles. Every girl brought something different to the table and they each have a lot to be proud of.

At the end of the night, I felt like I was reliving winning last year when Emily Hall's name was called as Miss Virginia Dogwood. She has worked tireless all year in this program and represents exactly what the runners up pageant is all about. I almost started crying when they called her name!

A few people asked me if I'd be willing to post my farewell up here, both for those who could come and those who couldn't. I've posted it below.

As you have all seen tonight, there are so many deserving women that would make wonderful representatives on the Miss Virginia stage and would make great additions to the Miss Virginia family in Roanoke. I know firsthand because I was in their shoes last year. After competing at ten different pageants and coming close but not close enough, I became discouraged and worn down. I had poured my heart and soul into this program and stood on stage time and time again hoping to hear my name called and I refused to give up.

As many of you saw last year, the tears and emotion I felt finally accomplishing my goal when winning Miss Commonwealth were entirely genuine. I embarked on a journey of just over 10 weeks to prepare for Miss Virginia. When I tell you that I could not have done it without the army of volunteers on “Team Laura”, I am not kidding. I am so thankful to every person who helped us do everything from choosing photos, raising money, offering words of encouragement to finishing paperwork in a record amount of time. You are all wonderful people and I am so thankful for all of your help.

Team Commonwealth fought through many challenges to make it to Roanoke including driving through two tornados, being locked in the National D-Day Memorial, having to change my talent song and dance four weeks before Miss Virginia, and trying on 71 evening gowns trying to find something long enough for a contestant almost six feet tall. The week before Miss Virginia, I became sick with laryngitis and a sinus infection, completely lost my voice, and experienced my fingers swelling up after getting my nails done until my college ring got stuck on my finger. I spent the Saturday before arrival in Roanoke driving around with my hand right hand stuck in a giant cup of McDonalds Sweet Tea until a jeweler in Lynchburg cut the ring off my finger so that I could maintain circulation. To be honest, I told Jimmy that if we just made it to Roanoke that would be an accomplishment in itself, so you imagine how ominous it seemed to arrive in a hailstorm that Sunday. It was not an easy road, but the hard work all paid off.

I could never have anticipated how much fun the experience at Miss Virginia would be and I was truly honored to get to know all of the girls and watch a truly deserving woman emerge as the winner.

The week at Miss Virginia would not have been the same without two people I now consider extremely close friends on and off the pageant stage, also known as my roommate and car partner, Shannon Oliver and Katie Uze. Both of these women share with me the ability to laugh at ourselves, encourage one another, and to enjoy the week win or lose. Katie and I even had some near-death experiences together- even though our car driver might have looked like a sweet grandmother, I think she was moonlighting as a race car driver because she may or may not have run a few red lights in downtown Roanoke taking us to the Civic Center.

Thank you to the staff at Randolph Macon and my wonderful second boss Esther, for your constant support and understanding. Thank you to Barbara and Carolyn for your constant support of me!

There is no way I could ever hope to thank my directors, Jimmy and Chris, for the job they did preparing me for Miss Virginia. These two men went above and beyond the call of duty numerous times and put all of their time and energy into making me feel like I could do it. Your constant support throughout the week in Roanoke meant so much to me, and I firmly believe that if I could get ready for Miss Virginia in ten weeks while working two full time jobs, I can do just about anything. Jimmy spent hours ironing my clothes, patiently waiting as dress after dress was too short, scouring shoe stores for the perfect bronze heels for evening gown, and refusing to let me give up even when the obstacles seemed like they were mounting in front of us. When Jimmy found out that I had loaded my moving truck in Lynchburg by myself in August, he insisted on driving my truck to Blacksburg and unloaded all of my belongings and furniture into my new apartment with me. I was incredibly lucky to work with both of you as directors and I am so grateful for everything you have done for me. You are both wonderful examples of what this program is all about.

Finally, thank you to my mom and brother Doug for all of your support and for refusing to let me give up. I don’t know any other 13 year old guy who would sport a tux for three nights patiently at Miss Virginia and sneak gummy bears into his tux pocket the night I was finished with swimsuit. My brother is about to be confirmed in our church so unfortunately neither of them could be here tonight but I appreciate everything that you do for me and I am so grateful to have you as my family.

Finally, thank you to everyone involved in putting together this pageant both this year and last. To the ladies competing, please do not give up even if the crown isn’t placed on your head tonight. The 11th time was the charm for me and I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for this program. Have patience and keep working hard, because you will get there and the victory will be sweet and well-deserved.

These women have worked extremely hard all year and truly deserve another chance at competing in Roanoke, and I can’t wait to spend the week with whoever wins tonight!

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