Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Important Update

An Update:

A long-needed update for my blog readers:

I have elected to not participate any longer in pageants through the Miss America Organization. At this time, I’m considering this my “retirement” from pageants.

When I was 16 years old, a friend dared me to enter a beauty pageant. What followed was a 7-year experience that truly developed me into the person I am today. When I started competing, I had no self-confidence, I was terrified of speaking in front of people, and I walked hunched over because I hated my height.

Only a few people even remember that Laura- close friends who were present those many years ago when I had no self-esteem. I write to you now a month before my 24th birthday as a teaching assistant, accomplished public speaker, and a confident future PhD.

There were many reasons that brought me to this decision, but at the root of my choice is the fact that I no longer have the desire to be Miss Virginia. My life will go on, and in a direction I look forward to, without that crown, sash, and experience. I truly made the most of both of my local titles, and my journey to the Miss Virginia pageant both times was full of challenges I overcame and hard work. I had a great time and grew so much from this program.

That said, I don’t believe that I have much more to gain from this program. I feel like it’s a curve that eventually hits diminishing marginal returns- while I gained self-confidence at the beginning, it started to fade away at the end. My body is a size ten. I’m 5’11 and 160 pounds- and that’s fine with me. I’m not going to work out three hours a day any more, not going to compromise my health by eating like a bird, and I’m not going to feel bad about the fact that I will never have the body type of many of the girls competing.

This is just no longer my dream. While I really believed in Miss Virginia and my ability to do a great job at it, I just don’t have the overwhelming desire inside me to put the time, work, and immense amount of money it takes to even get to Roanoke again. Last year, my directors and I put in hours and hours of preparation, work, shopping, and packing. I am immensely grateful that for both years, I had people behind me that helped me and believed I could do it. Having been a runner up myself many times, it’s not fair to potentially rob another girl of her dream just for the sake of competing one more time.

At the end of the day, it’s not Laura to be up on stage teetering around in heels trying to get the approval of seven random people about my body or my twenty years of tap dancing. I’m one semester away from getting my master’s, and I’ve just finished my PhD applications. I’m more excited about THAT even though it requires even more hard work. When I think about the potential of heading back to Roanoke, the overwhelming feeling is dread- waking up at 4 AM to hit the gym then a day full of classes, driving 7 hours each week to practice my dance, and battling my body, cutting out medications that help me deal with migraines because they make me gain ten pounds, and then questioning who I am if I get “rejected” for the position.

When I started pageants in 2002, I did them once a year with American Coed Pageants. I always enjoyed this pageant because they celebrated who each girl was and didn’t make anyone feel fat or ugly. I competed at their national pageant in 2006, and I wanted to end where I started- so I returned there this Thanksgiving to compete one more time, where I was named 1st runner up in talent and 4th runner up overall. If I ever do another pageant again, it would be this one. I had a great time, enjoyed seeing old friends, and felt like the old Laura.

I’ve met so many wonderful friends through this program and will always hold those relationships close to me.

So, I’m moving on positively and not taking for granted all the special experiences I had as a titleholder and will use that community service to continue working with young women and people interested in tap dancing.

With all this being said, I’m not sure what the future of this blog is. I may not continue writing, I may continue. I’m not sure. But for now, I’m going to take some much needed time off to focus on my research, school, and my life as “Laura” and not as any particular titleholder.

Best of luck to all the women planning to continue to compete.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for being the sweet young lady that you are. Thanks for your platform on domestic violence in the Miss VA pageants. Hope to see
you again, Keep well,
Your fan,
Mary Harse

LaWanda said...

well said laura. Best of luck as you move forward in your endeavors.