Before we get started, I want to say that I started writing this blog after several conversations with Formers (Forevers) where I was hearing, time and time again, stories of feeling like they “should” be doing one thing or another or “should” be feeling certain ways after stepping out of the limelight. And an overwhelming sense of complex and unresolved feelings that surround a pivotal chapter of our lives.
This blog is peeking behind the pristine red curtain and addressing some raw feelings that are not uncommon but are uncommon to openly talk about in the world of crowns and gowns.
So if you’re in for that ride - let’s dive in…
There’s this sentiment that it’s ridiculous to be anything less than loyal after what this organization has given each of us through scholarship, opportunity, or a title we wear for a year. And to add to that - an expectation of blind devotion after passing on the crown that doesn’t take into account the complexity of the human experience.
I just simply disagree with that.
Let me explain…
Becoming a titleholder at any level comes with incredible opportunities, doors kicked open, an experience of a lifetime, and often scholarship money. Becoming a titleholder also comes with scrutiny, external opinions, rules you may or may not know about, and several puppet masters pulling at strings both in front of and behind the curtain.
When I went into my final year of competing for Miss Kansas, I thought I knew everything there was to know about being the state titleholder, but as much as you prepare, there are still things that take you by surprise that you just have to lean into throughout your year. In Kansas, they say that you’ll mature ten years emotionally during the one year that you serve purely because of the life experiences and situations that you grow through during that time and how you develop in the span of 365 days.
And even though there are fewer than 100 women who have ever been in our specific shoes and the experiences have weirdly similar themes throughout the decades, no one will ever know your specific challenges throughout your year and all of the complexities that go into your unique experience.
Only you know your experience - be it as a local titleholder, state, or national - and how that has impacted your life both in positive ways and in complex ways.
So going back to that loyalty thing and unfettered devotion to the organization that “made you what you are,”... it just doesn’t sit well with me. After the whirlwind of a journey that it is to become a titleholder, compete at the next level, and serve out the finale of the year; I don’t think it’s fair to put that kind of pressure on our queens. I think it’s so important to have conversations way before the end of the chapter with your board and support system on how that transition out of the crown will look to prepare expectations and have a dialogue with the people that care about you about how to care for you when that time comes.
Personally, I have found so much joy and fulfillment in coaching with Crown the Nation and now also supporting women as they transition out of their reigns with Beyond the Crown. It’s been an endeavor that has allowed me to stay connected to the pageant industry and still support young women in ways that I am qualified to do so. This was a role that fit perfectly for me because I love working 1-on-1 with the girls and being a part of their preparation and development, but it’s also come with some very intentional boundary setting as I’d still consider myself pretty close to the end of my own reign just a year and a half ago.
But my journey is certainly not for everyone. Some of us want space, some of us want to keep the momentum going, some of us want to still be directly involved, some of us just want to donate yearly from afar, and some of us want nothing to do with a crown ever again - and all of those things are perfectly fine.
It’s okay not to be involved in the next girl’s year (in fact, she may want the space). It’s okay to say “no” to joining the board or committee. It’s okay to find other ways to support the women or the parts of the organization that you hold dear. It’s okay to establish boundaries between your experience and your return to that space to allow you time to process and heal from the whirlwind of a year that marks a very transformative chapter in your life.
These things can exist at the same time: being thankful for the experience of a lifetime and all that this role has given you, AND a mix of other feelings that are completely valid following your individual experience.
It’s different for everyone, and the emotions really do come in waves. And I don’t say any of this to scare you if you’re still working towards your goals - I say this because this year comes with a LOT, and it can be hard to prepare for what to expect both during and after the crown. But we are all human, we all interact with the world in unique ways, and it’s unfair to expect our queens to continue to smile and bear it all when there may be so much more under the surface that the rest of us will never know.
If you're a Forever - no matter how far away from your chapter you are - and you are interested in peeling back the layers and processing some of your lingering emotions and directing your energy to a new place, let me know. I'd love to work alongside you as you build your life beyond the crown.
(And you know what I’m going to say… go to therapy ;) )