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Grace in Defeat: Rising Above Pageant Loss

Have you ever walked away from a competition feeling so hot with anger you could spit fire? Mad enough to scorch anyone who dared to look your way? I've certainly been there.


For those new to my blog, a brief glimpse into my journey - I competed seven times for the title of Miss Kansas, encountering every possible obstacle and setback. I was top 10 three years in a row, then I didn't place at all, then I was 1st runner up, then I was 3rd runner up and thought I aged out, then I finally won.


Each attempt was a roller coaster ride of triumphs and falls until I finally wore the crown. But then came the Miss America pageant - spoiler: I lost. Then an additional year of being Miss Kansas during Covid and nothing seemed to go my way, followed by putting my hat back in the ring for Miss Kansas USA. And I lost again.


There's a particular kind of pain in striving for the ultimate goal - that shining, coveted crown - and coming up short. It's so easy to point fingers, to cast blame wherever you can. I've journeyed down that thorny path of resentment more times than I care to recall. It’s a destructive spiral that leads nowhere.


I have a visceral memory of standing on the Kansas USA stage clapping while somebody else got crowned and for the first time - negative thoughts were actually not the first thing that raced into my head. I had achieved a more developed perspective of competing and my brain did not immediately try to tear her down just because I didn't achieve my goal. Instead, I had this "ah-ha" moment where I realized that pageants are more about how you handle the loss, than how you respond to the win. Far more women will never actually win the title she was seeking than those who don the crown. ​​​​​​​​It sounds simple, but the human condition makes it so much more complicated.


We tend to paint the narrative that suits us in these moments of loss. The judges were biased. The board had a personal vendetta against you. Your points were docked because of that one tricky question during the interview. Or that one girl – her sidelong glance felt like a death glare and it had to mean she hates you for existing. But let’s face it: in the shimmering world of pageantry, we choose to step onto this battlefield. We willingly play our odds in this game where the scoring rules seem as unpredictable as the Kansas weather.


I can say this from the other side of the journey, and perhaps it's easier from here: Wherever you are, in this very moment, it’s exactly where you’re meant to be. If you can hold on to that now, and trust that there is something better waiting for you around the corner, it makes things a little bit easier to swallow. I've started to tell myself, "Either this, or something better."



No, it's still not easy to swallow the bitter pill of defeat when it happens. It stings, and it hurts to see someone else wear the crown you've so passionately vied for. But that does not, in any way, justify directing your hurt and resentment toward the people who shared the journey with you.


If you're simmering in the hot aftermath of the pageant, take a moment. Just breathe. Pause. Let your emotions cool before you blurt out any decisions or statements that you might regret later. Allow yourself to sit with the complexity of feelings that unravel in the aftermath of a pageant weekend.


I've been that girl that's said that thing in the heat of the moment that haunted me for years to come. It's not cute, and it's not worth it.


In this glimmering journey, there's always something. There’s always a hiccup in the plans, someone who seems to block your path, an event that doesn't play out as expected. But the way you react to these setbacks defines your character more than your response to any victory ever could.


Throughout my 15+ years in the industry, every year I hear whispers about questionable judging, rigged pageants, or girls who should have been disqualified based on this or that, from pageants across the country. And I want to underscore the importance of maintaining grace and dignity even when the odds appear skewed. Because it is your reaction to such scenarios that will define who you are as a person, and ultimately as a queen.


Show the world the true class and resilience that I know you possess. Because remember, it's not just about the crown. It's about the journey, the transformation, the lessons we learn, and the strength we develop along the way.

This is where the world becomes a canvas for you to paint your next chapter. If you can trust that this must be the place that you are meant to be - right here, right now - I think that might bring you some peace knowing that you're rooted here and the next step is yours to choose.



xoxo,

Annika

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