One of my favorite things during Miss America week is seeing all the supportive posts on social media hyping up our girl with testimonies, reflections, special memories, and the unwavering belief that she is going to represent our state well.
In my last blog, we talked about mean girl energy, and how the heightened energy of competition can bring out some nasty things. At the same time, the competition kind of forces us to put on a face and clap for the girl who beat the rest of us. And let’s be real, that’s definitely a skill that can be useful, but it’s also not always entirely healthy.
Tossing up a post on social media with some hype is a great place to start, but I’m here to say that cheering for the girl who beat you is another pocket of pageantry that’s not often talked about. It’s complex, it sneaks up on you, and it’s a good thing to figure out how to do if you want to continue to exist in this kind of arena.
Let’s throw it back…
My 4th time competing at Miss Kansas was In 2016 and it was the first time I didn’t place at all. I literally didn’t hear my name called one single time. It was easy to separate myself from the girl who won because, according to the judges, there wasn’t even a sliver of comparison. She was clearly the winner out of the two of us (because that’s all that matters, right? :P ) so of course, I was going to cheer for the home state.
Fast forward to 2017 on the final night of Miss Kansas. As I advanced forward through the competition, I found myself standing hand in hand in the final two. I stood there in those weird, fleeting moments with someone who was my sister queen and one of my closest friends throughout that year, both knowing that either one of us could do the job. I remember her softly speaking a prayer over me as we waited for the next Miss Kansas’s name to be called, and her saying something to the effect of, “God, please be with Annika this year because she will be a phenomenal Miss Kansas.” And before the words had even left her mouth, the emcee announced her name as our new Miss Kansas.
I remember at her send-off party, her mom shouted across the room, “HEY ANNIKA - ARE YOU READY TO BE MISS KANSAS?” - with the insinuation that her daughter was going to be Miss America, and me - the runner-up - would step in to fill her shoes that year. In my head, I thought, “Of course I’m ready…” but I just smiled and nodded with an awkward laugh.
I made special graphics for her to use as Miss Kansas. I let her borrow my jewelry for her Miss America headshots when she forgot hers. I even traveled to Miss America that year to cheer her on. I did all the things I thought I was supposed to do to be a gracious loser (I know, that’s harsh), AND they were truly genuine. But here’s where that complexity comes in - I don’t think I took the time to honor that I was still grieving and it was hard to watch someone else live the dream that was just points away from being my reality.
It wasn’t until years later, actually just this last spring, that everything clicked for me. As I stood on stage clapping, again, as someone else walked the stage with the crown, it dawned on me that as competitors, we are allowed to feel ALL the things. It seems really simple now, but I’m here to lay it out as many times as you need to hear it: you are allowed to be sad, you are allowed to be confused, you are allowed to be deserving AND she is allowed to be deserving, she is allowed to be celebrated, and she is allowed to have support.
So here are a few things I jotted down as the festivities and events at Miss America happen this week - five ways to cheer for the girl who beat you, AND be authentic about it:
1. Multiple feelings are allowed to exist at the same time - allow and acknowledge all the feelings that come up, and be intentional about which ones you choose to let stay in your orbit. While some of the layers are absolutely valid, ask yourself if those feelings serve you in this moment and which vibration you want to exist in this week.
2. Use the opportunity as a manifesting moment - if you’re planning on coming back to compete this next year or any time in the future, use this week to literally manifest yourself onto that stage. Visualize yourself on the stage, imagine what it feels like to be there, and mentally put yourself in the environment to start to get those energy vibes flowing in your direction.
3. Soak up everything you can learn to apply it to your next competition year - sis, this is research. Whether you are in the room or watching on the live stream, soak it all up and do some reflecting on what works, what doesn’t, what you like, and what you don’t. Right now, we’re seeing all of the changes of this organization modeled at the national level first and then trickling down to the states and locals. Take notes.
4. Host a watch party and enjoy it with your pageant fam - there’s no better hype crew than a group of girls who just want you to know that you’re pretty and worthy! Get your pageant fam together and host a watch party. I’ve been to some watch parties where we all pick a state to represent and we do our own state costume and have to bring a dish that ties to that state - so much fun!
5. Silent cheerleader (you don’t have to make a big sappy post) - I mentioned at the beginning that I love seeing all the sweet posts about your state reps, but that’s not a requirement. What do they say? “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Listen - if posting a sappy post is going to feel weird and inauthentic, maybe the best way to support is not to post and continue working on yourself as you go into the next year.
There are going to be so many more instances in life where it feels like we’re all in competition and we have to be intentional with how we support each other, especially other women. Miss America is the perfect training ground to build those skills and put value in the relationships over the competition, and allow the complexity of the pageant world to exist without it controlling you.
There are so many ways to show your support publicly and privately as the state reps take the stage this week. There’s no one RIGHT way to do it, but tap into yourself and see what feels best and most authentic for you. Maybe it’s a quick text to let her know you’re thinking of her, a comment on her posts, or a tribute to your relationship with her as she makes her way to the Miss America stage, but I know from experience that any notion of good vibes and knowing you have a community cheering for you back home is one of those things that can’t be replaced.