I have been competing in pageants for over a decade of my life.
When I was 14, someone in my community helped out with a local pageant and I remember her saying, “you’re already involved in your community, you’re already in theater, you have talent, you’re a good student, let’s find you a dress and get you on stage!” Needless to say, I was hooked, and the rest is history!
I started out competing in the teen division in Virginia for a handful of years but after moving back to Kansas for college, the dream of becoming Miss Kansas was etched in my brain.
In my first competition, I just knew I was going to sweep it and win the whole thing (fun fact, I did not). In year two, I decided to speed paint on stage as my talent, and I lost, again. Then year three came around and I just knew it was going to be my year. I mean they don’t call it “third time’s the charm” for nothing, right? I speed painted again, and you guessed it, I lost…again. Year four, I came back with a better-than-ever speed painting talent and this was the only year that I didn’t place at all; I didn’t even hear my name called on stage once. You’re probably saying to yourself as you read this, “Girl, give it up already.”
If you know me, you know I’m super competitive. So of course I came back for year five, and my mindset had shifted. Instead of focusing so much on the speed painting, I decided to focus on the impact and the service I was making in my community and develop my platform. I also switched to singing as my talent, which felt authentic to me because of my background in theater. I went from not making the top ten to making the top ten and being recognized for my community service, getting the talent award, receiving outstanding vocalist, and was first runner up to Miss Kansas! If that’s not a “never give up” story, I don’t know what is!
But I still I wasn’t done and I don’t give up easily (as you can tell)! I came back for year six which was my last year being eligible for the Miss Kansas Organization with Miss America. I’d love to tell you some amazing story here about how I won and fell to my knees crying with joy, but guys, I lost. I got third runner up to Miss Kansas. That was it. I had aged out of the competition.
Before you give up on this story and if you’re still on the edge of the seat thinking, “this can’t be it.” One more little magical thing happened. Do you ever get those little miracles that happen in your day and think, holy cow, that was made just for me? That’s what happened next in my story - I was DJ’ing a show one night and heard a rumor that the Miss America Organization was extending its age range by one year and after researching, it was true! I had one more year to compete and I was all in.
Lucky number seven, right? I felt new, I felt like I had a whole new vibe. After my previous “losses”, I realized that the world did not end. I went on with my life and still held on tightly to those experiences and the growth I had. So, when I came back to this bonus year, I just wanted to have fun and enjoy it, while knowing what I was bringing to the table. I wanted every chance to hold this dream in my hands and I did it, I finally won Miss Kansas in my final year. It was (and still is) one of the greatest gifts and I learned something each year that built me to where I am now.
Year one, I learned how to enter this beautiful journey of pageantry. Year two, I won the confidence of putting myself out there in speed painting. Year three I had solidarity in the platform I was advocating for. Year four I won humility in not placing at all and being able to stand up and try again. Year five I won reassurance that I was headed in the right direction. Year six I won the ability to believe in myself past the crown
and knowing deep in my bones that the crown didn’t define my achievements. Year seven, well, that was a special one.
That was my experience with the Miss America Organization and if you didn’t know, there are several different organizations that you can choose to be part of. There are always different parameters and age cutoffs, and I currently have one year left to compete in the Miss USA Organization.
It all comes back to this question; what if this is my time? Why wouldn’t I take this opportunity when I know the impact it can make? I know the growth I’ve been through, I know what I can bring to the table for the state of Kansas, so why not? You guys know my motto by now, I’m not done yet. Do I take one more stab at putting myself out there to be Miss Kansas USA? We all know the answer.
When an opportunity is put in front of me, I’m going to take it and pursue it to its full extent. I will put everything I have into it and serve my state the best way I know possible. In all truthfulness, I have lost way more pageants than I have won, but my entire journey has taught me to keep putting myself out there, keep taking the risk, and just jump.
I had a tremendous growth opportunity throughout my pageant tenure and the ones that I’ve lost have brought me the most developmentally. Pageantry is interesting because you’re standing on stage with a lot of other young women and yet, your biggest competition is you. People will tell you that there’s a moment in your journey where something just clicks and suddenly you get it. It’s the personal growth, development, and the impact you have that creates who you are. How powerful.
I want to end with a funny story that I’ll never forget; when I was doing a rehearsal for speed painting on stage, I spun the canvas and the entire thing fell over in my face. When I tell you yellow paint was everywhere, it was everywhere. After it fell, I completely blacked out as I was cleaning it up - I legitimately don’t remember it at all, I was so embarrassed. After it was cleaned up and I picked the canvas back up, I thought I was going to be “the comeback kid” and perform the same talent that night and get the title! But this was my fourth year - the year I didn’t place! The lesson? Paint anyway! Do it anyway because you love it and you know deep down you’re really good at it.
I’m so thankful for the ups and downs of my career; if I had won in my first year, I wouldn’t have the peak I’m going through now. I’ve had people ask me why I’m opening the crown box again and going for Miss Kansas USA and I simply reply with, because I’m not done yet. I’m taking every chance I get, and I hope you will too. Pick up the paint because you know you’re really good at it, even if you’re scared.