Tomorrow I leave for what I consider to be the pinnacle of all pageantry: Miss America. I’m still trying to figure out how I got here, but as I look back at the last 13 years of my life I see the most amazing progression of a little girl who dreamed of being Miss America to a confident young woman who is about to go for that job.
This experience has been hard, yet rewarding and has shaped me into the Nicole I am today. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned while competing.
The outcome is not reflective of your worth
The first time I competed in a pageant, I didn’t win and I was devastated. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t me and kept asking myself what was wrong with me?
I had that mindset and kept questioning my worth for the next couple pageants I did and ended up feeling discouraged and pretty worthless. I’d like to back up and give you a little something I wish someone would have told me when I was younger. The outcome of a pageant in no way defines your value or worth as a human. As cliché as this may be, the results are literally how 5 people felt on a particular night. Change up that panel and the results may be completely different. Does that mean you are more or less valuable because they decided to lean a certain way one night? NO. You are enough. If you didn’t win, it wasn’t your time! If you did, praise Jesus! Live it up and serve others with your new crown. A crown is not your identity but an opportunity and the outcome does not determine your future potential. ONWARD.
If you’re just trying to get another crown you might as well go home
I honestly don’t know how people compete in pageants just to win and get another crown. If you’re in it for the fame and to be really popular I would really challenge you to reconsider your motives for competing. Although being a titleholder does come with some glamorous perks, it also affords you the incredible opportunity to have influence on people and make a lasting impact in their lives. If we only want the crown for status reasons then we’ve missed the point entirely. When you’re the queen it has to be more than about you or else your year is going to be reaaallly hard and really lonely.
Comparison will kill you
This one has been the hardest for me to overcome because how can you stick yourself in a room with 50 of the nation’s most beautiful, talented, smart young women and say, “don’t compare yourself” ?? WHAT?! That literally seems impossible. But I will tell you, comparison will kill you and it will do nothing to help you in your quest for the crown. Yes it’s a competition and yes you are all competing for the same title, but at the same time, every contestant is a DIFFERENT person! With different talents, different strengths, different weaknesses, different backgrounds and different stories. Another contestant’s goodness doesn’t take away from your goodness and your enough-ness doesn’t take away from another girl’s enough-ness. You are all ENOUGH. So before you get all defensive, breathe, take off the armor and be a friend. Don’t let the feeling (or lie rather) of being inadequate steal that opportunity from you. Think of it like golf. You are all going through the same competition, but individually. Stay in your lane and keep looking forward.
When you fail, get back up
I said ‘when’ not ‘if’ because you will fail. It’s part of the process because we are human and we mess up. Things don’t always go as planned. When I went to Miss America’s Outstanding Teen I thought for sure it was meant to be and I was the next MAOTeen. I didn’t even make the top 15. Haha. I can laugh at that now, but it certainly wasn’t funny at the time because I truly thought this was the plan for me.
I’m so happy I didn’t win though because if I did, I wouldn’t have learned this important lesson…ready? You don’t need a crown to make a difference. You don’t need a banner that says MAOTeen or Miss America or Miss ____________ to give you the permission to impact someone’s life. That’s a decision you make every single day when you wake up and decide that’s the person you are going to be. You should have that attitude about life even on the days where you don’t put the crown on because pageants don’t just teach you how to win a crown, they teach you how to win at life. And again, the things we learn and experience in pageant land are meant to be translated to our every day lives so we can live meaningful lives with greater influence. It’s a lifestyle, not an act that comes out when the crown goes on.
With that being said, I could have let that “failure” spoil my entire outlook on pageants and pouted because I didn’t win but, I was more motivated by the opportunities to gain and become stronger so I competed again. And this time I didn’t take it too seriously. I actually competed in the Distinguished Young Women Program to get some extra $$ for school and had no intentions of winning. In fact, I didn’t even really know what the program was at the time. And guess what happened? I won the whole thing.
Including over $39,000 for college and the opportunity to travel the country for the year and inspire children and teens to be the best version of themselves. WHAT. I certainly did not expect that, but it also wouldn’t have happened if I would have had it my way and won MAOTeen. So I’ll get off my soapbox, but hear me first; God has bigger plans for you than you have for yourself but sometimes we have to wait. So let it go and TRUST.
Be a neighbor
I have met some of my best friends from pageants and I want to challenge you to knock down any barriers that are preventing you from getting close to girls. Yeah you’re in a competition but again, refer to #1 and #3 and then open yourself up to the opportunity to get to know some of the most amazing people! Be kind, care about people, be a friend.
Winning doesn’t always = a crown
This one hurts, but sometimes you actually learn more from losing and often times that is a bigger win than the crown. See # 4.
Figure out who you are and then rock it. Don’t try to be what you think they want because if you win, it’s going to be a long year of faking it.
How many times have you tried to figure out what they are looking for and then tried to force yourself into that perceived mold because you wanted the crown so bad? I’m raising my hand. Not only is this a waste of time, but it’s exhausting! It’s hard enough to be yourself! You are filled with so many amazing talents and gifts that bring a unique spice to life, so don’t undermine that!! People are blessed when they experience your presence so own what you have!! When you compete, try as hard as you can to be 110% YOU because if they end up crowning what they thought was you, but really you were faking it, that’s going to be one reallllly long year of faking it. YOU ARE ENOUGH, remember?
8. Don’t take it too seriously
Sometimes we need a little perspective and to remind ourselves this is just a pageant. It’s not life. It does not determine happiness or identity or joy. So don’t let it have that power over you!! This is a learning experience so open your heart up to ALL opportunities. Laugh a little. Shake your curls out. Eat the piece of chocolate for pete’s sake!! It’s just a pageant! You’ll have WAY more fun if you let yourself enjoy the experience.
I realized this list could go on and on because there are so many quality lessons pageants have taught me, but I think I shared the most important nuggets so I’ll end here. As I get ready to compete in my 19th and FINAL pageant of my LIFE (whoa) I’m so grateful for the way pageants have shaped me and made me who I am today. These experiences have made me a better person, taught me how to dream bigger and live whole-heartedly. This may be my last pageant, but I will never stop dreaming, making a difference and living with as much intentionality as I would if I had a crown on my head.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart for loving me and supporting me in this journey. Each and every one of you has shaped the Nicole I am today and I am forever grateful for the impact you’ve had on my life. Thank you for reading my blog, watching my videos and affirming in my that I AM ENOUGH. It means more than you know. I’m off to Atlantic City, thanks to you.
Now let’s go change the world and #DoStuff
To God be the glory!