My heart is tired. I’ve put off posting this message for awhile because I felt guilty for feeling this way and thought people would be disappointed to know I was struggling, but after an intimate conversation with my 50 sister title holders, I was made aware that other hearts are hurting too.
Being a state titleholder is one of the most difficult jobs to describe because it is one of the biggest blessings and greatest opportunities of your life while at the same time, one of the toughest, loneliest years you might ever experience.
The first 2 months of your reign are a blissful blur because you are so hyped up about going to Miss America and you pour your heart and soul into everything you can do to make your 6 year old dream come true.
But no one really prepares you for post Miss America.
No one talks about how some girls come home to, usually a city that they’re not from, where they don’t know anyone or where anything is.
No one mentions how friends might desert you, unfollow you and try to make you miserable for an honor you worked so hard for. It’s a strange concept to be around people all the time yet feel so isolated and lonely.
Many people don’t know that we take a whole year off, some taking a year off of school to serve and do this job, which by the way, is more than just smiling and waving.
People don’t talk about the struggle with body image a contestant might experience because she feels a pressure to look like she did at Miss America all year and is afraid of being judged if she gains weight when she comes home.
As messages came pouring through my Miss America group chat of girls who feel sad, lonely and some struggling to make ends meet, my heart broke in compassion, but at the same time, cried out in thankfulness to God that I’m not alone and am surrounded by a group of women who I can share things with that only those going through it can understand. It also made me so grateful to live in a state where I have felt an outpouring of love and support from the moment the crown was put on my head.
Please don’t misinterpret the meaning of this post. In no way am I trying to convey that I’m not satisfied and that my year as Miss Washington is horrible. Quite the contrary. Being Miss Washington has been the fulfillment of one of my wildest dreams and every day I wake up thrilled that I was the one chosen for this job this year. But the job is hard and I’m not going to hide behind or cover up the fact that every day is not fun.
I merely want to shine light on the not so glamorous parts people don’t like to talk about because those are the places where hearts are hurting and grace is needed.
If you are involved in pageants at any capacity, as a contestant, board member or volunteer, here is what you can do:
- Communication: Talk to your titleholder and make sure she knows what’s going on. Let her know that she is supported and most importantly, loved. Check in and ask how she’s doing and what she needs, more times than you think is necessary.
- Affirmation: This job is hard and your titleholder needs to be built up. After being “on” all day, what she needs is encouragement, not criticism. Sometimes all she needs to hear is that she’s doing a good job and making a difference. For me, receiving cards in the mail has been a huge source of encouragement. It’s the smallest gesture, but brightens my day and reminds me that what I’m doing has purpose. Your state might not have a ton of money or fancy sponsors, but love and kindness are free and your titleholder deserves to be embraced and lifted up.
- Commitment: Follow through. I know this is a volunteer organization and you don’t have to be here, but neither does your titleholder. She’s a volunteer too and she’s giving up an entire year of school to serve your state. If you say you’re going to do something, follow through and do it. #DoStuff
- Encouragement: As titleholders we are SO grateful for our volunteers because without you, these programs would not exist. To everyone else, we are grateful for your support because you are why we do what we do! Reach out and send your titleholder an encouraging message every now and then and let her know you are thinking about her and that she’s doing a great job.
- Grace: Coming back from Miss America is hard. If you want to hear about it, ask me, I’ll let you know because I did it. If a girl needs anything she needs grace. She needs grace to cry, grace to be confused, and grace to be hurt. She also needs grace about her body because it’s unrealistic and unhealthy for some to be at a “competition weight” all year long. Developing anxiety about body image post Miss A is a real thing because we fear being judged by people in our state if we gain weight. Again, affirmation, encouragement, unconditional love.
Contestants (at any level)
- Permission to feel: Don’t believe the lie that says you can’t struggle or have sadness in your life because you’ve been bestowed with this great honor and it would be selfish of you to be sad. For a long time I felt guilty every time I became sad or felt lonely because I knew I shouldn’t complain, but couldn’t hide the fact I was hurting inside. You are human. You don’t have to be perfect, have it all together or be happy all the time. It agitates me that we’ve created an expectation where girls feel like they can’t show that they’re hurting because they’re afraid of being judged ungrateful for their job. We are real people with real feelings and real lives. We should be able to have a bad day and not feel guilty about it.
- Have more dreams: My BIGGEST piece of advice to you is don’t let Miss America be your only dream. Every girl there has a 2% chance of winning so sorry sister, the odds are not in your favor. Many girls make the mistake of making Miss America their end all be all and when it doesn’t happen, their whole world shatters and falls apart and they go home feeling a lack of purpose. Let me speak to this. Your purpose goes beyond Miss America!! Your purpose is far larger than a single 2-hour pageant that results in a crown and the opinions of a few celebrities. Do you think that’s the only purpose God gave you when He created you?! NO!! That’s because your purpose is so much more than a crown and a pageant!! Know that, believe it and have a couple other dreams on board so you still have something to be excited about if there are other plans for you than being Miss America.
- Reach out: I can guarantee you people won’t know that you need help unless you tell them. The whole reason I wrote this post is because that very thing became apparent to me because it’s happening right now across this entire country! Since social media makes is really hard to tell how people are really doing, most people will just look at your smiley posts and assume you’re fine and have it all figured out. Again, not right to assume, but they’re human too so if you’re struggling, let someone know.
- Expectations: Don’t give yourself unrealistic expectations. The biggest one coming to mind is expecting yourself to look like you did in a swimsuit on the Miss America stage, year round. Not possible. You’ll go crazy. Your job as a titleholder is busy. You’re running from appearance to appearance and you need energy to do that well!! You may not get to go to the gym at all one week, you won’t be able to stick to a meal plan, and you might have to have oatmeal and broccoli for dinner because it’s all you have in the fridge but that’s okay!! Eat food and fuel your body and let yourself relax a little.
Whew, if you made it to the end, thank you for reading. I’ve been feeling a little creatively dull these last few months with nothing to say, but when I started writing this blog, my fingers couldn’t type fast enough. Makes sense because this is an accurate depiction of how my heart has been feeling and the fact that 50 other girls feel the same way proves the gravity of this message.
I am so grateful to be Miss Washington because although I’ve had some hard days, I’ve also had some of the best, fun and most meaningful experiences of my life. This truly is one of the best jobs. Thank you for continually supporting me on this journey and allowing me the grace to struggle, trip and hiccup along the way. Whether you’re a titleholder, director or volunteer, I know we could all apologize, encourage and love a little more. If we all make an intentional effort this new year, imagine what it will do to this already incredible organization.
I’m so blessed by each and every one of you and can’t wait for the last 6 months of my reign. Thank you. Don’t forget to enter your email on the homepage of this blog to receive more encouragement and healthy recipes too!!
Nicole xx #DoStuff