Being in pageants for over a decade has given me plenty of opportunities to form memories to last a lifetime. However, the journey through the last 10 years has been one heck of a ride. I have enjoyed every minute of it and want to share just a few of the gifts pageants have brought into my life.
When I was 13, I was a rather new kid at Hamilton County High School, and in my “goth” phase. Let me just say the pictures make me cringe. Esh.
During my first period class, we were called for an assembly. I was relived because I loathed coming to school. I was painfully shy, awkward, and had zero confidence in myself. To say I felt like an outsider was an understatement. I walked into the auditorium with my one friend at the time, Andrea. Together we saw a beautiful blonde woman standing on-stage with a glistening crown and sash. Miss Florida 2007, Kylie Williams, an alumna of HCHS, was there to talk with us about her journey to the Miss Florida crown.
(Miss Florida 2007 Kylie Williams / Photo Credit: Tallahassee Magazine)
I never took my eyes off her. When she talked about her time at the school, I felt she had experienced the same things I had. The rejection sucked and it was reliving to know I was not the only one affected by it. She elaborated on how she entered her first pageant on a whim and won. She lit up when she talked about the confidence and public speaking skills she learned. She entertained us with her incredible experience of going from a small town to competing on the Miss America stage. Her story was beyond inspiring.
A few weeks after she spoke, my chorus teacher, Mrs. Jones, announced the school was bringing back the Miss HCHS pageant. After hearing Kylie speak, I asked my mom if I could give it a try. Being that I never wore makeup, did my hair, or wore dresses, my mom was taken aback but agreed right away. This gifted me with one of my favorite memories with my mom, shopping for my first gown. We went to Belk’s about a week before the pageant. We searched through the rainbow of prom and pageant gowns arranged chaotically on the racks. Finally, we came across a beautiful white strapless gown. It had black floral appliques and a black band around the top with just enough sparkle for the stage. My mom and I both gasped when I put it on. At the time, my favorite color was black but my mom, of course, wanted me in anything but my comfortable black. This gown was the perfect balance.
The next week, I competed for the first time. I was a nervous wreck. I shook all over and quickly began doubting myself. However, when I walked on that stage, I felt something I had never felt before, beautiful. Granted, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but I did not care. I felt a light inside of myself I did not know existed. In the end, I walked away as First Runner-Up and Miss Congeniality. From then on, I was hooked and have been competing ever since.
(On-Stage After Miss HCHS 2008)
I credit a lot of my accomplishments over the years to the skills I have learned in pageants. I learned how to be confident and stand up for myself. I’ve learned valuable interview and public speaking skills I use every day. I’ve learned what it means to keep trying and never give up after competing several times for a state title. I’ve learned when to celebrate my accomplishments and accept criticisms so I can improve. I have a countless number of memories with my mom from gown shopping to frantically zipping me in a dress backstage, to long car rides full of conversations on the way to appearances. I met my best friend, Amber, because I competed in Miss Homestead 2013 with her and she won!
Overall, pageants have been an amazing experience. They have given me so many opportunities in my life and I plan to compete until I can’t anymore. To Miss Florida 2007, thank you so much for coming to speak at little old HCHS that day. I want you to know you forever changed my life that day and I cannot thank you enough.