Thursday, June 10, 2010

There She Is....

Probably most people who read this blog know that I used to compete in the Miss America Organization. For four years, I worked on interview, talent, swimsuit, and evening gown (and even casualwear one year, so silly!!) to earn the title of Miss Iowa. Before you start laughing and give me the "pageant wave", you should know that after investing about $1,000 into my Miss Iowa preparations, I earned over $10,000 in those four years. Not a bad return on that investment! It was more fun than any college job I could have had, and I learned a lot of invaluable lessons that I have carried with me through life.

I bring up Miss Iowa because today is the first day of preliminary competition at the 2010 Miss Iowa competition. I certainly had a million highs and lows with this organization, but pageant week was always the biggest combination of fun and stress, confidence and self-doubt, poise and goofiness.

The first year I competed I was 19 I think, and came a little too close to winning it all. It took me 5 tries to win a local pageant to even get to Miss Iowa, and all I wanted to do was go have fun, experience the state competition with my best friend Diana, and hope to make the top ten cut. Little did I know, I would come in 2nd-runner up! As Diana, Nicole, and I stood there waiting to hear the results for the three of us, I started to panic. I was NOT ready to be Miss Iowa, take a year off of school, travel the state, and compete in Miss America! I had borrowed my whole wardrobe, for Pete's Sake! And due to a circumstance I can't really elaborate on, I knew for a fact that Diana was not going to win. So there I stood: if they called Nicole as 2nd-runner up, I had won. Thankfully, I was called next, and Diana and I had a blast celebrating our 1st- and 2nd-runner up victories as 19-year-old first-timers.

Year two, I won talent, yet only came in 4th-runner up. It was a little disappointing given the results last year, but I was still just glad to be there. After a trip to the final Miss America in Atlantic City, I got serious about winning. Year three, I was ready to win, but things didn't fall my way. Even though I unexpectedly won overall interview, I still only placed 3rd-runner up.

In 2006, I decided it would be my final attempt at winning Miss Iowa. I was graduating, I wanted to get married, and I had all the pieces for a successful run in the state competition. I was entering the pageant as the front-runner, and I knew it. Let me tell you, the pressure knowing the expectations everyone has for you were a bit overwhelming. I let it get to me and I cracked. Even though I had the most reputable board on my side, helping me in every way, I let them dictate too much of my journey that year. If I regret one thing most, it's that I didn't stand up for my ideas and decisions more that year. But I was convinced they knew more about how to win that I did.

That year, I did not win talent or interview. I placed 4th-runner up. It was by far my worst showing at the state pageant, but in a way it helped confirm my decision to walk away at the age of 22 when I had two years left to compete. Had I placed 1st-runner up, it would have been tempting to come back another year. This way, I was certain my pageant "career" was over.

I'm still not quite sure what happened that last year. I was more in shape, practiced, rehearsed, and ready than ever before. I answered my on-stage question perfectly while others struggled. I sang notes that would shatter a water glass. I spent money on my wardrobe. And yet I know I am much better off having not won Miss Iowa that year or any year. Contrary to what people think, it's expensive to be Miss Iowa. It's not like we live in Texas or Oklahoma here! Iowa isn't exactly pageant country. And the Miss Iowa board was going through some tumultuous times. Although my dream of competing for Miss America like I had watched so many young women do on TV as long as I can remember had ended, I really think if I had won it would have been the hardest year of my life.

I still follow pageants; it would be like Michael Jordan not watching basketball if I didn't! So I can't wait to hear who wins the title this weekend. I have my suspicions, but as you can see from above, you never can quite tell how the chips will fall!


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