What's Pageantry Got To Do With It?

How It All Started

I was a sophomore in college when I began competing in the Miss Pierce County Scholarship Program. It was a local pageant to the Miss America system. At first it was about earning scholarships to pay for school. But soon it became more than that. In my first pageant, I was required to have a volunteer platform. Yes, there was the part where I would be answering my on-stage question in a sparkly gown. However, I learned community service was a major pillar in pageants.

I decided I wanted to help children in foster care. I had spent 13 years of my life in the child welfare system. “I could help others like me,” I thought to myself. “I can make a difference.” I became a panelist at foster parent classes and community events. This led to me volunteering with foster youth in after school programs. After college, I became a motivational speaker. I wanted to share my story of growing up in foster care to help improve the system. And it all started from being a pageant contestant.

 2008 Miss Pierce County Scholarship Program Pageant

2008 Miss Pierce County Scholarship Program Pageant

What It Takes

Most people associate pageants with glitz and glamour. But a lot goes into the process. I was fortunate to have mentors help me with personal styling and make up lessons. I honed my public speaking skills through mock interviews. What I valued most were the friendships I made and life lessons I learned along the way. The most valuable skill I gained was how to market myself in the professional world. Some people mock pageants as being vain and irrelevant in today’s society. I digress. Pageantry taught me the importance of being kind and in tune with the world around me.

I didn’t win the first pageant I competed in. I remember walking off the stage and into the lobby. I began to cry over the fact that I didn’t win. A young girl walked up and asked me to sign my autograph in her program book. At that moment I realized I may not always win in life but I can show up and do the work. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this invaluable experience.

A Second Chance

Ten years later, I decided I wanted to compete again. Why? Because I love improving myself! When I signed up for the 2018 USA Ambassador Pageant, I was second guessing myself. “Why am I putting myself through this again?” I thought. But I trusted my intuition and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I attended the National pageant as Ms. Evergreen State and placed 1st Runner-Up! What I learned from that experience is that you never truly ‘arrive’. Instead, you continue to evolve. I was ecstatic about placing and re-discovered my passion for competing! I had allowed other things in my life to take over my time. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.

 2018 USA Ambassador Pageant

2018 USA Ambassador Pageant

A woman I look up to is Debbi Fields, the creator of Mrs. Fields Cookies. “Really?!” you might ask. “‘How do cookies & pageants mix?” As a high school student, I read about her life story of raising a family and building a multi-million dollar empire. I was impressed by her tenacity, confidence, and bravado to make something of herself. She spoke about doing what she loved as the foundation of her business.

This sentiment is a key piece of advice I keep close to my heart. In the midst of everything that has to be done, there is room to do what you love. Yes, the to-do list never goes away. However, I have noticed when I make room for the things I love, I am able to get through that to-do list. And pageantry has taught me so much about this. It’s helped me to stay connected to what’s important to me in my life.

 At the 2018 Umoja Fest

At the 2018 Umoja Fest

Doing What You Love Is Necessary

I challenge you to pick one thing you love and nurture it. Even if it’s for 20 minutes once a week. Yes, it’s possible. That’s what I did when I was working two jobs and going to school. I would spend about 15 minutes here and there reading tips on how to start my own business. Little did I know that knowledge would come in handy one day. All you have to do is try!

Next month, I will be writing about what it means to add value to the work you do.

Until next time,

Jamerika