"Would you be able to handle being a titleholder, even with your mental illness?"
“First of all, yes.
Second of all, that’s why I need to be titleholder.”
Okay, so that’s not a direct quote from my answer to this question in my Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest interview… But you get the idea.
Some say “pageantry” is bad for women’s mental health – that is breeds insecurities and poor self-image. I feared these things heading into my first local competition, but now I argue that this “competition” is one of the best things that has happened on my journey to wellness and healing.
It is through this very organization that I have found the strength to stare fear right in the face and conquer my mental illness. It is through this “pageant” that I have found confidence in my skin and ability to love my body at all sizes. It is through this “competition” that I have made some of my closest friends who empower and support me as I do them.
Let’s just look and appreciate them before I get too serious.
These women. This happiness. It’s real and it’s truly life-changing.
It sounds cliche, but gosh it’s just true. I’m so grateful for them and our shared week. Meeting motivated, like-minded women who want to make a difference in this world as much as you do is the greatest gift. Thank you, MAO, for bringing them to me.
Now, about that “want to make a difference in this world” part…
Why did I choose the Miss America Organization as my platform to promote my cause of mental health awareness? Why would I choose a “pageant” to do this?
Don’t worry, you’re not the first to ask. 😉
I was originally drawn to my local organization, Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest, due to its heavy emphasis on service. Nothing makes me feel better and more fulfilled than helping others. However, I always thought that “service” required volunteering my time or donating my money – both things I had little of as a college student. It wasn’t long after getting involved in this organization that I realized I could still help others but in a new, creative way. That way was sharing my own story with mental illness and encouraging others to share theirs.
When I didn’t win at my first attempt for a title, I attempted to grow my platform of mental health awareness. I tried to raise funds and grow a following, but didn’t see much success at all (in fact, I only sold 1 shirt during my first t-shirt fundraiser and had to return their money because we couldn’t even print the shirts. lol. awkward.). I was doing everything “right” according to the books but couldn’t manage to get my foot in the right doors at the right times.
Then, I became Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2018.
After a few short weeks of being Miss LCO, I tried again to further develop my platform, “Warrior, Not Worrier”. Instead of flops, I saw insane success. I ended up raising over $1,100 in several short months for local mental health initiatives and gained more followers than I knew how to track. Instead of unanswered e-mails from youth groups, I was finding a way in to speak with at-risk youth about mental wellness and help build their resiliency with very few questions asked about my creditability.
The Miss America Organization has allowed me the platform to make a change I didn’t know I was capable of. It has given me the stage to discuss topics I wouldn’t get to outside of this competition. MAO has granted me a network of incredibly talented and motivated individuals who will stop at nothing to see me succeed. Oh, and it has also paid for a year’s worth of my undergraduate degree. Nbd. 😉
So, the next time you are harping on a “pageant,” I want you to think about me. I want you to think of me – once being embarrassed of my anxiety and depression, now teaching others how to combat it. I want you to think of the girl who was terrified of “swimsuit season” who later strutted her stuff on stage in a bikini feeling confident in her skin and loving her feminine curves. I want you to think of how your life or someone you know’s life would be different had they never heard of WNW or this website.
Maybe I would’ve accomplished all of this without a crown and sash. But, maybe not – and no one likes a story about failure. So I’ll take this happy ending and give credit where credit is due. 😉