2019 – Harvest

2019 – Harvest

I once listened to podcast by Chalene Johnson (you should totally go find it after you read this) where she talked about the seasons you will experience in business. Very few make it through the seasons of tilling and planting to actually reap the harvest. I felt 2019 was a year of harvest for me. Years and years of plowing through jobs that didn’t fit my dreams until I finally broke ground on MY company. Years of sowing and planting, watering and nurturing this sprout of a business. Out of the devastation of 2018 came life. Blooming everywhere. Two national winners, multiple state winners and countless regional winners, and even small business clients … my world was alive with beauty. 

My ultra wise older brother, also a small business owner, advised me to enjoy the harvest but prepare for the next season. Do not forsake the responsibilities and habits that brought you this success. The metaphors abound. 

Queens, even if you just won your title and plan to enjoy your reign, do not forsake the choices and habits that won the crown. This year will come to a close and you will be left standing, crown-less and stepping back into the season of former life but with a new field of decisions before you. Most of my girls are young so aging out is not as much of a concern. Many of you will go on to chase more titles but how will you get there? If you took an entire year off, how will your skills have wilted? 

Please hear the wisdom of my brother, enjoy your season of victory, but do not neglect the practices that brought you here. There is life after the crown. What will you do on the 365th day of your reign? Will you be prepared to step into the next opportunity or will you have to begin all over again? 

When to hire a coach

Let’s play a little game. Let’s pretend you were selected to plan a major event. (For high school, think Prom. For College, think Graduation Ceremony. For adults, think wedding.) As you begin to think about all of the details, your adrenaline (or anxiety) is probably starting to bubble to the surface. (if not, clearly you’ve never been responsible for a major event) After months and months of preparation you are about two weeks from the event date. But your brain is fried. You are just done. You cannot make one more decision. So you hire an event coordinator… let’s use me, as an example. Brilliant Choice! Just one problem. There is not a whole lot left for me to do because you’ve already selected the venue, color scheme, the table linens, the menu, and the entertainment. So basically my job is to manage a crisis if necessary. 

This is exactly what happens when you hire a coach one or two weeks before your pageant. You’ve, hopefully, already selected your attire, your talent, and your platform. So my job is boiled down to polishing. If your talent song is too hard, well, sorry. You’ve already turned in your paper work. Oh! Paperwork, hope it was top notch and had zero mistakes because there is nothing I can do with it now. See what I mean? 

Side note: if you haven’t selected an evening gown, opening number, swimsuit and talent dress and your pageant is in two weeks, it’s time to start thinking about a different pageant.

So it is at this point that I would like to introduce you to the concept of reverse engineering. If your goal is to compete at Miss Florida (I’ll use this as an example because I live in Florida), that’s in June. So you’ll need to go thru the preliminary list and decide which preliminary pageant (or 3) you’d be eligible for.

This is when you should call your coach (hopefully me). I will help you select your attire and make sure you have plenty of time for alterations. I will help you select a talent that is appropriate for your skill level. I will begin the interview training process, trust me, this is a process. And let’s not even talk about the fitness plan. There are no crash diets in my world but there is a lot of grilled chicken. All of this is laid out for the entire pageant season so that you do not spend two solid weeks so stressed out that your hair starts falling out or you forget to eat (which makes your clothes not fit. And I’ll tell ya, lunch is way cheaper then altering that gown again.)

To sum it up, if you want to be a winner, you have to think like a winner. No one wins the Super Bowl on a whim. Strategy, consistency and proper coaching from the beginning. 

2018 – Devastated

My word for 2018 was Devastated. I watched as the pageant land I hold dear was turned to rubble by greed and vanity. It is almost eerie how my pageant world mimicked my real world as Hurricane Michael leveled my region of paradise. I have spent thousands, yes, thousands of hours watching, reading, serving, talking, researching and now rebuilding this area. My work in pageantry will be the same. 

Lives are being broken. Leaders are being bent and in some cases broken. Whole systems are being wiped off the map. Much like this region, I came of age in pageant land. I learned to value my voice and my body. I thickened my skin against nay-sayers and softened my heart to the community I love. I sharpened my writing and speaking skills here. And now, in my adult life, I have returned to this area as well as to pageant land to raise my family and educate a new generation of female leaders. 

But, as I look around at the back-stabbing, territorialistic, infighting that has consumed this place, I am almost speechless. Directors and volunteers have been idolized as queens and competitors are marginalized. This place that used to be safe for young women to grow and develop into roles of leadership has turned on these young ladies and silenced them. Those on the outskirts have gone running for the hills. Basically, we, as a community, are dying. 

Where do we go from here? Where will my daughters, our littles and tinies, learn the valuable lessons being taught in this uniquely competitive but utterly inspiring space?

We have forgotten who we are, why we inhabit this space and how to go about our purpose. 

These young women are the future of our businesses, our schools, our hospitals, our capitol. The knowledge and experience they acquire here, flesh out the educational outline they are given in standard academia. It is not about a shiny crown or a fancy title. Those things are rewards for the year-long dedication to service, scholarship and self care. We empower these women to find a need in their community, develop a platform, and with the help of the title, work until that need is fulfilled. (and do it in heels because we are overachievers). We encourage these women to put in the hours of interview prep, gym sweat and scholastic achievement because balance is not a theory, it is a life skill. 

It is our job as Directors, Volunteers, Coaches and Mentors to lead by example, to encourage thru difficulties, to acknowledge achievement, to direct through confusion, to enlighten in the face of disappointment and to applaud each and every victory. If you find yourself wanting to silence a voice simply because you disagree or desire to be heard, perhaps it’s time to silence your own voice and evaluate your motives. Does your value system still align with the mission of the system with which you volunteer? with pageants in general?

If you answered yes to that, then please reintroduce yourself to the purpose and fundamentals of pageantry. 

If you answered no, then perhaps it is time to seek other ventures. If you feel there is another avenue by which to train future leaders then build it! The only sound you will hear from pageant land is the sound of applause as we cheer you on. 

Please don’t forget that we are pageant sisters. We are bound by our deep appreciation of those who have provided the crown, donated to the crown, served the crown, worn the crown and eventually passed the crown onto the next. 

Pursuing Perfection vs. Evoking Excellence

Vince Lombardi once said “Perfection is not attainable but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

This is how I want you to pursue your title (or any dream really). There will never come a competition day that is completely free from snags, hiccups, whoops or just flat out wrongs. And yet, we hold our breath hoping for that day to be today. So what do you do when you are inevitably disappointed?

First, process and cope with the disappointment. ITS OK!! If you didn’t care at all that you didn’t win, I’d say you didn’t truly care to win. Every competitor goes into competition day with countless hours of blood, sweat, and blistered feet. So, understand that there is an immediate release of emotions following the closing ceremony. Allow space for this. Don’t book yourself solid for the two weeks following the pageant. Give yourself (at minimum) two or three days to get your feet back on the ground and hopefully not wear heels or makeup one. single. time. (your skin will thank me). 

Ok, so now what? You have survived the emotional dump and now you are ready to get back up on those tippy tops. Now is the time to ask questions. Ask spectators, parents, friends, coaches, even the director if they have any notes for you. Anything that can help you improve and be ready for next time. Listen closely, dear heart, this can be the hardest part. It is never fun to hear that you may need work in a certain area. And people will undoubtedly feel they can word-vomit on you when you ask their opinion. Side story: when I asked this question after my first preliminary in a new state, I was told “You will never be thin enough to be Miss (state title).” Gee, thanks. That’s helpful. So when entering this portion of pageant prep, please take everything with a grain of salt.  I wrote every comment on a post-it note and laid each one out on my kitchen floor. Slowly I worked thru them placing apples with apples, shapes with shapes. What I mean is if someone said “fitness was clearly not your strong suit” (thanks again), I would put that on top of the “never thin enough” comment. You will begin to see the competition take shape. At the end I had all the comments piled into events (swimsuit, talent, evening gown etc.). Thankfully my piles told a clear story. GO TO THE GYM. Yours may say something like “rethink your talent song” or “that gown is done.” In any case, give each stack true consideration.  

Now, If you receive any ugly comments such as “you bugged me” or “rubbed me the wrong way” (clearly I never received these. I am an eternal delight) put those in their own pile labeled “thanks but no thanks” and have a nice bonfire at the end of this exercise. Maybe even have some s’mores …ok, maybe go to the gym.

You see pursuing perfection involves studying your imperfections, learning those things that may need a little extra work, like my back fat. But it is also about developing thick skin. You will not be everyones’ favorite person (ugh, the 3 in me dies a little). Discerning “constructive criticism” from just “plain ole mean” takes some practice but if you can master this you will be lightyears ahead on your journey. There will ALWAYS be things to work on, muscles to strengthen (both physical and proverbial). If you can work on your weaknesses to make them your strengths and then make your current strengths your brand, you will not achieve perfection but you will absolutely evoke the excellence inside of you.

3 Fatal (but totally fixable) mistakes you might be making

  1. Shoes you can’t walk in. I know Tippy Tops are all the rage right now but let’s be serious, only about 10% of pageant girls can actually walk well in them. Even professional models struggle with these. My best suggestion is to try something a little closer to the ground. I find the stability of the platform is questionable at best. Having a thin sole under the ball of your foot allows you to feel the ground helping you to be more sturdy. Also, if your ankle does happen to give, in tippy tops, it’s a guaranteed flail and possibly a sprain. However, in a thin-soled shoe, if practiced, you can recover quickly and seamlessly from a minor slip.
  1. A dress that doesn’t fit. Let’s get one thing straight, “off the rack” is like unicorns and newborns who sleep thru the night, pure myth. It is downright painful to watch a young lady “toy soldier” across the stage because her strapless dress is about to become a skirt. It is just as bad for the audience to be collectively holding their breath praying the seams in that dress hold because “Miss Freshmen Fifteen” will not accept the fact that she is actually a size 6 now and not a size 2 anymore. (look sister, it happens to all of us. Ain’t no shame in that game. Embrace your new-found curves and dress the body you have!) In my humble opinion, one of the best decisions you can make as an adult to is find a quality seamstress who can fit clothing specifically to you. This is quit clearly a pageant to real life crossover. Your future employers are free to email me with thank you notes.
  1. Social Media Monitoring. Please allow me to dispel another commonly held myth. There is no such thing as “private” in social media. I would bet all my jewelry that no matter how careful you are, someone somewhere  is seeing your posts and can/will share them. It will inevitably make it back to your competition, your coach and eventually your director. This may not seem like a big deal to the “social media generation” but let me tell you, the people reading college admissions essays, hiring for jobs out of college and yes, your judges are not amused. They are professionals who come from the generation who created social media. We are not amused by shenanigans.