As a former pageant queen, I lost my crown but I found myself

Tonight marks the 60th annual Miss Universe pageant (airing on NBC – check your local listings). Eeeekee…I LOVE pageants!

Each year I curl up on the couch with a bowl of hot popcorn and watch the Miss Universe pageant admiring the dresses and the glamour. I sit with my pad and pen tallying up my own scores while making bold predictions for who will win and who will place. Even hubby joins in on the fun (he is such a good sport). Tonight’s pageant will air live from São Paulo, Brazil with contestants from more than 80 countries participating.

I know there can be a lot of controversy surrounding “beauty” pageants but I I love them. I respect those women. When you read their bios and see their accomplishments, you quickly realize that pageant women are some of the most incredibly talented, educated, and empowered women doing amazing things in communities around the world.

Unfortunately, growing up I was a notorious bad-ass with a reputation to uphold so I felt unable to take part in any of the small-town pageants we had. But I always watched from the side-lines with envy as the popular girls got to have all the fun.

After I got married the first time, I stumbled across the Mrs. Canada International pageant*, a pageant system for married women. NO SHIT!?!

As a platform pageant system, all participants were required to have a cause or issue they promoted within their community, such as breast cancer awareness. At the pageant, half of the overall score was based on a 20-minute interview that was centered on community involvement. The other half of the score was divided equally between an on-stage fitness (instead of the swimsuit) and evening gown competition. The top ten then competed in an on-stage question, which was factored into the overall score to determine the winner. As well as many wonderful prizes, the winner was given the opportunity to promote her platform nationwide and compete in the Mrs. International pageant in the US.

I was SOLD. This was my chance to fulfill a secret lifelong dream to become a pageant queen. Fame, fortune and world domination to follow!

Because this Canadian pageant system was relatively new and small, participants became city title holders through a mail-in application. I won as my city title holder two years in a row and competed nationally both years. My platform for both years was “self-esteem: what you believe, you can achieve.

The first year, I didn’t even place in the top ten. Boo!

I didn’t let it get me down. I was determined to win the big crown! The first year, I learned a lot and it motivated me to try again.

The second year, I placed first-runner up. 

Wow, not bad, eh?! I was the person that if reigning Mrs. Canada wasn’t able to fulfill her duties, I’d get to step in. Although I loved the woman who won, I am not ashamed to admit that deep down I prayed for an injury that’d take her out of the running but that she’d recover from 100%…I am a terrible person…I know!

Anyway…don’t get too excited. In the end, it turned out it was a good thing I didn’t win. Half way through my reign that year, I lost my crown when I filed for divorce. Funny, they don’t like women in the midst of a divorce representing their married women’s pageant. Tight-asses. Oops.

So I didn’t win….not once, but twice…and I lost my crown…and I fell from pageant glory…and I was slightly humiliated over the whole thing.

But here’s what I did learn.

  • I learned that pageant women are some of the best, brightest, and most dedicated and determined women out there. They are doing phenomenal things in our communities for the love of giving back. I am still close friends with some of these incredible women today.
  • I learned that going after your dreams, at any age or stage in life, is worth it. No matter the cost, effort, or “is she crazy???” looks you get from family and friends.
  • I learned that self-esteem and self-confidence is something you can gain at any time in life; that you build it within yourself one step at a time by doing things that fill you with pride.
  • I learned how to rely on myself by stepping outside my comfort zone and doing something totally on my own (knowing most of my friends and family thought I was totally insane).
  • Speaking of friends and family thinking I went nutty, I learned how to care less about what others think; to stand on my own two feet and let the judgments of others fall to the ground.
  • I learned to tune out fears, insecurities and self doubts so that I could follow my own heart.

Pageantry gave me wings to fly after my dreams.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, these were steps that lead me closer to myself and further away from my marriage. These were vital lessons I needed to learn in order gain the inner strength to put a voice to my own needs and make tough decisions for the sake of my own happiness and self-esteem.

And hell…you all KNOW I looked fantastic in a crown!

What experiences in your life have built you up and made you stronger? When have you laughed in the face of conformity to do something totally outside your comfort zone?

 

*At the time I was involved in the Mrs. Canada International pageant system there was an actual pageant to determine the national titleholder. I am not sure what the format is now.

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