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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Comments

  1. This post explains a lot!
    With your personality I wasn’t surprised at your occasional wearing of a tiara and sash…but this completely explains the sequence gowns at McDonalds and the “cupped hand” good-bye wave as we leave with our food!

  2. You rocked that tiara Natalie – we know you did! You are SO good at mixing laughs with the serious, important things in life. Many people do tend to make jokes about beauty pageants without looking beyond the bathing suits and talent contests and your experience proves them all wrong. Thanks for sharing the lessons you learned. We should all have the same good fortune!

    • Awww…thank you Patricia! I really appreciate the feedback on my “style”. I am definitely having fun writing and hope that I entertain and inform.
      Yes, those poor pageant girls sometimes get a bad rap but they are some of the most ahhhmazing women. And a lot of times pageants are an excellent way to gain scholarships for major educational pursuits.
      Thanks for visiting and your continued support…xoxox

  3. Natalie, I love learning this about you. Your strength and persistence shine through in everything you do and you do it with such a sense of humor I just want to reach through my computer and hug you.

    Like you I’ve learned through reaching for tough goals and I’ve learned the most through the hard, hard times that made me stronger. Believe me, when I was going through those hard times I learned things I didn’t want to learn and I learned to reach out and ask for help. Something this independent, proud woman wasn’t so good at doing.

    Thanks for the great post! You’re amazing.

    • Thank you so much Kate – I am sending you a huge virtual HUG back!!! 🙂
      I agree, it’s the tough stuff that really gives us such an opportunity to learn and grow. And good for you on learning how to reach out and ask for help. That’s huge and so powerful. Not only for you but you gave someone who loves you the opportunity to lend a hand – one I bet you lent to them many times.
      Thanks for your continued support, visits, and comments. I just luv it! YOU are amazing!!!

  4. This is an awesome post, Natalie, and you just officially became one of the coolest people I “know”.

    Thanks for reminding us nothing we are passionate about is ever too “stupid” to pursue.

    And…when do we get to see pics of you in your pagent regalia? ;o)

    • WAHAHAHA!!! Thank you Callene!!! Luv it!! :-))
      Yip, nothing is ever too stupid to try if it’s something you want in your heart and will make you happy!! Nothing!! I say go for it, be crazy and outlandish. We only live once.
      Ahhhh – I’ll have to go dig through my photos and scan a few ditties in – it was before I went digital. LOL!

  5. This is an inspiring and endearing story, and a welcome different take on pageants that I probably needed to hear (judgemental me). But you know that what we really want is PICTURES OF YOU IN THE GOWN AND CROWN. Cough up, please. 🙂

    • Thank you Naomi! Yes, I thought much the same thing when I went into the pageant – scared to death of meeting those snobby, catty pageant girls. But what I found was a group of women who were generous, supportive, caring, smart, driven, and all around spectacular! Totally changed my take on it as well and even though I didn’t win, it was a GREAT experience!
      I was just telling Callene, I’ll have to “dig” some photos up and scan them…LOL!!!

  6. I saw this in my inbox and kept wanting to get back to read it! BUT I had to get some editing done and then the boys in the house thought I should feed them (whatever, like they can’t cook???) and now I’m finally able to read about your pageant days!

    How exciting was that for you!?! You are so brave and amazing. Too bad they have stinky rules that you have to stay married to keep the crown. You’re married now, can you have the crown back? I’m with Naomi – pictures, please. And tell your hubby, there is nothing wrong with wearing glitter and sequins to McDonalds. You have to practice your wave somewhere, right?

    I have to run and set the DVR to record the Miss Universe pageant, I totally forgot! Thanks for the peek into your fabulous life. I always love it when something sucky teaches me a great life lesson. Not necessarily at the time, but later, when I have a chance to realize I’m better for the lesson.

    • HAHAHA! I just ADORE you Tameri!!! Thank you so much for all the support and comments. They are fabulous!
      Yes, I dare say I could potentially apply to compete again but I am not sure if my “pageant” days are done. Who knows?!?! LOL!!
      Pics to come – I gotta dig them out of the vault and scan them. HAHAHAHA!!!
      I told hubby what you said and he agreed, practice, practice, practice!! Ask me to done the ol’ sequins last night and show him my pageant strut. LOL! 🙂
      Did you watch it? What did you think of who won?
      Yes, I love life lessons and it’s amazing how they come in a variety of packages – some easier than others. 🙂
      MUAH!

  7. Natalie, I totally admire how fantastically you mix a serious undertone of this post with the humor. Great job!

    As for the pageants — I’ve been in one during my college years and even won, woo hoo. It was a very small pageants held for the students but the satisfaction and the fun factor were unbeatable.

    My five year old daughter just participated in a talent pageant. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was prepared for her running off the stage and hiding in my arms. But she stole the crowd, owned the stage and made me oh, so proud. She didn’t win the title but did absolutely awesome.

    • Thank you Angela – I am thrilled you enjoyed it!
      Won a pageant – how fantastic for you! It sounds like it was also a fun filled experience. So happy there are others out there that have found the pageant experience to be fun and fulfilling!
      Congrats to your daughter on a talent pageant – at five – wow! What was her talent? She sounds like a REAL charmer. Beautiful like her Mom, I am sure!!

  8. Nice post. But what do you feel about the children pageants? I postet an article om my blog today, and I was actually asked to shut up by a pagent mom… And I didn’t even think I was that critical, only towards the glitz pageants and particularly the reality show “Toddlers and Tiaras” See
    http://ellengry.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/153/

    • Wow – your post elicited some heated debate and discussion, eh?! A little overwhelming. Yikes. Being told to “shut up” was a bit much as you certainly do have the right to express your views.
      Hmmm….well I don’t feel like I can comment specifically with thoughts on Toddlers and Tiaras since I have never seen an episode. Always meant to but then we cut back our cable. 🙂
      I will say when I see the kids “done up” with the heavy glitz and glamour it does kind of freak me out. They look so adult in a child’s body – almost like porcelain dolls. I find it odd looking – that’s just my personal take on it. And I will admit that I wonder what kind of effect it could have on their psyche or self-image; positive or negative.
      At the same time, I personally don’t know much about it. I was never in a child pageant nor do I know anyone who was. I think like anything, there are people who’ve thrived from it and those who’ve suffered from it. And there are those who take it lightly and those who take it to the extreme.
      Happens across the board; think about sports (dance, football etc). Anyone at any age can take it too far; pre-teens taking steroids to make sporting teams or girls dressing skimpy and not eating to stay thin for the cheerleading squad. In the end, I think it’s up to each parent/child to decide what they feel is right for them.

Trackbacks

  1. […] parties, weddings, family BBQs….SWEET! I will be a hit. Maybe I’ll even wear my old sash and crown. […]

  2. […] blog header HAS a TIARA in it. Need I say more?!?! That just SCREAMS stylish! If you read my pageant post, you’ll know why I think so. Coupled with a gorgeous smiling pictures of herself and some uber […]

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