This July I received a postcard in the mail from the Miss New Jersey USA headquarters informing me that this year’s pageant was approaching and they were looking for participants. I’m a very skeptical person and wrote it off as a scam, figuring there was no way applying for such a renowned competition could be so easy. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just apply and see what happened. Just a few days later, one of the pageant’s state directors called to interview me and gave me more information than I was able to make sense of, including pageant costs and requirements. I was reluctant to go any further when I was told it would cost me $90 just to register and that I had to somehow come up with $1,200 in sponsorships. Luckily, I have a family friend who has participated in pageants and modeling competitions, so I gave her a call to get a better idea of what the USA pageants are all about and she encouraged me to go for it.
While I’m ecstatic to finally be pursuing my dream of becoming a model, it’s tough work; which, of course, I expected. After dozens of phone calls and walk-ins to try to get people and businesses to sponsor me, I’ve finally almost reached the required $1,200 fee. It’s definitely a confidence boost knowing that so many people believe in me. I was lucky to already have a bikini and evening gown that I love and think would be perfect for the pageant, so that was one expense and stress I was happy to not have to deal with. However, one of the hardest parts about preparing for the pageant is sticking to an exercise routine and diet. I spend over an hour each day pumping iron in the gym and recently started kickboxing (join me on Fridays!). It’s difficult finding free time on school days, but my boyfriend has been a huge help in making sure I get to the gym or go for a run no matter what. My diet is another story. I’ve experimented with veganism to try to shed a few extra pounds, but found it a little difficult to stick with right away. Now I’m eating mostly vegan, but I’ll often have grilled chicken or salmon for extra flavor and protein. While I miss Second Storey pizza terribly, I definitely don’t want to let myself and my supporters down by gaining back my “Freshman 15” and having to show it off in a bikini!
Now that the pageant is only a month away, I’m more excited than ever. The pageant seminar was this weekend and I had the opportunity to meet many of the other contestants – a great group of young women, many of which are first-timers like myself – and even the current Miss New Jersey USA titleholder, Michelle Leonardo. I was able to learn a lot in the three-hour session, including the opening dance number, how to walk and pose, and a few helpful interview tips. I was also thrilled to hear from multiple people that it doesn’t matter how skinny you are or how expensive your gown was, it’s about how fit, confident, and personable you are. I really like to think that I have and display those qualities well, and that I may have a shot at being a finalist or even the next Miss New Jersey USA titleholder. But whether I win or not, I know I’ve tried my best (cheesy, I know) and I already feel my best knowing that I have such an awesome support system. It feels incredible to step outside of my comfort zone and be a part of something that I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be involved with just two months ago!