Everybody wants to be a winner. That’s how the saying goes… right?
Competing in pageants for the last three years, I’ve learned that there isn’t a winner. If all pageants were meant to be won, no one would compete again after losing – or in my situation, first runner-up any number of times. The winner of a pageant goes on to represent their title with grace, leadership, empowerment, and motivation. However, many people don’t realize that everyone who isn’t crowned gets to carry themselves with dignity, leadership, empowerment, and inspiration.
Winning a crown isn’t about the short time spent on stage. It’s about the person, the lifestyle, and who they are. Coming back from first runner-up is no loss at all. I still get to be the same girl – I just get to wait for my time.
Winning my dream title would mean everything to me. Growing up with my Filipino grandparents, Filipino dad, and Scottish-Irish mom, I had never considered these differences that set me apart from others. I knew one thing going into school, and it was that I was loved. When I started school, that was the first time I became different. However, this was never something that set me back – I admired this about R’bonney and all the women that helped me become who I am today. I knew I would have to fight harder and work harder to be who I knew I could be. For me, this meant going into an untapped field to study Neuroscience while founding my non-profit organization, Culture 4 Caring, which I can proudly say has thrived within Klein ISD for five years. Having the gift of a voice allowed me to reach children all over my state who grew up feeling too different to fit in, just like I did, and give them a home. I still didn’t quite understand why being different was so bad, but I knew that I was helping to shape the next generation not only to be caring but to be brave and stand up for who they are. As I am typing this article, I know that time and time again, I have stood tall against adversity and showed every person love and that their dreams are limited only by their kindness.
With all of this being said, earning first runner-up at nineteen years old was the first time I was troubled with the idea that my different was too different. This was the first time I forgot who I was – the first time I questioned my identity.
My different was too different.
The news and speculation surrounding Miss Universe and Miss USA reminded me that there has been a stigma about pageants of many systems for many years. When I first decided to compete in pageants, I was well aware but never afraid. As I said before, the crown is not about winning or losing. It’s about timing and who you are as a person. It is with true honor that I get to say that I know R’bonney Gabriel. She defined what a young Filipina-American woman can and should achieve if she sets her mind to it. Watching her compete for the first time and earning the title of first-runner showed me that there was more to pageants than competing. I watched one of my role models and inspirations take the stage and sit in the same position I had placed the year before. What made her different from the rest was that she never gave up, and I could see her as a person, not just a titleholder. When she went on to win the title of Miss Texas USA and now Miss USA, I felt at peace with my different. She has shown and continues to show that every little girl chasing the same dream has a place. She instilled in me that my different is not different at all. Her relentless determination and God-fearing love for every person she met meant that I, too, would find my time and place. My troubling mind found peace, and I remembered who I was.
Stepping away from pageants for a year, I have seen myself change in ways I never thought I could. The endless hours of fitness training, interview coaching, makeup lessons, service hours, and sleepless nights meant more to me. They prepared me for life and the woman I wanted to be. I can thank five women in particular for their impact on my performance and on my life – Lynn Red, Anna Cantu, Sharon Melton, Mariah Chaney, and Misty Rockwell. These women didn’t teach me how to win a pageant. They taught me how to win in life. During every single endless hour, I developed passion, grace, initiative, and unshakable confidence. This is what pageants are meant for. The placements, the crown, and the title are doubtlessly the honor of every titleholder who has had the opportunity to hold it. However, the life you lead and the person you become are the true glories of it all. As a twenty-year-old, I am fulfilled knowing that I get to be who I am, know whose I am, and be proud that I never want to change.
As a twenty-year-old, I am fulfilled knowing that I get to be who I am, know whose I am, and be proud that I never want to change.
Coming back from first runner-up has meant something other than winning the title. Coming back from first runner-up means having the patience to trust in timing and trust in myself. Coming back from first runner-up means knowing that “no” is not a rejection. Coming back from first runner-up means knowing that “no” is a redirection.
As for me, my redirection exists in a sense of self, patience, and a steadfast heart, knowing that my yes is coming.