At eighteen, I decided I wanted to compete in my first pageant. All the queen’s big curls, sparkling crowns, and debutante Sherri Hill dresses had been catching my eye for a while, and, of course, I wanted to strap on the seven inch heels and walk down the runway being “beautifully confident,” too.
Obviously I had always daydreamed of being a Disney Princess like Tiana from Princess and the Frog, or Belle falling in love after leaving her humble French roots. I thought pageantry would make my childhood imagination come true with the wave of my magic wand. But in the past few months in preparation for the Miss Vermont Teen USA pageant competition, I learned that all the glitz and the glam and the fashion made me feel less like a Kardashian or princess and more like an accountant/athlete/nutritionist in training. I’m not complaining though; I know now that you don’t need to look like Kylie to feel like you’re the sh*t.
Budgeting Like a Boss
I had to raise money-a lot of money-to fund this pageant dream of mine. I needed sponsors to contribute to the sum of eight-hundred-ninety-five-plus dollars to just complete the entry payments. And then much more for the dresses, the shoes, the accessories, hotel rooms, transportation, makeup, hair appointments, special underwear, sticky boobs, and much more. I was beyond overwhelmed. I worked a minimum wage job over summer and, even though I saved and saved, I still needed more. I spent many days going to local businesses asking for sponsorships, as well as reaching out to family and friends, not to mention dipping deep into my personal funds. But I did it! The feeling of being independent in the process of raising money was so satisfying. One step done, and I was onto the next.
Work Hard, Play Harder
I started focusing on finding a healthy exercise and diet plan. Most people look at models and pageant girls and assume they don’t eat; people talk of eating disorders, crazy fad diets and juice cleanses, assuming that’s what pageant girls do to look like Miss Universe. Nope! That wasn’t my style. That really isn’t any of our styles. I wanted to train for myself, to see a healthier, more confident version of the person I already was. This meant going to bed before midnight every night, even on Saturdays! I ate lots of beans, greens, and (mmm!) gluten free foods. I found that figure skating everyday and working harder to reach my fitness goals made me a happier person. The “natural high” from exercise is a real thing! The girls I’ve met so far, like Miss Massachusetts 2015 Polikseni Manxhari, Miss Photogenic New Hampshire Teen 2017 Valeria Maya, Miss Teen Massachusetts U.S of America 2016 Taylor Ward, and many more, have been so supportive of me and all the pageant girls. We positively influence each other and always root each other on like a team. It’s a rewarding experience enough to feel empowered by other women with the same goals as you, before you even step on a stage.
Glam Squad of 1
When I went to Disney as a kid, I wanted a picture with every princess. I bought a crown each year my family went and wore it around telling my mom that I was a real princess. I may not be a Disney princess, but I sure feel like it in my beaded gowns and dangly crystal earrings, walking around practicing how to balance heel-toe-heel-toe with my Chinese Laundry stilettos on. (I can’t even tell you how many times I rolled over my ankles and yet, had to practice smiling through the pain.) The makeup tutorials and photo shoots make me feel like a professional. For a girl who never liked having her picture taken, the confidence boost of both my fitness and mental health changed me to be so comfortable in front of a lens. I’m going to Disney next year and you better believe that if I win I am wearing my crown there!
Pageantry gets a bad rep sometimes, but believe me, it has only positively impacted my life and happiness.
The Miss Vermont Teen 2017 pageant will be November 19-20, 2016 in Stowe, Vermont.