SURPRISE! If you haven’t heard yet, I was crowned your 2019 National American Miss Ohio over the weekend. Yes, I formally announced my retirement from pageants last spring, but I couldn’t be more excited about my decision to get back on the pageant stage.
National American Miss came into my life in the form of a letter back in 2014. I was then battling depression and in the midst of another anorexia relapse. At first, I was so confused. Why would someone pick me to be in a pageant? I had ZERO confidence, no social skills and no motivation to even give recovery a try. I was the complete opposite of a “pageant” girl. Why me? Confused as ever, I decided to take my leap of faith and go for it!
Let me tell you, the nerves were REAL when I went to my very first NAM Open Call! I had absolutely no idea what AMAZING things I was about to get into. First, they took me to a room with a white screen and a photographer to do a quick modeling photo shoot: my very first one! I was so nervous in front of the camera at first, but the photographer put me at ease, and I actually had some fun with it! (I look back at those pictures now and laugh. That poor girl had no confidence or self-esteem. If I could go back in time, I would tell her that it’s okay to believe in yourself and smile!) We then went into the ballroom for the presentation to learn all about NAM. From beginning to end, I knew I needed to do National American Miss because it was going to help me develop confidence, public speaking skills and social skills: things I completely lacked. I also knew it was my last shot at recovery. If this couldn’t help me learn to love myself, what would? I did a short interview with a NAM Staff Member before leaving for them to determine if I would be a great fit for the program. Two days later, I found out I was a finalist for National American Miss Ohio Teen!
Simply becoming a finalist for the Teen title changed me. I held my shoulders back, held my head a little higher and walked through the halls at school with a little more pep in my step. No more could the kids at school define me or beat me down; I believed in myself and my worth. Remember how I said NAM came into my life during an anorexia relapse? Crazy enough, I was able to maintain a healthy weight leading up to the pageant. I started eating again and stopped working out so much so I could be my absolute best, healthy self during pageant weekend. It was my first taste of recovery (pun intended), and man, did it taste good!
Pageant weekend was nothing short of a dream come true. Stepping onto the NAM stage for the very first time was simply transformative. I went from the quiet, shy girl with an eating disorder, to a confident young woman with a purpose. I graced the stage in formal wear with a big black ballgown and stumbled during my circle turn, but it didn’t matter because I was the happiest (and most confident) I’d ever been. I wore an over-sized, pink suit for intro and interview because it made me happy, and I felt like a boss. At the finale, I was devastated to not make top 25, and although, it took me a while to realize it, I had won something so much more important than a crown: my desire to live. For the first time, I wanted to fight my eating disorder to become an inspiration for other girls. I wanted to be an inspiration for others fighting these illnesses to never give up because recovery is possible. I AM a girl with dreams!
I carried all of that motivation, all of that confidence with me into my second year with National American Miss. I even started developing my now platform, Girl in the Mirror, which is dedicated to empowering young women to recognize their true beauty. I stepped out in the gown of my (then) dreams, and felt like a whole new woman. I knew I was beautiful; I was confident and I felt like the queen. I had several optional wins and placements, but the most meaningful moment was being called into the top 20 for Miss Ohio Teen 2015. I later found out I placed sixth overall out of one hundred girls and was out of the top five by just two points! “Miracles can happen when you believe.”
Year three was all about soul searching and finding the root of my confidence. Rather than spending a lot of time practicing walking and talking, I spent most of my time journaling, praying and being mindful of my self-talk. Being a queen comes from within, so it was important to me that my confidence was genuine and sincere while I was on-stage and in the interview room. Let me tell you, I’ve never felt more confident in my life than I did on the Miss Ohio 2016 stage. There was something about it where I just felt so proud to be myself. I was proud to be in recovery; proud of my platform; proud of who I am! I can’t watch the videos of that pageant without crying because I was sincerely the BEST version of myself! Several optional wins and placements, plus placing second runner up to the title was the perfect way to round out my time as a teen at the state level.
But the fun doesn’t stop there because my family and I traveled more than 2,000 miles to sunny Hollywood, California for NAM Nationals 2016! The friends and memories I made truly will last a lifetime, and I’m beyond excited to do it again this November! Placing top five Spokesmodel and placing top 10 in the nation are two moments I will cherish forever, but it’s really the life skills learned that I hold onto the most. Shortly after nationals, I started my reporting career at our student news station, and within one semester, I was promoted to a paid, lead anchor and producer position. NAM gave me the confidence to nail my first “real” job interview and score an internship with 13abc, my DREAM station! It’s all snowballed into my first gigs as an on-air talent, first in Wisconsin and now in Ohio. Dreams really do come true!
NAM has made me a girl with dreams, and it’s equipped me with all the tools and skills I need to achieve them. Over the past year, there’s one dream that’s constantly been on my mind: to reign as the National American Miss Ohio queen. Why? Because I want to empower women and young girls to recognize their true beauty through my platform, Girl in the Mirror. Because I want to give back to the organization that believed in me before I believed in myself. To represent the organization that quite literally saved my life from anorexia. The list goes on…
I’m not one to give up on my dreams, no matter how big they may be, so when it started popping into my head again, I knew I needed to go for it. Whether it was in God’s cards for me or not, I needed to seize the opportunity to build confidence and to change the lives of women all across the state. Going into interview, I’ve never felt more like myself. I truly connected with the judge and had a blast sharing my story and who I am. I never in a million years expected to be crowned the state queen, but God whispered to me and said, “It’s your turn.”
This year is going to be dedicated to Girl in the Mirror! Expect more blog posts, social media motivation, body image workshops, classroom visits, school talks and so much more! I am determined to touch the lives of everyone I come across throughout my reign and beyond!
To National American Miss, THANK YOU for giving girls like me a place to learn and grow. Thank you for giving me the tools I needed to recover from my eating disorder: you truly did save my life! Thank you for believing in all of us girls, even when we can’t yet believe in ourselves. I will forever be indebted to this AMAZING organization, and I am truly humbled and honored to be Miss Ohio 2019!
Forever a NAM girl ❤