Updated: Jan 24, 2019
I'm sure you could tell by my social media profile pictures--i mean head shots--that yes, I do indeed compete in pageants. When people hear the word "pageant," they immediately judge a book by its cover. "Oh you compete in pageants..."
Yes. And I'm more than happy to say that It is more than playing dress up and answering canned on-stage questions. I'm proud to compete, and I'll tell you why.
My journey started with competing in a local pageant in the Miss Oklahoma Scholarship Organization when I was a wee little 19-year-old. Okay, so my journey in this world of pageants hasn't been long endured, but the relationships, connections, growth, confidence, and the ever-continuing list has proven to me that the world of pageants is one that I stand by. Here is what I have learned from pageants:
1. Life is a pageant.
In pageants, there will be people who tell you that you look good in one evening gown, and others that will say that everything about the gown is wrong. People will tell you that you need to lose 15 lbs, and others will say you are beautiful just the way you are (which you are!) You will be given "advice" and advice, but the thing is, you get to pick and chose what advice or "advice" will help you go where you are wanting to go and how you are wanting to grow. The same goes for life. There will be people giving you their two cents, there will be people who try to say things to break you, there will be people who will judge you. But its you who gets to decide if the things that people say will help you or hinder you. And it's you who gets to decide if you want to take their advice or "advice." After all, it is your life.
2. You are not defined by a title.
I am not just Miss Eastern Oklahoma County. I am not just a dancer. I am not just a student. I am not just a daughter. I am not just a friend. I am not just a Christian. I am Maddie. I am a combination of my beliefs, my experiences, my relationships, my education, my goals and aspirations, my hobbies, my personality, my thoughts... you name it! But I'm not restricted to a single title. I always say that if there's one way you are limiting yourself in your life, it's by a title. Although it is an honor to hold a title, try not to let that title be your identity. What happens when I give away my title of Miss Eastern Oklahoma County to the next girl? I'm still Maddie. Simple and sincere, Maddie.
3. The crown is already inside you
I was once told by an incredible friend of mine, Nicole Renard, that a crown doesn't change who you are or how you act, the crown just gives you a power and a confidence that was already inside of you. It's one of the most heart warming things to go into an elementary school and have little girls stop and stare, asking me "Are you a princess?" To which I reply "No, but I think you are!" If I walked into the same elementary school without that crown, as much as I would wish that people would still ask me if I was a princess, I won't receive that same reaction. Yes, the crown does give me the power to talk to more people, connect with more people, and share my life with more people. I may not be noticed as much as Maddie compared to when I am Miss Eastern Oklahoma County, but what I can do is treat people like I always have a crown on my head. I can chose to smile at others and serve others and make a difference in the lives of others. I can chose to love others and go the extra mile to change the outcome of someone's day. With or without the crown. Because, like I said, the crown only lasts a year. How you chose to live and act is what will last an eternity.
4. People are broken.
Each young girl competing for the title of Miss Oklahoma or Miss _______________ (Fill in the blank) has to have a social impact statement that determines what they want to focus on over their year as the title holder. A lot of these title holders chose something that is close to their heart or they have personally struggled with. For me, it's eating disorders. I want to give a voice back to those who have been silenced by eating disorders, and help educate family and friends on how they can help those who are struggling. You guessed it: I have struggled with an eating disorder and loving my body. I am broken. But so are hundreds of other girls that are competing. They are broken, but they have two choices: to hide in their brokenness, or to seek help, overcome their challenge, and help change the lives of others. Pageant girls all have stories. We have brokenness, self-doubt, worry, fears, but everyone does too. As a title holder, I want to help heal some of that brokenness in the world. I may not be able to do much, but I can do a little. And a little goes a long way.
5. It's about the journey.
My first local pageant, I was 19. I wore a borrowed evening gown, borrowed shoes, borrowed interview dress...actually, I think everything about me was borrowed! I had NO idea what I was doing. I competed again at another local pageant. And again. And again. By that time, I was hooked, and I was determined that I wanted to get to Miss Oklahoma. I reached out to some friends who had been competing all their lives, and asked for help (a really big step for me!) I learned how to talk, how to walk, and how to make a statement. But in all of this learning I didn't realize that I had also been growing. It took me 6 attempts to finally snag a crown, but that didn't matter! I was on my way to Miss Oklahoma! It wasn't about winning that first title, it was about the path that I took to get it. I "failed" six times before I walked away with a crown. But I learned to pick myself up, put on more fake tan and walk back on that stage. I made so many friends in each of those local pageants. I formed new relationships with mentors in the organization. More importantly, I look back at the path to see how far I have come, and I just giggle a little at the shy, nervous Maddie that walked across the stage in that borrowed evening gown.
6. There's only one winner.
There are 45 girls who competed at Miss Oklahoma this past year. There's only one Miss Oklahoma. Going into the pageant, you have to know that you may not win. I think the number one thing that I have learned from pageants is that walking away without the title doesn't mean you failed, it means that you've gained something else, and you've gained more time to learn. I think that goes for just about everything in life: auditions, sports, college applications, job interviews--you name it. To fail is to win so much more. And more is not even a big enough word to sum up everything that I have won from competing.
I'm a pageant girl, and I am proud of it. Above everything else in my life, I fully believe that competing in pageants has shaped who I am. It's not about the competition. It's about the friends I've made, the values I have gained, the confidence I have developed, and the greater role that I can serve to impact the lives of others. Never judge a pageant girl by her spray tan and teased hair. We're a feisty bunch with fires in our souls and a passion to make a difference.