Embracing the Thigh Gap

I’m Amanda. I’m 22 years old, and I have a thigh gap.

Before I continue, let me preface with this; you don’t have to agree with anything I’m saying. However, you should at least respect it.

I first heard of ‘the thigh gap’ from a friend of mine. Personally I thought it was a little ridiculous, and I still continue to believe so. However, what really makes me heated is how people are so negative about it with regard to body image. What is a good definition of an acceptable body? Because honestly it seems no matter what you look like, someone will always criticize something about you.

Women should be empowering each other up, not tearing each other down. Lately, all I’ve seen are negative posts on Facebook and Instagram. Things like “thigh gaps are gross” or “thicker is better” or even the saying “guys like meat, dogs like bones.” Did anyone ever stop to think that each of these things are considered degrading? I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again; criticizing someone for being too skinny is just as bad as criticizing someone for being obese. Am I any less of a woman because I choose to live a healthy lifestyle, and because I’ve worked hard to be a smaller size, I have the thigh gap?

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This really irritated me. I went to Instagram to see if I could find an example to include here. I typed in #thighgap and this popped up. So, you’re saying that someone that has a thigh gap automatically has an eating disorder? The world needs a reality check.

I know a lot of this hate stems from all the recent corporations and all the photoshop issues. While I agree that photoshopping women and their bodies is wrong, it’s also wrong to shame the bodies in general, because as we can see, there ARE women who are that size. I should be happy and accepting of my body, but lately it seems I have to hide it or else risk getting either made fun of, lectured, or criticized. I’m not trying to be Barbie, but I am trying to be a healthy and happy version of myself, and if that includes the ‘gross thigh gap’ then so be it.

I have a thigh gap, and I’m going to embrace it. If I didn’t, I would still embrace it. Beauty is beauty, no matter what.

Pageant Hate; Why Does it Happen?

I’m sure plenty of pageant girls can relate to this blog, as I’m sure we’ve all been bullied or had some hurtful words said to us at some point. It’s sad a lot of people are still uninformed when it comes to pageantry, and continue to make assumptions that aren’t true.

I feel like I’m constantly seeing things on social media when Miss USA or Miss America is on, or even when I post pageant pictures after a busy weekend. Things that either people post as statuses, or that I receive as messages. I’ve seen things like;
-”why do girls think they need fancy dresses and spray tans to know they’re beautiful?”
-”girls that do pageants are dumb as rocks”
-”I don’t need a stage or runway to be confident and neither do you”
-”you just strut around in a swimsuit because you want attention”
-”so you do pageants, that makes you a bitch right?”
I could go on and on but it’s pretty much the same idea.

Here’s my personal response to the pageant hate; I compete because it’s fun and it’s a hobby. I enjoy traveling around the state and meeting new people (I can’t say enough how many AMAZING people I’ve met through competing). This isn’t any different than when I played softball, or any other sport for that matter. It doesn’t have anything to do with wanting to show off, or that I have to “prove myself” or “prove to anyone that I’m pretty.” Yes, pageants are judged, but so is figure skating or gymnastics. We’re not judged based on how we look, we’re judged on our overall total package and how we carry/present ourselves. Pageantry is my sport, I train like an athlete, and it’s what I enjoy doing. Plain and simple. So just because I post a picture or video from a pageant does not mean I’m trying to get attention; I’m proud of what I do and how hard I’ve worked. Athletes post pictures of their sports accomplishments; how is me posting pictures/videos any different? I know that I don’t need the runway or a dress to know I’m a confident person, but I choose this sport because I enjoy it. Every sport has its benefits, and pageantry just so happens to be the one I chose.

Going now to the physical aspect; there is a huge difference between being skinny, and being fit. When I first started competing, I was skinny, but not fit. However, I’ve worked my butt off, literally, for two years to transform my body. I’ve lost 20+ pounds, went down four dress sizes, and feel amazing. But yet I’m still getting negativity for it; every time I post a transformation picture on Instagram, I almost instantly get someone commenting “oh you’re already so skinny” or “why are you working out so much?” or my personal favorite; “go
eat a burger.” Just in case anyone was wondering: telling someone they’re too skinny is just as discriminating as telling someone they’re fat. We all need to take a step back and realize that we’re all human and we come in all shapes and sizes, and discrimination is discrimination, no matter what shape or size it’s towards.

transformation throughout the years

transformation throughout the years

I find it funny when people say that pageant girls are dumb. They watch one televised pageant, see one girl make a mistake, and assume it’s that way for everyone. Personally I’m always defending the girls making mistakes, because really, if I was asked a random question in front of millions, I would be a little nervous too. I’m lucky that pageants have given me amazing public speaking skills, and every time I go into an actual job interview, I’m told I interview very well. But back to pageant girls being unintelligent. Here are some examples to prove otherwise; a lot of girls I compete with are on the news or have very successful jobs, a lot have graduated college with honors, and my personal favorite is my friend Sarah going on Who Wants to be A Millionaire and winning 100k. Do you still agree with pageant girls being dumb now? Because I sure don’t.

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So, why does the hate happen? Friends that have seen me compete can attest to the fact going to see a pageant live is quite an experience (a positive one!). if you don’t know anything about pageantry except for what you’ve seen on TV, I can guarantee you’re very misinformed on the sport. Please, before you make assumptions, ask. I love being asked about my sport and everything it entails. Most people are shocked it’s not like Toddlers and Tiaras (no go-go juice for me…) and are very interested once I start explaining things. Contrary to popular belief, pageant girls aren’t catty, (perfect example being last weekend when my friend Sarah finally won a Miss America local title and I started bawling because I was so happy for her) so we won’t be mad or upset if you ask for clarification for something regarding the sport. I’ll finish with a teaching analogy; it’s frustrating when government officials try and talk about teaching when they’ve never stepped foot in a classroom. It’s the same thing with pageants; people who know absolutely nothing about pageants are dissing it when they have no idea what they’re talking about. Please reconsider your words before you diss my sport. It has done nothing but help me, and I’m sure it will continue to do so for years to come.

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Updates

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog, so here’s a quick update on everything I’ve been doing that’s pageant or fashion related.

Going back a little bit; on September 12th, I had the honor of modeling in Fashion Night Out Albany, a fun night held at the restaurant Taste, located in downtown Albany.  The event was a fundraiser to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s, and the venue was packed. I modeled clothing/accessories from Strut. Spalonque, Angela’s Bridal, and Stella & Dot.

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On September 15th, I viewed the Miss America Pageant with my two close pageant friends, Chelsea & Anneliese. Although I have not won a Miss America local title, this system has given me AMAZING friends, such as these two. We stuffed our faces (very pageant girl appropriate) at Chelsea’s house, created our own brackets, and watched as New York took the title two years in a row. I competed with Nina when she won her local title of Miss Syracuse, and then watched in Staten Island when she won Miss New York, so it was very exciting for me to watch her crowned Miss America. Upstate New York, represent!

literally crying because Nina won!

literally crying because Nina won!

At the end of September, I accompanied Abbey for the Miss Altamont Fair winners cruise. It was on the Dutch Apple Cruise Line that is located in downtown Albany. Long story short, Abbey and I are HORRIBLE with directions. We got lost and ended up literally in the Port of Albany, where all the construction happens. When we finally found it, we boarded the ship and set sail for the two hour site-seeing cruise. Since I was there when the girls competed and won the Miss Altamont Fair Pageant, they remembered me as Miss Albany, even without my sash, which was nice.

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I was supposed to have a pageant on October 12th, however, it was post-poned due to venue problems, so that pageant will now occur on November 16th. I’m not sure yet if I’m still competing since that weekend is the Miss America Homecoming in Syracuse.

On October 20th, Chelsea and I, along with my sister, volunteered at the Making Strides Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness. This was my third year volunteering at it, and I always enjoy it. The past two years, I have been at the volunteer tent, but this year, I was at advocacy and education. We went around with clipboards and forms, asking walkers to sign a petition to increase funding for cancer research. We managed to get every petition filled out, and actually ran out and had to give interested people a link to do it online.

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Following the walk, Chelsea and I went to the Miss New York Outstanding Teen Homecoming in Saratoga. This is the second year that Miss Empire Rose’s Outstanding Teen has won the title. I have competed for Miss Empire Rose/Empire Star the past two years, so it was fun to get together and eat, celebrate, and mingle with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

 

Madison, Chelsea, myself, and Katelynn

Madison, Chelsea, myself, and Katelynn

 

October 23rd was my first fundraiser in my quest for Miss New York USA 2014. This was my first pageant ever (back in 2012) when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, so this year, I have decided to try for the title again. This pageant will be in January, and there are usually at least 100 girls that compete, so it’s very competitive. I am calling this year my redemption year; not so much trying to win (although that is definitely a goal of mine), but I would like to do better than I did last time I competed, to show that I can compete and do well at a pageant of this high standard. Anyway, I had a fundraiser at 16 Handles in Clifton Park to raise some money for my pageant fees. I did this fundraiser two years ago, and the highlight was when my entire acting class came to support me.  This time, I had a lot of people surprise me by coming, which definitely made me happy!

16 handles

Finally, this past Sunday I ventured to Rochester with Chelsea and her mom to watch Mrs. New York America. Since Chelsea is getting married, she is going to try competing in this pageant, so we went to watch so she could get a taste of what to expect. Mrs. New York consists of personal interviews with the judges prior to the final pageant, swimsuit (one pieces only), gown, question, and then top 5 finalists get another question. There is also a People’s Choice, so there was really a top 6. In the end, Mrs. Westchester won the title and will be headed to Mrs. America.

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As for me, I am getting ready for Miss New York USA in January, but also International Junior Miss New York in just one week! I’m excited to try a new system and see some girls I haven’t seen in a while!

Coaching

This is a two part post about two friends that I convinced to try pageants. I took a try at coaching and it’s been so much fun! And so rewarding! Let me brag and say I coach the friendliest girls; they BOTH won Miss Congeniality in their pageants!

Part 1: Heather
I’ve known Heather for a little over a year. She is a professional model so I met her participating in fashion shows around the Capital Region. One fashion show in December I mentioned to her that there was a Miss Long Island Pageant and that she should definitely try it. She filled out her application and was accepted! Miss Long Island is a preliminary to Miss New York USA. This year they received 350 applications and only took 37 girls. I was so excited to find out she would be competing!

I started my coaching for her; even though she’s in Long Island a decent amount and kinda far, she would text me with any questions she had; how should she wear her hair, what are interviews like, etc. I helped her with her bio, helped her pick a swimsuit, gave her plenty of advice, and she even came over one day and I helped her with her walking, since pageant walking can be different from fashion show walking. I also lent her a gown of mine, that looked absolutely amazing on her!

I unfortunately was not able to make it down for the pageant itself, but I was stalking social networking like crazy. Although she did not make top 10, I was very proud of her for how well she held her own in her first pageant! And a VERY competitive one at that! I was even happier when I heard from her boyfriend that she won Miss Congeniality!

Currently, I am helping Heather find her next pageant, since she’s caught the bug!

Part 2: Abbey

Long story short, Abbey and I didn’t really start becoming good friends until this summer. However, we’ve become very close throughout the past few months, and she was fascinated in the fact I do pageants. I mentioned that the Miss Altamont Fair pageant was done every August, and it was something small for fun that would be great for someone wanting to try a pageant for the first time. When she said she’d do it, I immediately went into crazy pageant mom mode. I brought over a few dresses of mine for her to try, and my teal dress I wore for my first pageant looked amazing. I helped her with her walking, stage presence, gave her some mock interview questions, etc.

Today was pageant day. I woke up at 6am to get myself ready then headed over to Abbey’s to pick her up and head to the Altamont fair. It was pouring, so the pageant was held in a rain location. First up was her interview. It was fairly short, but she came out saying that it went amazing, and she even talked about me! :) She’s a natural at speaking so I knew she would nail it.

The pageant has 5 age divisions, and Miss is last. The pageant was supposed to start at 10am, but ended up starting a half hour late. It was cute watching the younger girls, but I was disappointed when they asked a 5 year old “what quality do you look for in a friend?” I mean really what child that age would understand that question? What seemed like an eternity later, Miss was up. I was surprised at how sick I was feeling; I wasn’t the one competing! I’m pretty sure I was more nervous than she was. And whenever she said she was nervous, I just yelled at her :p

First phase of competition was “hobby/activity” where girls dressed in their favorite hobby. Abbey had a lot of trouble picking which one she wanted to do, but I kept insisting guitar would be great. I kept talking to her all throughout the younger girls phases, telling her to walk slow, maintain eye contact, don’t look down. I literally turned into crazy pageant mom and honestly I’m surprised she didn’t just hit me. Her first phase was great.

I ran into the changing area to help her with gown and hair. She put her hair off to the side (that’s what I always do. looks so classy!) and once again reiterated WALK SLOW and look at the judges. For gown, I literally went crazy toddlers and tiaras without even realizing it, mouthing to her to stay slow, smiling at her, pointing to the judges. So many random parents and kids were turning around and watching me but I don’t even care. Gown turned into onstage question which she answered beautifully.

I had no doubt in my mind she would take it, but I was shaking all the same when crowning happened. First, I was so happy when she was named Miss Congeniality! And then, when the first runner up was called and it wasn’t her, I literally put my hands in my face and started crying. I didn’t think it was possible for me to get so emotional over a pageant I wasn’t even competing in. I’ve gone to plenty of pageants to watch and support friends, but I think because of the fact I prepared her, I feel a sense of pride that even if I don’t personally win every pageant I compete in, I can help others succeed in theirs. Abbey is like my mini me (literally, someone asked if we were sisters) and I’m just so proud of how fast she caught on to pageants for never doing anything like this before!

abbey

Why Pageants?

I get this question all the time. From friends, strangers, and judges.

I’ve only been competing in pageants for two years. Prior to that, I played softball literally my whole life, from when I was 5 until I started college. I know what you’re thinking; how can someone go from something so rough and dirty to being a girly girl? I thought the same thing. Prior to pageants, I hardly ever wore makeup. At all. I was thin, but not fit.

I knew a few people that did pageants, and always wanted to maybe try it someday. So one day, while watching my favorite movie, Miss Congeniality (go figure) I decided to google pageants on my phone. I clicked on the first site that came up, Miss New York USA’s website, filled out the information, and applied. The next day, I got a call, and within the month, I had my interview down in Albany. On August 1, 2011, I was all set to compete for the title of Miss New York USA 2012, representing Clifton Park.

I definitely should’ve looked into pageants more before signing up for the first thing I saw, because of course I signed up and competed in the most expensive pageant out there. But at the time, I didn’t know any better.

I know I’m not the first pageant girl to say they’ve lost friends because of competing. It’s really hard to know who’s there for you, who just wants to be friends with you because of what you do, who is jealous, etc. I can unfortunately say that fall semester of junior year was one of my hardest, socially. I lost a few very good friends of mine in the process leading up to my first pageant, due to the fact they just didn’t support me. I was invited to less and less group things and plans, and eventually people just drifted. I also had people trying to blackmail me, and there were rumors circulating around my college that a few of my former friends were going to show up to my pageant and laugh at me, to which I replied, what would they even have to laugh at? I couldn’t believe that being in a pageant would result in being bullied.

Regardless of what was going on at school, I prepped best I could. I watched past Miss USA pageants on youtube to try and learn how to walk. I met some girls online that I saw were also competing, and I made some friends leading up to the pageant. Pageant weekend I didn’t make top 20, but I wasn’t expecting to. But the experience leading up to and during the event was the best I had ever had, and I was instantly hooked. Thus my pageant journey began. I’m thankful that my parents continue to support me throughout my pageant experiences. They don’t always understand everything that happens with them, and they were definitely confused when I said I was going to do one, but they’ve stuck by me 100 percent and for that I’m very grateful.

Here are just some other great reasons why I chose pageantry;

-Confidence.
Probably a no brainer, but I now have that go-getter attitude and I just feel so great about myself, from my body, to my poise.

-Interview skills.
Pageant interviews are great for future job interviews, seeing as in a pageant you’re interviewing for the job of the titleholder. Thanks to pageants, I no longer speak using fillers (um, well, and, like), and feel confident going into teaching interviews.

-Self-Growth.
I’m not sure how to explain it, but I’ve completely changed as a person in the last two years. I just feel like an overall different person. I have such a different outlook on life. I feel more poised. More confident. More like myself and how I should be.

-Networking.
I was definitely shy before competing, but not anymore. I learned how to network, and now am asked to participate in all sorts of charity events and fashion shows. I also go out and look for sponsors to help me when I compete. Needless to say I’m getting good at learning how to reach out.

-Determination.
Pageants have forced me to rethink my diet, but I’m so happy about that. I’ve slimmed down a good 20 pounds and 3 dress sizes in the last two years, and I’ve toned up. I am so proud of my hard work and trying to be the best I can be.

-Friends.
The best thing that I’ve gained from pageantry is amazing friends. I have met some of the greatest women in the world that I can call my best and closest friends. Friends that I call when I have a problem. Friends that I can stay with when I travel downstate. Friends that I love to compete with. Friends that act like a pageant coach. Friends that will be bridesmaids. Friends that I will have forever. Pageantry is definitely a sisterhood.

So…why pageants? These are just a few of the many things pageantry has given me. It’s so much more than “a beauty contest.” It’s not just what happens on the stage, but off the stage as well.

Miss Hudson Valley 2014

After just competing this past weekend, I’ve been overloaded with messages and comments from people asking for advice. So in response to that, I’ve decided to create a blog. Hope you enjoy my first post!

What a whirlwind weekend I’ve just had. This past weekend (August 2nd/3rd) I traveled down to Westchester, NY to compete for the title of Miss Hudson Valley 2014. I signed up for this pageant back in April (upon hearing great things about it from my good friends Miss Westchester 2012, Sarah Hreyo and Miss Hudson Valley 2012, Megan Hernandez). Coming out of placing top 10 in my last pageant (Miss New York U.S International), I was on a pageant high, and told myself I would prepare for this pageant like I was going to the national level. Going into this pageant, I felt like the absolute perfect version of myself.

Friday, August 2nd I started my day with a spray tan from Legally Bronzed Tanning. They have sponsored me for numerous pageants and am thankful for that! I then went to get my hair and eyebrows done at Stiletto Salon with my amazing stylist Jenai. I met Jenai at a fashion show last fall and have been going to her ever since.

All ready to go, I drove the two and a half hours to the White Plains Performing Arts Center where we would have rehearsal. I was so excited to get there and see all my friends. (The great thing about the Westchester/Hudson Valley pageants is that the directors plan all sorts of fun things like fashion events and BBQs for the girls to meet and have fun in the months prior to the pageant). Our rehearsal consisted of learning walking patterns as well as the opening number, which was a fashion show. I was contestant 14 and all the even contestants were off to one side of stage. I was very happy that my friends Mary Kent and Britt Drahos were also on my side! I competed with both of these girls in my very first pageant ever, so I was happy to see and compete with them again. One of the best parts of pageants is the girls you meet and the lasting friendships that are created.

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I left rehearsal in a fantastic mood, and headed over to my friend Sarah’s where I was spending the night. (I am forever grateful for Sarah and Megan for always allowing me to crash with them whenever I’m down there!). When I got to Sarah’s, I couldn’t sleep, so we decided to watch the 2012 Westchester pageants to pump me up more. I probably only got 4 hours of sleep because I was so excited.

I woke up early for pageant day and drove back to the performing arts center, where I met up with all the girls at Panera for breakfast. We then got ready for our interviews. My interview was at noon and they were one on one style, 4 minutes with each judge. Questions ranged from “who is your favorite president?” to “what’s your favorite color?” to “how do you hope to inspire others?” My personal favorite was one judge who asked about the biggest challenge facing teachers and I immediately went into APPR and the new evaluation systems, to which she shook my hand replied “4 minutes simply isn’t enough.” Every judge asked about my platform, which is driving safety, inspired by the 518 tragedy that occurred this past December. All of the judges were very impressed and inspired by the 518 community.

interview

After a few more hours of rehearsal, it was time to get ready for the final show. Our opening number was a fashion show, and we were allowed to wear whatever we wanted to show off our sense of style. Everyone knows that I’m obsessed with animal print, however, I decided to go a different route this time.

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Swimsuit and gown were the best I’ve ever done. I had practiced my walking for months in my garage to perfect it, and am very pleased after seeing the videos my mom took. I’m also very proud of my body as I worked out and changed my diet.

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If anything, I think I’m most proud of my on-stage question. I’ve become a much better public speaker, and I’m happy with the fact I can answer a question without using fillers anymore. I was asked what the most pressing issue is facing young women today and I answered with self confidence, since there are always stereotypes in the media, and it’s important for women to be themselves, and that’s why I chose the Westchester pageants, because their tagline of “smart, beautiful, you!” allows that.

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Although I did not place, I couldn’t be prouder of my performance. I could not have done better if I tried, and so many people that have seen me compete throughout the past few years told me how much they’ve seen growth and improvement. Everything happens for a reason, so I know my time is coming soon! Now to enjoy some junk food and start working on my talent for MAO locals next winter!

A very big congratulations to my beautiful friend Brittany Drahos who won the title of Miss Hudson Valley 2014! I know you will do big things and have an amazing year. Upstate girls represent <3

miss hv