Thank You

As my national pageant approaches, I just want to thank the people that have helped me along the way on this wonderful journey. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I apologize in advance if I have forgotten someone!

Sarah and Anneliese, thank you for being the absolute best friends and pageant sisters I could ever ask for. All the countless conversations about what gown I should buy, talking about other pageants, and helping me with life in general. Because of you, I feel at ease and less stressed. I’m so thankful to have you in my life and I’m so excited for you to see me compete and to share more laughs and memories.

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Abbey, there’s too much to even put into words. I’m glad I’ve been a positive inspiration to you in the world of pageantry and I appreciate everything you do for me more than you know (you’re definitely a pretty good photographer :p )

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Katherine, thank you for always telling me how much I’ve improved through the years and for your always honest opinions and reviews of my phases of competition. Plus letting me vent about my gown problems on the regular.

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Megan, Brit, Nadia, Kayla, Mayra, April, and all my USA sisters, thank you for being amazing friends. There really isn’t a simpler way for me to say how much I love you guys.

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Mary, I met you at my first pageant ever and we instantly became friends, now we’re sister queens! I couldn’t think of anyone I would rather share this journey with <3

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Mom and dad, thank you for being supportive of me throughout my pageant years, regardless of how much you may dislike it at times. I appreciate you always coming out to watch me compete. I hope I continue to make you proud.

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Chris, thank you for being a great mentor and friend. Although we don’t talk often, you always have words of inspiration when it’s needed the most, and I always at ease after talking to you about an upcoming pageant or wardrobe choice. (we don’t have any pictures together :( )

Sergey, my fitness sponsor, thank you for sponsoring me with lessons, pushing me to my limit, and making my body the best it can be. I’m excited you’re going to roadtrip to come see me compete!

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To my sister queens and directors Debbie and Sasha, thank you for making this such a great system to be a titleholder for

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To my pageant friends (Katelynn, Marissa, Danielle, Adrienne, Katie, Kyanna), thank you for making appearances and pageants so much fun. I love spending time with all of you!

To all my friends, both from Shen and Saint Rose, thank you for your support from day one. This has been a crazy journey with a lot of ups and downs, and I absolutely love all of you that have stuck by me from the start. Thank you for being my cheerleaders at pageants, you have no idea how happy it makes me to look out into the crowd and have a fanclub.

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Exactly 2 weeks until Miss American Nation and I could not feel more ready and prepared. I’m excited to compete for the first time at the national level and no matter what happens, I know I’ll give it my best. For those that cannot attend, you can watch it online! Link coming soon :)

The tale of the swimsuit body

I feel like after every televised pageant, I see myself defending pageantry in some way, shape or form. Time and time again it comes back to the swimsuit portion. This is my two cents on it.

People consistently shame girls for their bodies, and in the end, no one ever really wins. Girls are either “too skinny” or they’re considered “pageant fat.” FYI to anyone that no knows nothing about pageants, the goal is not to be the skinniest girl; it’s about fitness level and a healthy lifestyle. More often than not, it’s not the skinniest girl that wins. The judges aren’t looking for who has the smallest waist, who works out the most (how would they even know that) or who diets the most. It’s about an overall healthy looking body, and of course, everyone’s definition is different.

This was me almost 4 years ago. Was I overweight? No. Was I super skinny? No. This is what was probably considered “normal” but again, everyone’s definition is different. I personally wanted to make a change to better myself, and also challenge myself, so that’s what I did.

This is what I look like right now. Because I wanted to make a change for myself, I started working out regularly, and started changing my diet. In the last 4 years, I’ve dropped a decent amount of weight, slimmed my waist, and toned up. I am happy with how my body is, but I still strive to continue to work hard to be the best version of myself. It’s not about comparing myself to others, or to other contestants. I am my own competition.

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Here’s the fun part: both of these bodies are perfectly fine! There is no normal, there is no perfection. There is simply your own definition of achieving the body you want, regardless if that means you’re a size 2 or a size 10. Fitness is about working hard for yourself, whether that means losing weight, going from a size 12 to a size 8, or trying to achieve a level of tone. My personal journey is for myself and no one else, just like everyone else.

It makes me mad that literally over and over again, women of all shapes or sizes are constantly shamed or criticized over swimsuit bodies. Every girl on the Miss USA or Miss America stage has earned they way there, and all of them deserve praise, not rude criticism. All women are beautiful; Miss USA (Nia), Miss America (Nina), Miss Indiana USA, former Miss America Mallory (who told it like it really was in her Miss America Confidential special with regard to body image for pageants), and even myself.

Disclaimer: Maintaining a pageant swimsuit body is hard work. Weight and tone often fluctuate. Mallory Hagan was criticized after winning Miss America because her body didn’t stay the exact same size throughout her reign. For me personally, my tone fluctuates during pageant on and off seasons, and whether I’m training extra hard or not at the moment. That’s just the way it is, and people need to understand that.

Crowns, pageants, appearances…oh my!

 Hi everyone! I apologize that it literally has been forever since I posted an entry; between my teaching position and finishing up grad school, my days are very busy. But I finally have some time to catch up on my happenings.

Lets go back a little ways, to April 19th. I competed in the New York preliminary for American Nation Pageants with my friend Mary and some other lovely ladies. I have known these directors for a few years now, and I finally decided to compete for them. This system is similar to the USA system; swimsuit, evening gown, and on stage question were the phases of competition. When the day was over, I had been crowned Miss New York; a total shock.

Being crowned Miss New York American Nation

Being crowned Miss New York American Nation

I didn’t waste any time, and a week after I was crowned, I judged the Miss Teen Albany pageant. This pageant had 4 age divisions; girls from 7-19 competed for the chance to represent Albany at the national pageant this December. I judged the youngest group. it was so fun and also interesting to be on the other side of the table during interviews. I met a lot of great girls, and enjoyed meeting different people representing different companies that were judges. one of my students even competed!

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During Memorial Day weekend, I was able to attend Miss New York for the Miss America system, where I knew almost all of the girls competing. I had such an amazing weekend catching up with pageant friends and seeing my friends compete! I am so proud of all of them. I also got to see many pageant friends from other systems.

Katie and Kyanna from the International Junior Miss system

Katie and Kyanna from the International Junior Miss system

I had another fundraiser at 16 Handles in Clifton Park to raise money for my national pageant, and this one was my most successful one yet! I raised half of what I need in just one night, so I am truly appreciative of everyone that comes out to support me!

My directors of my pageant system had a fashion show for lupus awareness that I attended and walked in. The best part for me was seeing all my best pageant friends! Even though we’re in different systems, we’re sisters forever.

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I attended Bowling Against Bullying with a few other pageant friends. I was very impressed that the organizer of this event is only 15 years old! He’s also a singer, so he performed as well. There were raffles, prizes, radio stations, and of course bowling! I don’t bowl so well wearing a crown…

with Katelynn, Marissa, and Anthony, who organized the event

with Katelynn, Marissa, and Anthony, who organized the event

Finally, and perhaps my most exciting appearance, was throwing the first pitch at the Albany Dutchmen baseball game. I got to the fields early because they have a program called “baseball buddies” where area youth teams come and hangout with the team, play catch, get autographs, etc. When the time came and I was announced, I surprised myself by throwing a perfect strike! I think everyone around me was amazed as well, and one of the guys in the stands shouted “now you guys need to throw in heels!” lol. I got to keep the ball, and I ended up talking to a bunch of the players. It’s cool because they are all from different areas of the country playing here for the summer. I will absolutely be attending multiple games this summer!

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I threw a strike! loved meeting all the Dutchmen players and their baseball buddies!

I threw a strike! loved meeting all the Dutchmen players and their baseball buddies!

Nationals is just two months away! Time to kick it into high gear :)

second comp card

 

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.

breast cancer 2013

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!

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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!

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