In March of 2015, I aged out of the Miss America organization. It wasn’t a pageant I ever did well in, but the pageants were inexpensive enough that I could do a few, they were local, and I enjoyed doing them with all my friends. When I grew too old, I thought my main competition days were over, so I looked for something else to do.
Pageantry changed my life. Truly. Those who knew me in high school or college have seen the change. I’m not shy. I actually care about my appearance. I’m more well spoken. More outgoing. Just overall a better individual. I wanted to give back to the community that shaped me, so I decided I wanted to run a pageant. A small community pageant. I’m not sure where I came up with Miss Spirit of New York, I know I was looking for a title that didn’t exist.
I had no clue what kind of interest I would have, so I booked a small room thinking that if I didn’t have girls and couldn’t have a pageant, I would just have a party. I just wanted to hold something small, for the sake of having a pageant, that would give me experience if I wanted to run a local for another bigger pageant. I had a hard time getting contestants. I held a photo contest that no one signed up for. I made a Facebook page that didn’t have many followers. The pageant was August 1, and it was the middle of June and I only had 6 people for all three divisions (junior, teen and Miss). To my surprise, the month leading up to the pageant, everyone started signing up. Pageant day had 18 ladies.
After Miss Spirit of New York 2015 happened, I had a lot of positive feedback. People wanted more. Thus, Miss Spirit of the USA was born. This happened in February 2016 and 23 ladies came to compete for the titles.
My first 2 pageants didn’t have a lot of drama. Sure, I had some issues with sash and crown companies over little things, but I was still a small enough pageant that people didn’t see me as “threatening” and quite frankly I didn’t want people to see me as that. I just wanted to run a pageant. I just want to give girls opportunities.
My first year of directing was sunshine and rainbows. After Miss Spirit of the USA happened, I started to learn about the downsides of directing and how things can’t be perfect all the time no matter how hard you try. I learned that not everyone will support you. I learned that people that used to like you, when they see you as a threat, will not like you anymore. When I started competing, I lost a lot of friends who didn’t support me. Now that I direct and am growing, I am losing director friends. People who see me as competition. People who see me as a threat. Instead of supporting one another, it’s become a contest. Which is sad. I have lots of pageants that I think are great that I would recommend people do. And unfortunately some that I’ve had such a bad experience with, that it pains me to see people sign up for them.
One director wanted me to send my winners to their pageant and use mine as a prelim for theirs. I politely declined since Spirit of New York leads to Spirit of the USA, but I said I would happily direct a local for their system separate from mine. That wasn’t good enough. They accused me of rigging my pageant and told my winners they had “fake titles” with a “nothing pageant” and then deleted me.
Another director, whom I competed IN their pageant last year, started poaching my titleholders. And what I mean by that is that I couldn’t post anything without this person immediately friending my titleholders and telling them to do their pageant. Once again, I’m perfectly happy to support other systems. However, in this case, this director does not support me my system whatsoever, and was using me simply to boost themselves. In the last year, I invited their titleholders to my appearances numerous times. That was never reciprocated. I offered to make jewelry for their contestant bags. They said no. When I competed in their pageant, I was told by the auditor “scores were all over the place” and she was surprised herself (the auditor) that I didn’t win. After I competed in this pageant, the director deleted me from the private pageant group almost immediately. I joked about competing again when I saw the director in person, who knew the weekend of this years pageant was my boyfriends birthday weekend, who said “no, you should probably spend it with him” aka don’t compete. For my own sanity, I finally deleted this person from my Facebook, who in return has blocked me from all forms of social media and their pageant. Some of my titleholders keep asking me if I’m going to that pageant which is just really uncomfortable. This pageant dislikes me merely for my existence.
I tend to dwell on the negatives a lot more than the positives this last year. I’ve lost 2 titleholders (crowned that gave it up), I’ve had to put on a smile on when getting yelled at by people, try to please everyone who complains I don’t travel enough to other areas. I’ve had to try to keep the system together when sometimes it feels like it’s falling. Directing is stressful. There is no two ways about it.
But it is also incredibly rewarding. I love each and every one of my titleholders so much. I’m not about business (although sometimes that bites me) but I’m about sisterhood. Every year, girls come back to compete. Two, three, four times. Because I’ve focused on building girls up, and I certainly try my hardest to do that and make everyone happy. My girls can compete anywhere (knowing if they win a binding title they have to give mine up per the other pageant rules) but my pageant is about opportunities. All I’ve ever wanted out of directing is to give young women opportunities. I am giving out the presidential service award this year at my pageant as just one other opportunity because to me, that’s what it’s about. Spirit of the USA isn’t until July but I already have 41 people signed up, and will reach my limit well before the pageant deadline. It amazes me how much I have grown. I truly just love this pageant. If you’ve been to a spirit pageant, the joke is I always cry, because I just love the system and my titleholders so much. I’ve said this many times, but a pageant doesn’t happen without people who believe in it and want to be invoved.
In the Spirit of International Women’s Day, I thought now would be a good time to remind everyone, myself included, what pageantry is really about. It’s not about prizes. It’s not about numbers. It’s not about how famous you’ll be after you win. It’s not about how big or small your system is. It’s about empowering women and young girls. It’s about building up ladies with their confidence and self esteem. It’s about growing as an individual. That is what pageantry is about, and it is my hope that starting today, all of us can remember the true “spirit” of pageantry and continue to work to build up instead of tear down. If we’re all in this for the right reason, it shouldn’t be a competition. It should be everyone working for a common goal, since sashes and crowns, regardless of system, are all made of the same thing.