What you learn directing a pageant. 

I’ve done a lot of soul searching after directing a national pageant. I’ve honestly been in a bad place because I let some negatives outweigh the positives. I’ve let my niceness become my weakness. I dwelled on a few peoples unhappiness instead of the majority’s happiness. I thought about giving up and saying no more.

I’ve been competing for five years. It’s been great. I’ve lost more than I’ve won (crowns) but I’ve gained tons of confidence, speaking skills, and a lot of friends. I wanted to pay it forward by starting my own pageant. Most people only see the positives because that’s all I ever post on social media. What most people, contestants included, don’t know, is what really happens behind the scenes. I’m sure anyone that has directed a pageant can relate. I definitely have more respect for those I competed under after directing my own and seeing what actually goes into it, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

1. You might burn bridges 

When I decided to start my own pageant a year ago, I was so excited. I had finally crossed over a threshold into something amazing and special. Directing my first pageant was a huge accomplishment, which led me to do another one on a bigger scale.

What I didn’t expect was to see the support I DIDNT receive from those that were actually the inspiration of me starting it in the first place. Directors that I looked up to stopped talking to me because I started taking contestants away from them. Is that my intention? Not at all. People (myself included) compete in all types of systems. They try one thing, then do another. I’ve been called a crown chaser before because I’ve done multiple systems. FYI, I do it because each pageant is different, and how do you know which one is right for you if you don’t try it?

Anyway, it’s really bugged me the fact that I feel like I’m competing with other directors. Aren’t we supposed to empower each other? Girls that have done mine are doing others. Should I stop talking to them now? Not a chance. Each pageant is different. Some are strictly for putting on a show. Some are for profit. Some are scholarship and charge hundreds to give hundreds out. Some are just to advance to something bigger.  Mine is to create a family and give girls a low cost but fun experience. That is my mission and what I stand by.

2. Not everyone will be happy

I’ve learned that no matter what, not everyone is going to be happy. Directing a pageant is like planning a wedding where every contestant is a separate bride. No matter how hard I try, and lord knows I try, I will never make every single person happy. But, know that I truly work day and night to make this event a success and fun experience for everyone involved. Whether someone is upset they don’t win, have transportation or hotel trouble, wardrobe trouble…I need to just remember sometimes things are out of my control and I at least did everything in my power to give everyone a positive experience. Sometimes, things just happen. My weakness is that I care too much and need to realize that in an event with 25 people coming to it, it’s impossible to have 100 percent satisfaction.

3. Businesses will let you down 

I almost didn’t have crowns or sashes for the national pageant. I had so many struggles I almost just threw in the towel. The sash company, that I’ve used for about a year now, made a few mistakes and tried to make it up by upgrading my other orders without my knowledge. I had already had a Miss national sash with a single row of rhinestones, and then they upgraded the rest I recently ordered to double. While that was nice, it wasn’t uniform. They told me to send the Miss sash back so they could add more rhinestones. Fast forward a few weeks later, I received the Miss sash back in the same condition I sent it in…

In October I ordered the last 4 crowns of the design I wanted from a crown company. They emailed me saying two that they had were cracked so they would send me the ones they had and order more for the next month. Fast forward to January when I still hadn’t heard from the company so I reached out. Turns out the company switched ownership, and my situation wasn’t communicated to anyone. I had to find my emails and paypal transfer to show proof. Obviously the crowns I needed weren’t ordered and if they didn’t I wouldn’t have them in time. So, I sadly had to change up my plans and use a smaller crown of the same design for 4/5 of my divisions.

4. Sponsors will not be happy 

I really try to keep everything positive when it comes to the businesses that donate item for my pageant. I’ve only ever had one major issue, but because I take everything personally, it really hurt. My one sponsor from out of New York was not happy with the pictures I sent her, which included; pictures of all the girls from the contestant party, the winners, the sponsor table, girls using their products, the program book that had her in it, and the gift bags in my spare room as they were being put together. Alas, the woman was not happy. She “sponsored the gift bags” so that’s all she cares about. Over a month later I’m still not sure what kind of picture she wanted, but after sending a very nasty message to me, she deleted the photos I did send her from her social media. And that’s that.

5. You learn to take baby steps 

I didn’t expect this pageant to grow overnight, but I also underestimated how some would view it. I reached out to quite a few people when I first started, because I needed to recruit and get word out. I got a lot of “no.” On the reverse side, I got an outpour of interest, but because I am not a Miss America or Miss USA local, most don’t think my pageant is worth it. Other pageants offer thousands in scholarship money or extravagant trips for the winners, but you need to pay at least $500 entry plus extras for optionals plus extra for an ad page. I try to offer the least expensive and fun experience with no drama and a fair event.

I have learned people will compete for the wrong reasons. People will sign up, then drop out. People will give a million excuses over everything. People will say they support you when they really don’t.

I am taking a step back to really think about things. I’m only 25 years old, I’m not someone with decades of experience. I am only into my fifth year of being in the pageant world. I am just someone wanting to help girls make a difference in the world. In doing so, I put my own money into the event. I don’t require mandatory ads or ticketing to the event, so in return, I’ve put a little of my own money into it. For those who think this is a money making part time job for me, you are definitely mistaken.

6. You will change lives 

Despite the setbacks along the way, I’ve learned that I do have the power to change lives. I’ve been lucky enough to have over 40 girls compete with me in my two pageants, and I’ve had more than not leave happy with a positive experience. I have met amazing ladies. I have grown closer to those I only knew a little. I’ve made dreams come true. I’ve allowed girls to shine. I’ve created a sisterhood of friends. I’ve given ladies their first pageant win. And if I know that at least one girl has the time of her life, I know I’ve succeeded.

Perseverance

One of the hardest things about directing a pageant is the results. Everyone that competes with me is part of my family, and I want everyone to win. Obviously that cannot happen. I am super excited for my winners and the year we will have, but I am also sad for everyone else. Because I don’t want anyone being mad or discouraged. It’s the same with watching a pageant, especially Miss America locals, where some girls compete in countless pageants time and time again trying to win their way to the state pageant but never capturing the crown. The thing is, I can relate.

I competed in the Miss America Org for 4 years, without winning, and without ever placing. I also competed in many other systems, mostly never placing, and even coming in dead last (announced on stage) on one occasion. Needless to say, I’ve never been the best competitor. Countless occasions leaving pageants upset and wondering what the judges didn’t see in me.

While it was slightly discouraging, I learned a lot, and it drove me to be better. I started looking back at pictures and video, practicing more, revamping my wardrobe, and asking for professional help. I thought of all the positives, such as the confidence I built, the weight I had lost, and the communication skills I had gained. Most importantly, the friendships I had gained.

It took me 13 tries to win a pageant. In my career, I’ve competed in over 20 pageants, winning only 3, and placing only 3 additional times. But I’ve also grown so much as a person. I’ve paid it forward by creating my own pageant. I’ve helped countless charities, with and without a crown.

Remember what you gain from competing, even if it’s not the ultimate prize, there are countless smaller ones.  And never, ever give up.

DSC_9629 crop

Having the “Spirit” to direct 

This blog is 4 months in the making and I’m finally getting around to writing it and spitting out my months worth of thoughts. 

I had this crazy idea almost a year ago to start my own pageant. I learned so much from competing that I wanted to give back to the world and help girls gain confidence and follow their dreams. Thus, Miss Spirit of New York was born. I had no idea what to expect going in. I was freaking out I would have to cancel because after two months of recruiting, I had 3 girls signed up. But alas, as with most pageants, people sign up close to the event and in the last month and a half leading up I secured a total of 18 girls, surpassing my goal of 15. I was shocked. I’ve been in pageants where there have been almost no contestants so I’ve learned the struggle in recruiting girls. 

I learned a lot in my first pageant. I figured out what worked and what didn’t, but I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it did run. I had so much support from fellow pageant friends and my pageant family who helped it run well. I know some people left unhappy, only one girl can take the crown after all, but my hope was that every girl competing had a positive experience. Shoutout to the 20+ businesses that have donated to either the New York or USA pageant. I am blown away by the small business support I am receiving in the journey. 

  
Maybe it’s because I was proud of my state success, or maybe because I didn’t want to wait a whole year to plan another event, but I challenged myself further and created Miss Spirit of the USA. Like the New York event, I struggled with getting contestants early on. My goal was 25 contestants (5 in each category) but going into November I only had about 10, which made me nervous because I booked a very large venue. But, like New York, I’ve gained many contestants in a short time and I am beyond excited to have 25 Spirit titleholders. Really, I would hold the pageant with 2 girls, but the fact so many have chosen to compete with me and believe in my pageant is what makes me happy. 

  
Of course it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. Losing a New York titleholder almost immediately after the pageant, sash company sending me wrong sashes, crown company guaranteeing me crowns then not ordering them, drama with potential titleholders. Sponsor issues. Reaching out to girls to compete and being told flat out “no” because my pageant “isn’t legit.” Being a director is hard. 

  
However, the positives completely outweigh the negatives. Having so many wonderful ladies compete with me is such a great feeling. The USA Spirit Pageant is my way of giving back to the world that has changed me. It is my gift to everyone to create a positive and fun experience for all involved. I don’t operate like a business. There are no hidden fees. No required ad fee. Tickets to come and watch are free. All contestants get a regional sash and crown to promote their area and their platform. We are having a big contestant party the night before complete with cookie decorating. People may say I’m not big or as good as others, but I will say that I absolutely have the biggest heart, and do this for the girls that compete for me, and not for myself. I am trying to change the world, one rhinestone at a time, and as long as there are girls that believe in me and my system, I will continue to do this. 

  

Pro Teachers, Pro Students: Education reforms in New York State, from the viewpoint of a new teacher

In virtually every pageant interview I’ve been in, I get asked the same question; why teaching? And my answer is always the same. My mom is a teacher. Growing up, I always went to her classroom over the summer to help her set it up for the school year. I always dreamed of having a classroom of my own, to help others succeed.

teaching 3

In the last few years, however, I haven’t been as enthusiastic about going up. Mostly because of how few jobs there are and how downhill education has been going. Now I just get depressed. 1. because I know I’m not getting my own classroom anytime soon and 2. I would probably be fired right away anyway.

I became certified in February 2013. I graduated undergrad in childhood education in 3 and half years, and finished my Masters in curriculum and instruction in a year and a half, giving me five total years of college. I immediately started subbing, and in November 2013, I luckily landed a short term leave that resulted in me being a permanent sub in 6th grade math at Cohoes Middle School, where I remained a whole year until I became a teaching assistant for 4th grade at Ichabod Crane Elementary School this past December.

teaching 1

Education has been going downhill ever since I was in college, but not as much as it has been recently. For some reason, the current Governor hates public education, and is doing whatever he can to eliminate teachers.

I have never felt more discouraged or wanting to change my career more than I have in these last few months. I never once thought I would regret going into teaching, but our governor has changed that. The things he is proposing is a set up that will automatically fail everyone, both teachers and students. Raising the bar is one thing, but making it so high that it’s nearly impossible is downright cruel.

Students are being asked to take tests that include content way above their grade level. Reading passages for 4th graders are at a 7th grade reading level, 7th grade at an 11th grade reading level. Math questions that don’t really ask a question but rather try and trick you instead. Opting children out of tests is a growing reform given what is happening. While I will not comment one way or another, here are some reasons why a parent might;

opt out

Teacher evaluation plans base 50 percent of a teachers score on these tests, making it nearly impossible to get into the “effective” range. I have already accepted that if I ever finally get my own classroom, I will never have tenure, because there is no way I will get “effective” four consecutive years with these standardized tests.

This isn’t about teachers wanting to “save ourselves.” The media does a really good job of making it seem one sided. Our job is only part of the issue. We want what’s best for our children. All my life all I’ve wanted to do is help, teach, and inspire children, which I cannot do if I’m 1.forced to teach to a test and 2. fired in two years when children fail these tests. Yes, if you’re deemed ineffective two years in a row, you can be fired within 30 days. Went to school for five years only to be fired in two. Funny.

There is nothing I enjoy more than working with struggling students and finally seeing the lightbulb go off when they finally understand something that once challenged them, or students getting excited about a subject. The shift I’ve seen from student teaching to the present is students that get to do fun projects and learn with various methods of instruction, to now students that hate school and cry because the material is too difficult.

This is why I advocate pro teachers, pro students. This is why we need change. Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or just a citizen of New York State. I urge you to keep yourself educated and informed about the truth of what is happening in this state.

teaching 2

Growing up is hard to do

Wondering where I should even begin with this post. It’s all of my thoughts just thrown out there so I apologize if it jumps back and forth.

My first experience with anything “contest” related was when I was nominated for Irish Queen senior year of high school. It was supposed to be the guys and girls in each class that exemplified Irish spirit, but of course it was really just a popularity contest. I know that I wasn’t nominated by my class and that it was my teacher who did it, seeing as I had written to a famous Irish author and had gotten a reply. I knew I wasn’t going to win queen or even be a princess, but it was fun to be recognized.

I was never popular in high school. I had friends, but I spent many years getting bullied by “popular” kids and those I played sports with. Junior year was probably the worst. I wonder if maybe I started competing because I wanted to prove myself, or make a point that I could do something. Or that I had what it took to be pretty. Whatever it was, I wanted to change myself.

senior year. what's makeup?

senior year. what’s makeup? what’s jewelry?

Fast forward to when I signed up for my first pageant in August 2011, and that was Miss New York USA. I had no idea what I was doing; no idea how to walk, use makeup, etc. I’m pretty sure I was the only contestant that did not have fake eyelashes, really because I had never heard of them before. I went dress shopping and bought the first dress I saw, a prom gown that was so not pageant material. But, I still had a blast on that stage. I was hooked on the pageant bug and have been competing ever since.

Miss NYUSA 2012

Miss NYUSA 2012

In my 4 years competing, I’ve competed in NYUSA twice, NY International, NY US International, International Junior Miss, American Nation, and various Miss America locals. Each of these experiences has shaped me into the person I am today, whether it was good or bad. I’ve seen the best of people and the worst of people, been talked bad about behind my back, and built a backbone. But regardless have met some of the greatest people and learned to network and be a better person. I started pageants a size 8 (thanks to the freshman 15), and worked my way to a healthy and fit size 2. I can style myself now and actually can curl my hair. (its the little things…)

September 2010 at my heaviest and August 2013 after starting to eat right and exercise more

September 2010 at my heaviest and August 2013 after starting to eat right and exercise more

As I grow older, I’m finding that continuing to compete in the “big name” pageants is harder to do. Both because of time and also cost. I’m learning that I need to start prioritizing my life, and now that I’m paying for student loans, saving for a car, etc and I have a contracted job in the field of education, that realistically I just can’t compete in USA or Intl, both because of cost and also because I wouldn’t be able to travel to national pageants.

I just finished competing in my last Miss America local pageant, which was extremely bittersweet. I always say this system got away from me because talent was always my struggle, and I know I would’ve done better had I done violin the whole time. But, such is life. I will say though that my final performance in a MAO local was the best ever. I literally could not have done better for myself. My talent was the best it was all season (playing a violin that wasn’t my own) finally sounding great and I actually smiled instead of giving the judges resting face. My interview was so great I walked out with happy tears. I am confused at how I didn’t place as a runner up this time, but different day, different judges. I know that I was the perfect version of Amanda I could be. I walked into yesterday’s pageant not trying to win, but just have fun and go out with a bang.

playing Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal"

playing Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”

I’ve done a lot of thinking recently about how to go on with my pageant future endeavors. A lot of people would say I waste my time competing or that I’ve wasted thousands of dollars competing when I have virtually nothing to show for it; one win and a few placements in my close to 20 competitions. But yet, when I look back on who I was before I started pageants, I know that the time and money was worth it given that I pushed my body to the limit to lose weight and tone up, plus gain confidence and poise. Winning doesn’t always mean walking away the day of the pageant with a crown.

Miss Empire Rose 2012. having no idea how walk. or pose. or anything...

Miss Empire Rose 2012. having no idea how walk. or pose. or anything…

Miss Hudson Valley 2014. finally learned how to walk, eat right, and pose.

Miss Hudson Valley 2014. finally learned how to walk, eat right, and pose.

So, where does that leave me? At this time, I won’t say that I’m retiring. However, I do think its time for a break. Focus on my career. If I do compete, it will be smaller, local pageants or state pageants where there’s no nationals or no pressure to commit to something else. Something where I can compete for the sake of getting on stage.

However, I do want to continue to make a difference in my community. I had looked into the World’s Tourism system a year ago but didn’t commit to it until recently when I did well in a photo pageant they were running. The result was me being given the New York title. With this system, there’s no pressure to attend nationals if you’re not able to, and they embrace ambassadors for their system. This system is a growing system with multiple age divisions, and at least 100 girls right now around the nation are Tourism girls making a difference. With this title, I will be able to continue my community service, giving back, making appearances, and working on my new platform of Pro Teachers, Pro Students.

excited to continue my charity work and really focus on my new education platform

excited to continue my charity work and really focus on my new education platform as World’s Miss New York Tourism 2015

I know some people may not agree with my decisions, or with at-large titles, but at the end of the day, I need to do what’s right for me. I appreciate all the support I’ve been given these last 4 years. I always say it’s not the title you have, but rather what you do with it. I will be looking at smaller pageants to do, and will be supporting local ones. I am already set to volunteer at next year’s Empire pageant. You can take the girl out of the pageant, but you can’t take the pageant out of the girl. Competing has absolutely changed my life for the better, and I can’t imagine doing anything else as a hobby.

"find what you love and do it"-Frank McCourt

“find what you love and do it”-Frank McCourt

-Amanda Daley

Priorities

I thought I had this pageant season all figured out. As my last year of eligibility, I was going to compete in every Miss America local I was able to do, with the hope that I could win the “name your own” title and be Miss Capital Region. I had a new talent I was happy with and excited for.

Unfortunately, none of this will be able to happen, and my dream of making the Miss New York stage as a local titleholder will fall short. I recently accepted a teaching position, which is extremely exciting and I so happy for this opportunity. But what comes with this new career is the responsibility and if I won a local title, I would not be able to take the time off needed to compete at the state level, because I can’t take a whole week off in May or June because of school. Although this is disappointing, my teaching career is the most important thing, so I must prioritize.

What’s next in my pageant future isn’t 100 percent right now, as I can’t compete in anything that will interfere with school, which leaves me with summer pageants. Thank you to everyone that has supported me up to this point. I appreciate it more than you know🙂 My time competing is definitely not over yet!

Miss American Nation 2015

What a weekend it has been at nationals. It was a weekend of laughs, tears (both happy and sad) and learning.

Friday:
Check in for the pageant was Thursday night, but due to a lot of different things, I came down Friday morning. I had to go to work quickly to set things up for the day, then went to the mall. I last minute decided to change my gown (again) and literally waited outside Macy’s until it opened. I then hit the road to Cromwell, CT and arrived at 12:30 in the afternoon, with just enough to grab some food and meet up with my friend and sister queen Mary before we started rehearsals. the rest of the night consisted of practicing our opening number dance, watching Miss teen USA preliminaries, and watching the big sister/little sister competition. although I have a little (Cayla) she was running late so we were unable to compete. It was a fun night to get the weekend started.

Saturday:
We were up way too early for a morning workout with Lori Ann from Bravo’s Game of Crowns.

lori ann

She literally kicked our butts. Although I appreciated the opportunity, this workout screwed me up for the rest of the weekend because I was extremely sore and it hurt to walk or move. We also had an interview prep seminar, then a long break before interview, where Mary and I just relaxed until her parents came up. we then had dinner with them and got ready for our interviews.

I actually had a very political interview; I was expecting more about me and my bio and was slightly thrown off by some of the questions, but I thought I answered them well. it was a 5 minute panel.

Questions in my interview;
-how do you feel about security in schools given Sandyhook?
-why should you be the national titleholder?
-what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
-if you could sit down with Obama for a few hours, what would you talk about?
-finish this sentence…love is _____
-how do you feel about school uniforms?
-do you value your American freedom?
-what would you change in education reforms?
-who inspires you most? (time ended so I didn’t answer this)

After my interview, we had a few more hours of rehearsal, and then tried to go to bed but we were too excited for Sunday.

Sunday:
Once again up very early to get ready and go to the black and gold breakfast.

my little sis, Cayla

We then headed into rehearsal and then got ready for finals. the day went by very fast! it was finally showtime. We started with opening number, which was a white or red cocktail dress and a mask of our choosing. our song was to Applause by Lady Gaga.

Next was swim, where I came out in my black suit I bedazzled for USA last January.

miss american nation swim

 Finally was gown, where I modeled my new burgundy gown that has sequins and lace on it.

miss american nation gown

I felt confident in swim, but during gown, the back of my dress got caught on the back of my heel which made it difficult to walk, and I’m sure one of the judges noticed because I saw him look at my feet. I had mixed emotions coming off stage. after a few minutes of waiting, we all went on stage to hear the announcement of top 5. This was a VERY competitive pageant with lot of experienced girls and former titleholders of other systems. I was devastated to not hear my name called, but extremely excited for Mary for making it.

A huge congratulations to Kara for winning! I met Kara a few years ago when she was actually my judge at Miss New York International. enjoy your year! And congrats to all the girls, I’m glad I got to share this weekend with you. Mary, thank you for encouraging me, being my friend and rock, giving me laughs, and of course for straightening my hair Saturday! I love you girlie. Sasha and Debbie, thank you for the opportunity.

mary pageant

Although I was disappointed that I wasn’t what the judges were looking for, at the end of the day, I am really competing against myself. If I look at the improvements I’ve made since my very first pageants, I know I have a lot to be proud of.

pictures of my first pageants;

Miss NYUSA 2012

Miss NYUSA 2012

MAO local 2012

MAO local 2012