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.
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.
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…)
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.
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.
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.
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.