Why I Feel Like a Winner – Even Without the Crown

This weekend, I competed in my first ever Outstanding Teen pageant at the state level. It was so incredible to showcase all that I have prepared for on a stage in front of hundreds of awesome Nebraskans. I placed in the top 3, but I have never felt more content with anything in my life. I didn’t walk away with the crown and state title this weekend, but I did walk away with things more meaningful than I could’ve imagined. 

I left this weekend with hundreds of dollars in scholarship money from being named the 2nd runner-up, Miss Congeniality, and receiving the Community Service award. But still, those aren’t the reasons I feel like I accomplished something. 

I came out of my shell this week. If you have known me growing up, you’ve seen how hard it was to get me to talk to people. Even just a few years ago, I was very shy and timid for almost everything. But now, I was voted Miss Congeniality of the pageant by the other contestants. Now, I call these girls my friends. And now, I know that we will have lifelong friendships because of the time we spent together.

Because these girls are not just pretty faces on stage. They are dedicated, determined, thoughtful, kind, charismatic, and admirable away from the bright lights. They all know how to form a hug circle when the day just got a little rough. They know how to make you smile and laugh when your nerves are weighing you down. And they know how to drop a beat for you to rap “Ice Ice Baby” to on multiple occasions. (Thanks again for this)

But even more importantly, they know how to make you feel loved at any moment. For a lot of us, we went from being acquaintances at the beginning of the week to not being able to pull ourselves away from hugs when we had to say goodbye at the end of the week. We vowed to meet in the middle sometime, or to keep our Snapchat streaks alive. 

I love these girls so dearly; each and every one of them has incredible qualities that will take them so far in life. I am honored to have won Miss Congeniality, thanks to their votes. 

I also gained an even stronger appreciation for all the people who volunteer for the pageant. I knew they worked hard during the week, but I didn’t know it was that hard. The men and women behind the scenes at the pageant throughout the entire week are so amazing and will literally do anything to make sure that we are comfortable. 

To the backstage crew, the hostesses, the lunch committee, the board of directors, the production crew, the emcees, and everyone else – thank you so much for the time and energy you have given to us girls. It is truly fabulous and I’m so grateful for all you do. 

I know now how far a simple “thank you” can go, especially after crying happy tears with some devoted volunteers for the organization. I know how far a “congratulations” can go after a girl poured their heart and soul onto the stage. I know how far an “I love you” can go after you have to say goodbye to a girl who you became best friends with. 

I know the importance of a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, a quick joke, and a fun story. I’ve seen how great some double-sided tape or scissors come in handy. I’ve felt the power of a warm smile from a contestant and the chills from a talent on stage. 

I know the excitement a little girl gets when a princess walks in the room, and how she will stare down your crown. I know how easy it is to smile at her and make her day. 

The list goes on and on of why I’m so grateful for this opportunity. They say that you win some and you lose some, and in this case, while I didn’t walk away with the title, I walked away with much more than I dreamed. 

Here’s to all the people that I have supported me on this journey or even gave me kind words after I competed – thank you. 

To the winner of Miss Nebraska’s Oustanding Teen 2016, Hannah Miller – I am so happy for you!! You are going to represent Nebraska so well at Nationals and throughout your year. I am so glad that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know you over the last several months. It was your time to shine and you truly did. You will be a fabulous role model for young girls and will promote the organization and your platform so well. Don’t forget all of us when you’re famous 😉 

Now, I will continue to represent the Tri-Cities with my title, and I will continue to work on my platform issue. I will prepare for the next phase of my life as I go into my senior year of high school. I go back to normal life now, but this experience will always be pegged as extraordinary. 


Why I Chose Pageantry

I grew up spending twenty hours a week in a chalk-filled gymnastics gym with my closest teammates and coaches. Don’t get me wrong, those eleven years gave me amazing memories and great life-lessons, but I just didn’t have the “normal” adolescent experiences. I never was able to go to my middle school dances or football games, I rarely had time to hang out with anyone outside of school, and I spent so much time focusing on gymnastics that I never tried anything new. It was many years of long nights trying to get my homework done and ice my sore muscles at the same time. 
And then I got hurt. I tore the labrum in my hip. For months, I tried rehabbing it back to full strength but nothing ever worked. I had to make the most difficult decision of my life; do I cross my fingers and push through the pain? Or do I leave everything I had been working for behind? The recruitment offers, the friendships, the skills, and the pride would be gone. Telling my coach that I was going to leave the gym was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I cried that entire night, because I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. 

My mom told me that I had to choose a new activity, because she wouldn’t allow me to sit at home every day after school. So, I tried out for my high school’s cheer team. I had about 5 awesome months with that, and then my Achilles’ tendon began acting up. 3 surgeries and over a year of physical therapy later, I had to walk away from the second sport I had loved. I was so upset because I felt connected to my school with cheer, and I had just started to make some incredible friends. 

So, during my junior year of high school, I needed to find something to do. I was sort of at a dead end; I had a part-time job and I was taking a full class schedule, but I wanted something more fulfilling. I wanted to change my life, and help others while I was at it. And then, a lightbulb lit in my mind. I had grown up around the Miss Nebraska pageant every summer, and I had always admired the girls up on that stage. As a junior, I was only eligible for one year of competition in the Outstanding Teen division of the Nebraska pageant. I took a huge leap of faith and told myself that I would give it a try. 

I had no idea what I was doing, so I found coaches for talent and my stage presence. I picked out my gowns, and did several mock interviews. For several months, I was completely pageant focused. I wanted to be ready when I walked out on that stage, and I fell in love with pageants before I even actually competed. I was beginning to feel happy again with my activity. 

My first local pageant was indescribable. I felt confident in all areas of competition, and I ended up getting 1st runner up. I wasn’t even the slightest bit upset about it; I was just glad I had made it through my first pageant without freaking out. But even better than that, I fell absolutely in love with being on the stage in front of the judges and audience. 

I wanted to try again. I competed again two weeks later, and took home the crown of Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen. I was completely ecstatic, and when I say that, I mean I couldn’t sleep the entire night after because I was mentally planning out what I was going to do during my year of service. 

People ask me now why I decided to do pageants. They ask if it’s because I get to wear a sparkly crown and do photoshoots. They ask if it’s because I get my hair and makeup done or if I get paid for it. 

The crown might in fact be my favorite accessory, but it’s not the single reason I enjoy pageants so much. The four points on the crown aren’t just a fancy design; they stand for scholarship, service, style, and success. And that’s why I do pageants. Wearing the crown and sash gives me an opportunity to reach people and speak to them. I speak about my platform, “The Positive Power of Inclusion,” the national platform, Children’s Miracle Network, and the Outstanding Teen organization itself. 

All of the girls you see wearing crowns aren’t doing it for fame and fortune. We’re doing it because we are so passionate about our platforms and making an impact on today’s society. We are active volunteers in our communities, achieving students in our classrooms, and kind spirits for our peers. We lift each other up, and find ourselves in the process.

I have met some of the most incredible girls through pageants, and they’ve all became some of my very best friends. They have talent, brains, and courage. They aren’t just faces that stand there and look pretty. Of course, everyone is gorgeous, but no one is focused on appearance over anything else. Pageant girls live to improve their lives in the aspects of the crown. 

We make notable differences in the community. We plan fundraisers, attend community events, and visit schools. Our free time is spent volunteering and figuring out how we can make a change. Each girl has a platform they are connected to, and they live to help others become informed about the issue. 

I chose pageantry because I knew that I would find life-long friends and find myself at the same time. And I was right. I have learned so much about myself, my state, the organization, and all the fantastic girls that live in these borders. I live for the times that a child gazes up at you with a smile on their face. I live for the warmth I feel in my heart when I know I’ve made an impact on someone’s life. Those feelings will keep me going until the day I die, and it’s all thanks to pageants.

The next time you see a pageant girl, no matter what system they’re a part of or what they’re wearing, I encourage you to look past the crown and see the real person behind it. Look into their eyes and get a glimpse of the passion they have for what they’re dedicating themselves to, and wish them the best of luck with their endeavor.