Friday, June 8, 2012

Miss Alabama Week!

In case you didn't know - it's MISS ALABAMA WEEK!!! That probably doesn't mean much to those of you who aren't connected to the Miss Alabama Pageant, but for me it represents 2 years of wonderful memories with some of the most incredible women I've ever met.

2005 Miss Alabama Pageant Contestants with Shannon Camper - Miss AL 2004

I know there are a lot of people who think that "pageant girls" are vain, shallow idiots. Unfortunately, shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, and the sketchy behavior allowed in other pageant systems have only reinforced that idea. But the truth is - the women of the Miss America Organization are so much more than that!

For those of you who don't know what it takes to be Miss America (or Miss Alabama, or even a local titleholder in the MAO, as I was) let me tell you that it requires much more than a pretty face. These women are not only beautiful, they are also intelligent. As a matter of fact - 30% of their score comes from their on-stage question and interview competition (and I can assure you - I have NEVER had an interview that came close to the level of difficulty of a Miss Alabama interview!) They are also leaders in their schools, communities, and states, and they work tirelessly to promote their chosen platform. Their platforms are a type of community service - some examples would be Mentoring, Breast Cancer Awareness, or Curing Childhood Cancer. I know that one of the women I competed with, Deidre Downs, (who went on to win Miss America) helped raise over $100,000 for pediatric cancer research! These are women who are truly making a difference in the world!

Charlie's Angels - Me, Deidre, & Katie goofing off backstage!

Whenever I get the opportunity, I am quick to share that the Miss America Organization helped shape me into the best version of myself that I could be. I saw a vast improvement in my public speaking and interview skills during the 4 years I competed in preliminaries, and the 2 years I served as Miss Gadsden Area and Miss Auburn-Opelika Area. I would not have the poise or confidence I have today without my experience in this amazing organization.

I also wouldn't have the thousands of dollars of scholarship money I won! Did you know that the Miss America Organization is the largest provider of women's scholarships in the world?! With the work we do overseas I cannot stress enough how important it is for women to have the opportunity for an education. I worked so hard to pay my way through college - but even with a 4 year academic scholarship from Auburn University, several outside scholarships, and a job - it wouldn't have been possible without the money I was awarded at the Miss Alabama Pageant and local prelims. Because I was able to graduate college debt free, without the burden of student loans, my husband and I were able to start our non-profit The Sound of Hope. It's crazy to think that The Sound of Hope wouldn't exist if not for my years in high heels and evening gowns, but it's the truth!

2004 Miss Gadsden Area

And had I not competed, I would have missed out on some wonderful relationships! From the precious "Pageant Moms" that took care of us on pageant week, to the dedicated directors, board members and volunteers, and of course the beautiful, talented, intelligent, inspiring women I competed with! I have so many fond memories from this week back in 2004 and 2005. Goofing off backstage with the girls, learning dance moves every day, going to autograph parties and talent rehearsals, late night pajama parties in the Samford dorms, and getting to SHINE on-stage every night at the Wright Center! As exhausting as it was, we had a blast together during Miss Alabama Week each year!

With my precious friend Katie Boyd, on our way to the Brookwood autograph party!

2005 - Me & my Miss AL roomie Mallory Wooten

2005 - Ready for Opening Number!

Do you see the pic above? Talk about funny memories - we had the worst opening number outfits both years I competed! In 2004 we had to wear full length velvet renaissance gowns and headdresses, and in 2005 we looked like 50 green M&Ms! We shared a lot of laughs about those costumes! ;)

PJ Party with some of my favorite girls! FYI that is sparkling grape juice we're drinking ;)

Miss Auburn-Opelika '05 with the current Miss AL Courtney Porter!

With Melinda Toole in 2004 - the "Twinkies" strike a pose! ;)

It feels like just yesterday that I was up on that stage. I can't believe it's been 7 years since I competed, and 5 years since I've been able to attend the Miss Alabama Pageant. After 2 summers in Africa and 3 in Michigan, I am so thrilled that I get to see the show and watch a new Miss Alabama get crowned tomorrow night! It will be wonderful to reconnect with my Miss Alabama family and to introduce my husband to this part of my past.  

BEST OF LUCK to all the beautiful young ladies competing this year! After this week is over, I hope you carry as many wonderful memories with you as I have!

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