Sunday, March 30, 2014

This Is Why

Yesterday was a a very busy day, with two events to attend: the 100.7 Kids Fair at the Westchester County Center, and the H.O.P.E. Project Benefit, hosted by Miss Staten Island 2014, Jamie Lynn Macchia. Both events were incredibly fun--I got to meet some wonderful people, spend time with my sister titleholders, and watch a show full of exceptional talent. But when I finally got home late last night, I didn't feel as bubbly as I generally do. I felt humbled to have the experience as a titleholder, because I realized the incredible responsibility that I have been given. My job isn't about showing up in a crown and sash, putting on a huge smile, and taking pictures with sweet children (although I do that, and love every minute of it!). It is about truly making a difference, and while I've always known and embraced that, yesterday I felt it profoundly. I fully recognized WHY I am a Miss America local titleholder, and I'd like to share some of those reasons with you.

For girls like Juliette, no older than 3 or 4, who want to try on a crown and see what it feels like to be a princess. Who have dreams they want to fulfill, and a full life ahead of them to do so. To tell them that they can be anything they want to be, yes, even a butterfly. 

Picture from Miss New York 2013, Amanda Mason's Instagram.

For girls like Makalya, almost finished with middle school, committed to making healthy choices so that their high school careers are a success. Who are figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and how to get there. To encourage them to stay strong and to stand apart from the crowd.

Picture from Makayla's Instagram

For girls like Dream, and for the Children's Miracle Network. To support these children through their struggles, and cheer them in their victories.

For my sister titleholders. To make a difference with them. To support their community efforts and advocate alongside them. To be a part of a special sisterhood, surrounded by some of the most inspirational young women I've ever encountered.

Photo from Dawn Rutigliano-Macchia

For the girls like the lovely young woman I met at the H.O.P.E. Benefit, the survivors of horrifying examples of domestic violence. To encourage them through their recovery. To work to ensure that their experience doesn't have to be repeated by anyone else. 

To continue this legacy long after I pass on my title. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mayor Spano Presents Yonkers Women of Distinction Awards

Was delighted to find this video in the latest weekly email from Mayor Mike Spano! Here is your chance to watch the Women of Distinction Award Ceremony that took place on Thursday, March 27, and hear from Mayor Spano and the women awarded this honor. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

2014 City of Yonkers Women of Distinction Awards

Today, I was honored with a Woman of Distinction Award from the Mayor of Yonkers, Mike Spano.

Honestly, I'm still reeling from the experience! I was so surprised and happy when I received a phone call late last week letting me know that I was going to be receiving the award. When I arrived at Yonkers City Hall today, I was floored by the work my fellow award recipients have done, and are continuing to do, in our community. 

Photo from the City of Yonkers Facebook page

From left to right, Lucy Casanova Moreno is the Community Garden Project Coordinator for the Greyston Foundation, educates youth about the environment, and volunteers with several organizations in Yonkers. Judith Koller owns Allways East Transportation and treats her employees like family while supporting the Yonkers Police and Fire Departments among other causes. Barbara Smith is an educator and civic leader, and current sits on the board of the Hudson River Association of Northwest Yonkers. Mary Hoar was a teacher in Yonkers for many years, and upon retirement began teaching computer courses to adult learners at Pathways to Success. These brief blurbs are merely the tip of the iceberg when describing the commitment these women have to Yonkers--for more information on each of them, click here.

I was excited to have the chance to speak before Mayor Spano, members of the Yonkers City Council, representatives for our New York State Senators, and guest from the community. I try to take advantage of every opportunity I have to speak out about domestic violence. One of the largest problems surrounding all forms of abuse is the hesitancy to speak about them. By speaking up, intervening when possible, and educating Yonkers teens about domestic violence, we can empower them to be successful in the future as they make healthy life choices.

It was a pleasure to run into some old friends at the awards ceremony this afternoon! Symra Brandon has known me since I was a little girl (My sister and I would always mess up her name and call her "Cinnamon." We thought she was fantastic!). She was at the event representing New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who sent her regards and a Certificate of Recognition to each of the awardees. 

One very special moment was meeting Madolyn Delaney Smith. She was one of the first Black students at Sarah Lawrence College back in 1951. She and two other Black students that year paved the way for future students of color, including me!

This afternoon, I left City Hall with a pile of certificates, flowers, and a beautiful trophy. But the best takeaway was, by far, the inspiration provided to me by the four other women recognized today. As the youngest recipient, I am not content to win an award like this and slip into complacency. Instead, I hope to be just like Lucy, Judith, Barbara, and Mary: dutifully serving Yonkers for many years to come. 

A very heartfelt thank you to Mayor Mike Spano, the City of Yonkers, and the wonderful team at City Hall who made receiving this award such a special experience. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Crown City Celebration

This Sunday, I headed up to Cortland for the last local pageant of the season. Fittingly, Cortland is known as "the Crown City!" I couldn't wait to see which three young ladies would become the final members of the Miss New York Class of 2014. Over the local season, I had the chance to compete with almost every one of the seventeen contestants. It was truly a pleasure to cheer them on.

The setup of this pageant was designed to be fast and fun. The girls entered for their introduction, then answered two onstage questions each. I absolutely LOVED the onstage question portion--instead of pulling questions from a bowl, the two questions were designed for each contestant. The first question helped us to get to know a little more about each contestant personally, and the second question gave them the chance to speak about their platform.

After that, the pageant followed what I think of as the "standard" order--Lifestyle & Fitness in Swimsuit, followed by Talent, and ending with Evening Gown. The talents at this pageant were so entertaining to watch! I found myself wishing that I had not given up dancing lessons once I entered middle school. I'd love to be able to dance en pointe.

After the girls had finished all areas of the onstage competition, the audience was treated to a few performances: a theatrical performance by Allie Curtis, Miss East Greenwich 2014 in Rhode Island; a ballet routine by Amanda St. Amour, Miss Syracuse's Outstanding Teen; a vocal performance by an absolutely charming young man; a sweet rendition of "My Favorite Thing" sung by the audience and three future Miss Americas; and a performance by a singing group of the church the pageant was held in. We also got to hear from former MAO competitors, local directors, pageant moms, and pageant judges about the value of the Miss America Organization.

Finally, it was time for crowning...
 Congratulations to Jamie Hughes (Miss Liberty), Claudette Gomez (Miss Heart of New York), and Jillian Tapper (Miss Southern Tier)!

I had the chance to compete with Jamie, Claudette, and Jillian at Miss Empire Star, and they are each incredibly driven, passionate, and committed to their platforms. I am looking forward to working with them all this year, and experiencing the Miss New York pageant together!

Here are a few other pictures from the pageant. Special thanks to Robbin Manuel for taking these lovely shots! You can check out her facebook page by clicking here.

With Katelynn (Miss Empire Capital Region), Nina (Miss Salt City), and Madison (Miss Upstate New York)
Signing an autograph for one of the sweet princess performers!
Crowning Claudette, the new Miss Heart of New York!
With one of my favorite pageant sisters, Madison! She has been such a special part of my pageant journey this year!

This final shot is from my cell phone, so it isn't the clearest, but I had to feature a photo with the fabulous Anneliese, Miss Flower City! She did a great job co-hosting the pageant!

I can't believe that the local season in New York has come to an end. It feels like just yesterday that I was standing on the Miss Thousand Islands stage, making a return to the world of MAO locals and wondering if I'd get the chance to represent my community as a local titleholder and at the stage pageant. It still feels surreal that I've been given this opportunity. I intend to make the most of this year, and part of that will be spending the Miss New York pageant week with an incredible group of twenty other women striving to make a difference in New York and beyond. The Class of 2014 is ready to shake things up, both on and off the stage.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Wonderful Wednesday

Typically, my Wednesdays are not all that exciting. I'll be honest-- it's usually the hardest day of the week to get through! However, yesterday was a very busy and productive Wednesday for me. Here's why:
  • I had the chance to connect by phone with the two Children's Miracle Network Hospitals I'll be working with this year - Albany Medical Center's Children's Hospital and Maria Ferari Children's Hospital. I'll be visiting Albany Medical's Children's Hospital in May (once flu season is over) and Maria Ferari in the coming weeks, hopefully during one of their ice cream socials. Yum! I also ordered rolls of stickers to bring with me on my visits. I wanted to find something that children hospitalized for various reasons could enjoy. I worried that some children wouldn't be able to accept toys or something like a necklace depending on their condition. The stickers are all stars, to represent Miss Empire Star, but more importantly that all of the children I'll be visiting are superstars in their own way!
  • All of my stationary has arrived! I have notecards, mailing labels, envelope seals, and business cards all ready to go. Thank you to Curio Press, who designed my stationary. Alexis was a pleasure to work with, customizing some designs for me so that they turned out exactly how I envisioned them. I highly recommend her shop! I love supporting small businesses, especially ones that provide such beautiful handmade products.
Isn't everything beautiful? I'm in love!
  • I'm excited to join forces with the March of Dimes Westchester Chapter for their annual March for Babies in April. The March of Dimes is very special to me, as I was an intern for them before being hired as a research consultant at their National Office. I've witnessed firsthand the passion their team has for preventing prematurity. The March for Babies will raise funds that support future research initiatives and other programs, including those supporting NICU families. I'll be posting soon about ways you can join me in White Plains on walk day!
  • Perhaps the most fun part of my day was heading to Neiman Marcus to support Miss New York Amanda Mason and Miss Connecticut Kaitlyn Tarpey at a Spring Shape-up fashion event! Donations were being made to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Bar Method of Rye Brook was there to giveaway classes and do a few demos, and a local juicery was sampling some delicious fresh juices. I was even able to pick up some fantastic tops and dresses for upcoming appearances. 
Amanda (Miss NY), Me, & Kaitlyn (Miss CT) at Neiman Marcus
  • Speaking of upcoming events, this weekend promises to be very busy. I'll be having my Miss New York head shots taken, working on talent selection, and heading upstate to Cortland for the last local pageant of the season, a statewide sweeper. I can't wait to support all of the lovely ladies competing! 

Monday, March 17, 2014


One of my favorite national campaigns involved in the fight against all forms of domestic violence and sexual assault is Their website best explains the work that they are doing:

  • NO MORE is a new unifying symbol designed to galvanize greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault. It was developed because despite the significant progress that has been made in the visibility of domestic violence and sexual assault, these problems affecting millions remain hidden and on the margins of public concern. 
  • The signature blue vanishing point originated from the concept of zero--as in zero incidences of domestic violence and sexual assult.
  • Every major domestic violence and sexual assault organization in the U.S.--from men's organizations like A CALL TO MEN and Men Can Stop Rape, to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, to groups that help teens like Break the Cycle and Futures Without Violence, to organizations that advance the rights of women of Color and immigrants like Casa de Esperanza and SCESA to the U.S. Dept. of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women--all of them and more are behind NO MORE.
  • NO MORE is spotlighting an invisible problem in a whole new way. The first unifying symbol to express support for ending domestic violence and sexual assault, NO MORE can be used by anyone who wants to normalize the conversation around these issues and help end domestic violence and sexual assault. 

From March 17 through March 24, NO MORE is celebrating their first anniversary with NO MORE week. NO MORE week is designed to bring a stronger spotlight to the fight against domestic violence. As an advocate for empowering teens against dating violence, I am delighted to support NO MORE this week and throughout my reign as Miss Empire Star 2014. You can join NO MORE week, too--it's easy, through the #NOMOREWeek Photo Challenge:
  1. Download THIS poster, and share your reason for saying NO MORE.
  2. Take a photo with your picture, and post it to the NO MORE Gallery. You should also share on facebook, twitter, and instagram!
Here's why I say "No More!"

If you submit a picture, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a link to your photo, and I will be sure to share it on my Miss Empire Star 2014 facebook page.

I'd sure love to be part of a future where there is NO MORE teen dating violence, domestic abuse, and sexual assault...what about you?!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Join Me on Team MSP!

One of the reasons that I got involved with pageantry is the incredible opportunities it offers to promote a personal platform. Since the summer of 2010, I have been dedicated to empowering men, women, teens, and children with the tools they need to fight against domestic violence. In the spring of 2011, I completed a 30-hour training course through My Sisters' Place (MSP) which gave me the opportunity to begin volunteer work as a Sister-in-Law. As a Sister-in-Law, I accompanied women to their court dates, where they often would be facing their abuser for the first time since leaving them. Sister-in-Law volunteers provide emotional support during these difficult moments.

Since then, I have remained a dedicated MSP volunteer. I've had the opportunity to speak and volunteer at their annual "Love Shouldn't Hurt" conference for Westchester teens, provided childcare services for mothers receiving counseling, painted a residential shelter, and represented MSP at community events. I even had the chance to attend their annual fundraising gala alongside the New York Giants organization, a supporter of MSP.

My newest role at MSP is as a leadership committee member for their new initiative, Team MSP.  My Sisters' Place is dedicated to moving towards a world of respect, and Team MSP invites supporters to move with us...literally! Being a part of Team MSP allows you to choose MSP as your charity to support as you bike, swim, mud ruck, or participate in traditional road races. We're also working on ways to expand this initiative nationwide, allowing supporters near and far to fundraise for MSP as they get their sweat on.

This year, you can participate in the following athletic events and help us spread our message of respect, equality, and peacefulness:
  • The Running Goddess (June 2014)- Kathonah, NY (Ladson Park) Adult Free: $90, Child/Student Fee: $50
  • North Avenue Mile (June 2014)- New Rochelle, NY – Adult Fee: $90, Child/Student Fee $50
  • Westchester Super Sprint Triathlon (September 2014)- Rye, NY (300 yard swim, 6 mile bike, 1 mile run) Adult Fee: $125, Child/Student Fee: $70
  • Run The Farm 5 Mile Trail Run (October 2014)- Katonah, NY – Adult Fee: $90, Child/Student Fee: $50
 I will be participating in at least 3 of these races (I'm a little bit scared of the Triathlon, but may convince myself to give it a try!) and would love to run alongside you! This is a fabulous and FUN opportunity to support the great work that MSP is doing. Team MSP runners will be receiving a jersey to wear when they race, and we're going to be planning some training activities that should be a blast.

I'm also very excited to announce that I will be sponsoring Team MSP through my blog, Sweatsational, and will be hosting a giveaway for race entry as the events approach. Keep an eye out!

Take the time to check out the initiate on the MSP website and sign up for a race (or two...or three...or all four!). I'll be posting more about #TeamMSP as I prepare for these events and run them...hopefully with you there! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Banning Bossy

As a child, I was definitely no pushover. I was very outspoken. I wasn't afraid to stand away from the crowd. Chances were, I was trying to get the crowd to see things my way. I had a very concrete sense of right and wrong, and heaven help you if you were on the wrong side. I was bossy.

The queen has arrived, y'all!

Thankfully, my parents and teachers recognized the spirit of leadership within me. Yes, they did work on helping me to tone things down a little--obviously, a 9-year-old shouldn't be telling an adult what to do--but they didn't try to hold me back. Most importantly, they didn't let that bossy label stick.

However, for many girls, being called bossy as a child has a lifelong effect., a new collaboration between Lean In and the Girl Scouts, explains this phenomenon:

"When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a "leader." Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded "bossy." Words like bossy send a message: don't raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys--a trend that continues into adulthood."

Scary, right? For me, it hits home because I know that even WITHOUT being called bossy all of the time, I always felt a little twinge in class when I felt like I was speaking out the most. I wanted to be a leader, but I didn't want to be viewed as obnoxious. 

I'm so glad to support the launch of the #BanBossy initiative as Miss Empire Star 2014. Miss America local titleholders are the perfect examples of girls who grew up to be leaders in their community, making a difference and aspiring for excellence. We can all learn from some of the tips the #BanBossy initiative has for young girls:
  1. Speak up in class. Speak up everywhere! Make your voice heard.
  2. Stop apologizing before you speak. Own your opinion. 
  3. Challenge yourself. The only way to experience personal growth is to step outside of your comfort zone.
  4. Ask for help. Success is a group effort. Find a mentor.
  5. Don't do everyone else's work. Be a team player, but remember that you shouldn't do work for others who then take credit for your effort.
  6. Speak up in friendship. Have an issue with a friend? Don't speak about it with others, talk through it with the individual. It's scary, but chances are you can work things out.
  7. Trust your inner voice. Don't let the words of others bring you down. You CAN do it.
  8. Change the world. It won't be easy, and it will take many small steps. But if you're passionate about an issue, you can make a difference by speaking out!
  9. Remember: It's not always easy to speak up, but it's worth it. #truth
  10. Practice! Owning these tips won't happen overnight, but with regular practice, you'll be a natural at leadership in no time.

Let's join together in fostering a spirit of leadership in young girls across the state of New York and beyond. I agree with Condoleezza Rice, and am glad to be part of a movement that is working not only to change the lives of young leaders, but the thoughts of a nation.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

National Pancake Day

It's no big secret. I LOVE IHOP. I've loved IHOP for as long as I can remember. I used to beg my mother to bring me to breakfast there before class in elementary school. It rarely happened. Thankfully, I'm now old enough to drive there myself to get my pancake fix anytime.

One of the most exciting parts about being a Miss America local titleholder is the partnership that MAO has with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. There are ten CMN Hospitals that care for children from New York, and two that I'm looking forward to working with this year are the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Valhalla and Albany Medical Center Children's Hospital. I've raised funds for CMN through my personal fundraising page, but this was my first chance to serve at a local IHOP on National Pancake Day. On National Pancake Day, IHOP guests are treated to a free short stack of pancakes, and encouraged to leave a donation for CMN. My job as Miss Empire Star this past Tuesday was to encourage guests to support this worthy cause.

I had a wonderful time speaking to restaurant patrons, taking photos with some sweet children, and raising $50 in less than an hour (those $1 donations add up fast!) The one thing I didn't do? Devour a short stack. It was so busy that I didn't have the chance!

I hope you enjoy these fun photos from the evening! Did you visit your local IHOP for National Pancake Day?

Making the pitch for donations

This little fashionista was SUCH a sweetheart

Some of the generous donors in Yonkers

You know you have a great pageant sister (& a great friend in her real sister!) when they travel hours to watch you compete, and stop by a packed IHOP just to say "hi!" and make a donation

Made a connection with Sharon, who will be competing at the NY Rose of Tralee Pageant in April

The little one I'm holding here came over on her own to make a donation, then introduced me to her friends

Her brother was treated by Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, and every year she visits our local IHOPS to raise funds for CMN--so inspiring

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Becoming Miss Empire Star - Thank You

When I first started writing my 'Becoming Miss Empire Star' post, I thought it would be short and sweet. I thought wrong! As I neared the end of my post, it became very clear that I was going to need more time and more space to adequately thank everyone who was a part of my pageant season this year. Without their encouragement, advice, and guidance, I would not be one of the newest titleholders in the Empire State.

To all of the girls who competed this weekend--I cannot say enough wonderful things about every one of you. The sisterhood that I experienced was incredible. You were ALL fabulous. To those of who who I had the chance to spend a little more time one-on-one with: Amanda D., I'm so glad we finally got to really compete together! I'm so glad that pageantry brought us together. Claudette, I love your Latina spice and smarts. It was a pleasure to compete with you again. Cassie, you are a true sweetheart and I know your future is shining bright. Jeredith, you kept it real and kept me laughing all weekend. I'm so glad we got to compete together again and that we live so close! Amanda A., you are gorgeous, a savvy shopper, and so much fun. We need to bargain hunt together, haha! Jamie, you have such a heart for your platform and are a genuinely beautiful person. I'm so glad we got to meet! Michaela, it has been so fun to compete with you twice this season and see you grow so much over the span of two weeks. You are a wonderful competitor, but more importantly, a wonderful person. Bianca, we will forever be old dogs together! I am so glad to have met you this year--you are inspirational, talented, and so poised both on and off the stage. Abby, I'm glad to be your pageant mom and hope to see you competing for years to come...after you teach me to dance as well as you do!

To all of the girls I've competed with this year--I could not ask for better friends or a more encouraging support system. Some of us are already gearing up to spend Miss NY week together! Madison, your sweet spirit and kind heart always bring a smile to my face, be it backstage or via Facebook message. Olivia, I couldn't ask for a better roommate and can't wait to spend our first Miss NY experience together! Anneliese, the curse is broken! I'm glad to have had the chance to shed my own ugly tears, and I am so glad we get to be first time titleholders together this year! Kristina, you came all the way to Syracuse to cheer me on at the pageant and I can't tell you how much that meant to me! I am counting down the days until summer vacation and the chance to hang out and hopefully support you at next year's Miss Thousand Islands pageant!

To my new sister queens, Katelynn and Cat--I cannot wait to spend this year together! Cat, I'm so glad we got to spend more time together backstage this weekend. You make me laugh, you're passionate about your platform, and are insanely talented. Katelynn, we may not have spent as much time together, but I've heard nothing but wonderful things about you and am looking forward to getting to know each other better this year.

An Empire of Awkwardness

To all of the organizations who have welcomed me with open arms this season and supported my pageant growth in so many ways--Miss Thousand Islands family, competing in Clayton was well worth the trip! You were my reintroduction to MAO, my first ever experience placing, and supportive friends at every pageant this year. Miss Flower City family, you treated each of the girls competing this year like we were queens. You continued to cheer us all on, you were there to give hugs and encouragement when I was feeling down, and I know you are going to create a wonderful legacy in Rochester through your work. Miss Finger Lakes family, thanks for welcoming me as a pageant judge and a pageant competitor, as well as your kind words of support all year. Miss Syracuse family, you have a heart for all of your competitors that is unmatched. Thank you for your kindness, your muffins, and your chocolate roses. I'm so excited to work with you and your titleholders this year!

Each time I took the stage, my poise and preparation was thanks to a wonderful group of friends who were not afraid to give me constructive criticism and help me grow. I am so thankful for your support: Chris, Kandice, Jesse, and the entire Complete Physique team.  A special shoutout to Blow and Beyond in Bronxville for keeping my hair looking shampoo-commercial ready for pageant weekend!

To my Westchester pageant sisters--Megan, Jackie, and Bianca: thank you SO much for cheering me on this year. Your encouraging texts brought such a smile to my face whenever I was feeling down. Megan, you and Kaitlyn braved the snow to cheer me on in Syracuse. You also were there to listen to me when I was feeling down on myself, and I tried to channel your swimsuit sass when I was on stage. I'm not quite at your level yet!

To Tom, Maura, Joe, and Greg--I'm so thankful to have a second family that encourages my dreams and is willing to go on pageant adventures with me! My new pageant goal is to work with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, so that I can bring tons of friends to visit Duke

To my family--you get a special thanks for dealing with my pageant insanity this season! I sang at all sorts of odd hours, paraded through the house in heels, practiced interview questions on car rides, and  generally made things crazy. Mom, thank you for traveling with me to each and every pageant this year. We've spent hours on the rode, and you sacrificed your time to support my dream. Dad, it meant the world to me to see your face in the crowd at the Empire pageant. I was not expecting that wonderful surprise! Thank you for taking a painful car trek to Albany. It was so special to hug you after winning the title. Shannon, you are my number 1 fan from Kentucky, and you always made me laugh when I started taking myself so seriously. I love you all so much.

There are so many other people who have made this experience so wonderful--from coworkers, to family, to friends--and I'm sorry that I'm not able to name you all. I just hope that you know that I appreciate each and every one of you, and I can't wait to make you proud this year.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Becoming Miss Empire Star - Part 1

Hello, everyone! I feel such an immense feeling of gratitude as I sit down to write this post. To be perfectly honest, I entered the Miss Empire Triple Crown feeling like I would never have this opportunity. I'd entered 4 pageants, with the chance to win 7 crowns, already this past pageant season: Miss Thousand Islands, Miss Flower City, Miss Finger Lakes/Upstate NY, Miss Syracuse/Salt City/Erie Canal. Each time, I was a runner-up. Each time, I made new friends, strengthened bonds with pageant sisters, and felt like I steadily became a better version of myself. But naturally, I began to feel disappointed. What was I doing wrong? As the last local pageant of the season approached, I didn't feel like being a Miss America titleholder was in my future. I even began to consider dropping out of the Empire pageant.

Then, this gem popped up in my Pinterest inbox, courtesy of the fabulous Shelby Cohen, the Co-Executive Director of the Miss Thousands Islands Pageant (my first local of the year). It was just what I needed to see. I decided to push on, to give this last pageant my all, and to have fun--regardless of results.

When I arrived in Albany on Friday night, I went to rehearsal feeling relaxed and ready to spend time with some of my favorite pageant girls. The nerves began to set in once I watched all of the ladies rehearsing perform their talents. Everyone was SO incredibly good at what they were doing. Everyone was SO kind and SO dedicated to their platform. The judges were going to have to make some very difficult decisions, and I didn't feel that it was going to be my weekend. And I felt surprisingly okay with that..and surprisingly relaxed. In my mind, the stakes were low--my chances of winning were slim, so I'd just enjoy being on stage and live in the moment.

Saturday was an incredibly busy day! I arrived at 10:30 to begin preparing for interview. The fun really got started as I settled in with the girls, put on my makeup, and got ready to be grilled by the judges (kidding!). I felt calm and relaxed throughout my entire interview. The judges asked a ton of questions about my platform, L8ER H8ER: Empowering Teens to Say Goodbye to Dating Violence. I am passionate about promoting this issue, and was able to handle the questions well and in a relaxed manner. I didn't feel stressed out, and when my ten minutes came to a close, I felt at peace with how my interview had gone.

The pageant began around 3 PM, with the usual rounds of competition: swimsuit, talent, evening gown, and on-stage question. It honestly seemed like nothing was going my way! I have a bright orange swimsuit that I considered to be fairly unique, which I purchased in an attempt to try and stand out on stage. Someone else had the same swimsuit (shout out to Yolanda, who rocked it!). My talent gown zipper broke backstage, and I had to perform with it practically unzipped (hope you didn't notice). My evening gown lost a ruffle backstage. And in spite of all of these things which would normally stress me out and make me crazy, I felt FINE. I was happy. I was having a blast with the other girls. And I was excited to go out and see who would be crowned the new Miss Empire Capital Region, Empire Star, and Empire Rose.

The eligibility for this pageant was complex, so results took a bit longer than usual. We laughed backstage, commiserated about the end of the pageant season, took our shoes off, and ate. Then, it was crowning time. They announced the runners-up first, and my name wasn't called. "Well," I thought to myself, "you may not have placed at your last pageant, but it has been an incredible year and a wonderful weekend."

Then, this happened. Can you tell how surprised I was to be named the new Miss Empire Star? I immediately burst into ugly tears (aptly named by Miss Flower City, Anneliese). I couldn't believe that on an imperfect weekend where I truly did not believe I would go home with a placement (let alone a title), I had won the opportunity to represent the Capital Region this year in the community and at Miss New York.

The shock is still there, but starting to wear off as a prepared for the year ahead. I am ready to get engaged in both the Albany community and my home community of Westchester, promote my platform, support the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, and get ready for the state pageant.

There is a Part 2 to this post that I'll be posting soon--a special thank you to everyone who has supported me on my pageant journey this year, and special shout outs to my pageant sisters. It's going to be a long one! Also, keep any eye out for a post full of pictures from the pageant. 

I look forward to sharing this new journey with you this year!


site design by designer blogs