They say that every little girl wants to grow up to be a princess and while I definitely wouldn’t have turned that down, as a little girl I wanted to be a beauty queen. Some of my earliest memories include sitting on the end of my parents bed watching the Miss Mississippi and Miss America Pageants with my mother. One of the first TV characters I felt a bond with was Suzanne Sugarbaker. Hair pieces, tiaras and a pig in a rhinestone collar all made perfect sense to me. I understood her obsession with crowns and wanting to wear one at all times, even to bed. There was something so graceful, poised and classy about those beautiful women and my little heart just aspired to be one.
Suzanne and Noel
In fact, the first time I remember having an opinion on my Halloween costume was in Kindergarten. We had the typical dress up day at school and I wanted to be Miss America. My mother lovingly found me a tiara and wrapped my baton in tin foil to make the perfect sparkly scepter. (Do you remember when Miss America had a scepter and cape?) I remember feeling so beautiful with that tiara on my head. I can only imagine my five year old self looked ridiculous trying to live up to the title of Miss America that day. I distinctly remember doing my best to stay as clean and prim as possible, especially at recess, after all, I’d never seen a Miss America covered in mud.
As I grew up my love of crowns never wavered, look at the title of this blog, however, in my teens I decided that I was never going to be the girl in the crown. I wasn’t pretty enough or talented enough or skinny enough. I figured I could just find other reasons to wear a crown and other ways to be involved in the pageant world. I helped friends prepare for local competitions and I started a tradition of hosting pageant parties that required all attendees to wear a crown while we watched the event. I even had the opportunity to be on the board of directors for several local preliminaries, coach girls for their competitions and ride in a parade with a future Miss Mississippi. (Side Note: Anyone who think beauty queens are just ditzy, pretty faces have never met one. They are some of the hardest working, intelligent, most well-rounded individuals you could hope to know!)
Thank goodness my friends humor me!
Now to the present… My marketing brain loves to see how social media algorithms piece information together. Sometimes, it’s like Facebook has my living room bugged… like when they send me an ad for the chalk paint I was just discussing with my best friend and at other times I can’t figure out where on earth they have received their information. Like that time I received an ad for Pentecostal swimwear… lovely products I’m sure but a bit out of my wheelhouse. However, back in May the Facebook algorithm seemed to line up with my need for personal growth and a friend’s project. I was scrolling through and saw an ad for a beauty pageant but what made this unique was that it was a VIRTUAL pageant. I guess the Facebook elves knew I had recently completed several virtual 5Ks and that I loved pageants so this was their next logical step.
As I’ve said in previous posts, I’ve tried to use the quarantine for the Lord to grow me and help me step outside my comfort zone and here seemed a prime opportunity. The only issue was you needed headshots and since I don’t take regular pictures of myself I definitely didn’t have any signed 8x10s lying around. Also, I’m real good at coming up with ideas that sound fun until I get nervous and then I psych myself out. I figured not having real pictures would be a good way to dip out of this potentially embarrassing growth experience but the Lord has a great sense of humor and has given me multi-talented friends. Unbeknownst to me, my brilliant friend, Kristi, decided to take a photography class as part of her own self-improvement. One girls’ night she mentioned that she was needing some subjects to “model” for pictures and asked if some of us would step in. I figure this was the Lord answering my need and pushing me out of my comfort zone, so I agreed.
Brilliant (and patient) Kristi!!!
Bless her heart! She took about 200 pictures of me at the “photoshoot” with only about three coming out as useable. Turns out that modeling is some kind of difficult! Actually, I’m just TERRIBLE at taking pictures. Do you remember that episode of “Friends” where Monica and Chandler try to take engagement photos? I’m Chandler! I look scared or confused or angry. Add that to being so uncomfortable I could vomit and you can see why selfies aren’t really my thing. However, I did learn something important that night… Sometimes you have to let go of what you want to get what you need. Meg, who was modeling as well, had tons of gorgeous pictures because she wasn’t hung up on getting the perfect shot. She was just there to have fun and didn’t care if she took ridiculous pictures. In the end, the best photos of me were from when I gave up trying to look the way I wanted for this competition and just went with the flow. In fact, my favorite pictures from the shoot were when I was laughing because they show my true personality.
Kristi and her lovely assistant Betsey.
In the end, wonderful Kristi did some sort of computer magic to make the pictures look like they were taken in a studio which is mind-boggling to me because the only altering I do is to include that Snapchat filter that gives you ears and a high pitched voice. I also knew I couldn’t back out with all the work my friends had put into this project so I submitted my resume and pictures to the Miss Elite Beauty Pageant and won my division. Now, I have no clue how many people competed, maybe none but that doesn’t matter at this point. In fact, even if it had all come to naught it was a huge stepping stone for me personally.
See, I wrote out a bucket list when I was in high school that had ten items on it. This list included the regular things like get married, travel, etc. but it also had “Compete in a beauty pageant”. However, in college when I was updating my bucket list for a project I took that item off. I didn’t want something on my list that I would never do and the idea of asking someone to intentionally judge me was my idea of torture. I was actually embarrassed that someone might see my list and scoff at my desire to compete so I just threw that list away and started over with more “manageable” challenges. I think as women we tend to feel others will judge us harshly because that’s how we judge ourselves so we shy away from whatever areas make us feel vulnerable. We all have areas of uncertainty that we’d rather not put on display or that we strive daily to perfect and here’s a lesson it’s taken me several decades to grasp…
Backdrops are limited in the quarantine so thank goodness for South Mississippi and the beauty of the Pine Belt!
It’s okay to enjoy something and not be perfect at that task. It’s okay to dust off silly dreams and to give yourself challenges that aren’t always “manageable”. It seems the older we get the less we have to work towards outside of our adult responsibilities. Those are fine and very necessary but I think it’s ok to be a thirty something woman who wants to be (or at least feel like) a princess. Maybe you always wanted to be on Broadway but the husband and kids make that dream a little impossible? Find your spotlight in community theatre. Maybe you wanted to be a star athlete but that just wasn’t your calling? Head to the local rec league and knock one out of the park. Did you always want to write a book? Start a blog! Will you win the title? Who can say. Forget your lines? Quite possibly. Strike out? You just might. Never finish your story? I don’t know…
What I do know is that as kids we chase silly dreams because no one tells us we can’t and they make our lives all the more fun so why can’t we chase silly dreams now? Dance in the rain. Build a blanket fort. Lay out and look at the stars. Paint, draw, sing. Stop letting your fear of not being amazing at something keep you from attempting or even enjoying it. Ninety percent of life is in the experience not the outcome but somewhere along the way we were told that we had to be the best at a something to even attempt it.
I truly believe the Lord, as Creator, gives us these passions and dreams because He, Himself, is creative and we are created in His image. So, how dare we hide away what we are meant to enjoy? The last time I checked Psalm 100 said, “Make a joyful NOISE…” not sing this five part harmony to perfection! Maybe you won’t be the best at the challenges you endeavor to tackle but maybe through those moments the Lord will make you the best YOU possible? And just like my earthly Father would clap and beam as I spun before him in my tiara, I can only imagine our Heavenly Father beams at us as we find joy in the little moments of the life He has lovingly provided.