What do Brett Favre, Cher, and I all have in common? You’re about to find out.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017 – In the afternoon hours I received a text message from a previous pageant director of mine and good friend informing me of a possible age extension within the Miss America Organization. My mind and heart instantly started to race, but I told myself I needed to stay grounded until I knew for sure if this rumor beared any truth. I arrived back in La Crosse that evening for Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest rehearsal after an extended weekend home in Wisconsin Rapids for family matters. I tried to stay focused on dress rehearsal and my emcee duties for the local pageant, but it was hard not to wonder…
“What if this is God’s intention for me? What if this opportunity is truly meant to be?” Consequently receiving another text message from someone in attendance at Miss America in Atlantic City, who confirmed an announcement during a preliminary show. Mind you, at this point I was still rather skeptical; anxiously awaiting a firm confirmation from other sources to the point where the news was common knowledge and *in writing.
Saturday, September 9, 2017 – After a few days of dress rehearsal with the six Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest contestants, it was the day of the show! While I was very eager to welcome a new titleholder to the sisterhood after weeks of preparations, I was curious as to if I would possibly get to compete alongside the woman crowned come June. That evening we welcomed Madeline Kumm (also a Wisconsin Rapids native) to the crazy, fun-loving Oktoberfest family and I couldn’t be more excited for her! I relished my final “official” night in La Crosse with the Oktoberfest grenadiers and royal family members and my dear friend, Katie Zibert (Miss Beloit 2015) not knowing or in that moment caring what the future had in store for me.
Sunday, September 10, 2017 – I woke up and finished packing (actually cramming) my belongings into my old Jeep Liberty (trust me folks, it’s seen better days), dropped Katie off at her vehicle and left the city I’ve called home the past six years. Don’t worry, I did stop at Starbucks for a PSL and a to-go Caramel Macchiato for my mom as well before I got on I-90 to head East towards Wisconsin Rapids. I held my faith near as I departed for home, eager to continue applying for jobs in Madison and save some money at home for awhile.
Friday, September 15, 2017 – It was just after 9:00 a.m. when I woke up to an email response from the Executive Director of the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program. The night before I had sent her a message inquiring about the rumors of the Miss America Organization extending their age limit for eligibility from 24 to 25 and while that’s not a big shift for many people it was a game changer for me on a personal level. It was a pivotal move that would allow me the opportunity to compete again, one last time…
The email message read, “Yes! They announced in Atlantic City they were raising the age limit. You are eligible to compete!” Honestly, I don’t believe I read the sentences in their entirety. At first glance, all I saw was, “yes” and my eyes instantly welled up with tears as I dropped my phone onto the bathroom rug and stood crying. It was one of those moments that feels as though someone punches you in the stomach, laying my hand across my diaphragm as if that would help me catch my breath. I had spent the past three months wrapping my mind around the devastation and heartache that June brought and just like that, a new opportunity arose. What?! My gut told me, “YAS KWEEN! Go compete, this is your time! You’ll regret not capitalizing on this chance!” However, my heart weighed in with a little more cynicism and logic…asking myself, “Is this real life?”
That afternoon I received positive reassurance from some of my biggest support figures-both in pageantry and life, which included this message:
“I think you have to ask yourself, when I’m forty and look back, will I have regret for not trying that one last time, or contentment for never giving up?” This hit me right in the feels friends.Amidst the news of the internal power struggles and controversy within the MAO, it’s understandable as to why the age extension announcement was indeed prolonged and in serious question for months. Anyone that texted, messaged me, or approached me and asked if I was competing, I answered. However, in the meantime of figuring out if it was a definite opportunity, I wanted to stay humble and grounded while simultaneously working to figure out what exactly I could compete for on a local level. During that time, I also vigorously searched for a new job, secured a new job (that I love), and moved to a new city.
Now I’m going to be frank, I’ve had people question why I would give it another go and I understand their inquisitive minds. I have heard talk about people saying how it’s time for certain contestants to establish a serious relationship, get married, and focus on their careers (heck, some individuals have said this straight to my face). Honestly, it’s rather appalling to me that we, as a society living in the 21st Century would push any young woman (or man for that matter) into settling down and getting married. Think about yourself for a moment, have you ever had a goal or a dream you’ve worked tirelessly toward that you ultimately did not achieve? Now imagine you are granted another chance to achieve that goal…would you take it? I would think most of us as humankind would answer, “Absolutely!” It’s an gut response to our constant drive to live each day to the fullest, push ourselves toward reaching greater potentials, and last, but certainly not least, to actively work toward making a long-lasting positive impact on our communities and the lives of others. The last eight years of my involvement within this program haven’t always been easy and they certainly haven’t been as glamorous as outsiders may think the experience is from pictures, pretty dresses, and sparkly crowns. I’ve struggled immensely in school, coped with the loss of loved ones, balanced multiple part-time jobs around college courses and appearances, and faced rejection and failure straight on; but that’s what makes the journey worthwhile. It’s the relationships you foster, the challenges you overcome, and the lessons you learn that make you a stronger person and in this case, a better titleholder. Yet, it’s important to realize that this crazy, memorable, and extremely rewarding journey would not be possible without the overwhelming love and support received from friends, pageant directors, fellow titleholders, and countless pageant volunteers; but especially, my family. The financial sacrifices, emotional rollercoasters my poor parents, siblings, and extended family members have been on watching me compete, and the outpouring of encouragement do not go unnoticed. Thank you, mom and dad specifically for always motivating me to chase my dreams no matter the circumstances or time it will take to accomplish. Morgan, Ridge, and Reece – thank you for your undivided enthusiasm and compassion over the years (Ridge, pull out your red sport coat). Liv, I don’t know how to accurately convey just how appreciative I am for your counseling efforts, pep talks, dance critiques, healthy diet reinforcement, and for being my person through this all; you are an incredible human being with a huge heart and I am blessed to call you my friend. With that being said, I feel as though I’d be doing myself a disservice by not capitalizing on this opportunity to compete. In relation to my favorite quarterback Brett Favre, I’m coming out of retirement and as Cher would say, “You haven’t seen the last of me.” I will say, internally I struggled with stepping out of a career in broadcasting at the end of this past summer and leaving a community that had become like a second family to me. As much as I knew I needed a better paying job, craved stable hours, and yearned for more time with my family…I also loved being active in the community and sharing peoples’ stories. For years, I’ve wanted to call Madison home and am gracious to be able to do so now, but would have laughed if someone told me five or ten years ago that I would be working in advertising sales and loving what I do. If I had taken another reporting job and moved (most likely out of state) chances are I would not have been able to compete; and now the full picture comes into focus. Always remember my friends, God works in mysterious ways and we must always trust His greater plan for us. I am thankful for all the obstacles and experiences that have led me to where I am right now and am eager for what lies ahead.
A determined woman.