When I was 15, I competed in my first pageant. Since then, they have given me life-altering skills that have built my confidence while also humbling me. From the connections I have made to the public speaking skills I have gained, they have shaped me as a teenager and young woman.

My first pageant I was a hot mess, but I had a team behind me and that is all that mattered. One girl competing even helped with my walk and coached me through a few items before the event started. Now, we are adults cheering each other on from thousands of miles away in our state pageants. That is one of the key things I have walked away with from pageants these past 8 years — friendships. I have met accomplished and articulate women from all across the country who have been there to strengthen me while also developing themselves. I have had girls spray on my butt glue (yes, butt glue) while also fixing a strand of hair that is sticking out before I go into an interview. On the other hand, I have zipped up girl’s dresses while squeezing them in, and helped fluff girl’s dresses out before they walk on stage. That is what pageantry is all about — building each other up.

Another key component I have gained from pageantry is confidence. I do not believe I would be able to stand up for myself had I not started competing in pageants. I have learned lessons that have empowered me, and I have learned how to command an interview room while speaking of my accomplishments, ambitions, and passions. The coaches I have worked with have prepared me for more than a pageant; they have prepared me for life. I have taken these skills and received internships, job offers (even one from Disney), and I have been able to speak on local news channels. These public speaking skills I will take with me the rest of my life throughout my careers and passions.

Being able to dress up while feeling poised and beautiful is another thing pageantry has given me. I enjoy putting on a dress and heels while strutting on a stage and showing my confidence and hard-work. Not everyday do you get to have hair higher than your standards and lashes longer than your nails, but on pageant day you do. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea to feel glamorous, but it is mine. I used to be an active volleyball and soccer player, but I had 2 ACL surgeries and decided to give up sports. I then found pageants give the same things that sports do: a team, something to work towards, and life skills. I mean after all Miss Universe is the Super Bowl of all pageants, so is pageantry a sport? Not entirely, but I like to think it is.

Whether you walk away with the crown or not, there is more to be taken away and gained from the experience of competing. I will forever be grateful for the connections, confidence, and etiquette I have gained from pageantry. Ultimately, they have created the woman I am today and will continue to grow my self-worth.

modeling for Dazzles Prom & Pageant with my fellow pageant girls