June 19, 2017
As I sat in my seat at the Mandalay Bay convention center watching Miss USA, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy. I saw how the Miss USA contestants were each so different and had their own unique stories and passions. Everyone had different things to offer and were inspirations in their own way. No one story was better than another, everyone was simply themselves. I remember watching Miss USA and Miss Universe on tv since before I even started competing. I was inspired by these women from when I was about 5 all the way to now at 22, when I finally got to see it live.
We all have stories and experiences that have shaped us into who we are today. Most people are surprised to know that when I was younger, I had a speech impediment and was labeled as “selective mute.” I wouldn’t talk to anyone besides my family. One time a speech pathologist had to have my sister ask me to say words for her because I wouldn’t talk. When asked to say “castle,” I said, “cackle!” Through years of visiting speech pathologists and attending different programs, I was able to correct my speech. A large portion of my problem was from a lack of confidence. Unfortunately, this continued for a while.
When I was about nine years old I received a letter in the mail to compete in a pageant. I had never done a pageant, I had never been on stage, and I hardly talked! Yet for some reason, I decided I wanted to try it. It was the best decision I ever made. Although I didn’t win a pageant for quite some years, I didn’t care... most of the time (let’s be real). I was able to develop poise, communication skills, talents, and most importantly, confidence. This year will be my fifth year competing in the Miss Universe Organization. Each year I have become more comfortable in my skin and worked on improving in each area of competition, becoming a more complete woman.
My mission now is to help instill confidence in others and to encourage people to be their best selves. I travel the country with an organization where I work with hundreds of girls at a time to gain confidence and build skills to last them a lifetime. It’s always rewarding to see the changes in each girl in just a couple days and also year after year. We don’t teach the participants to all be a certain way. We help find each girls strengths and what makes her unique, this helps with their confidence and self-esteem. Lack of confidence is the root of so many other problems. I can’t stress how important it is to focus on growing confidence. I’m forever grateful that I was confident enough in myself and my values in high school to not give into peer pressure. I always stayed true to myself and my beliefs with no doubts, even though I wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing. I was myself and I was real; I didn’t try to be anyone other than the best version of me. This is something I have continued on and always will.
The Miss Universe Organization is now recognizing and celebrating these unique qualities and stories that we all have to offer. Young girls all over the world watch Miss USA and Miss Universe. They are now inspired by each woman and her story. They feel like they can relate to these women because they are more than just pretty, they are real. Each and every day I strive towards being confidently beautiful and authentically me. I will continue helping others to reach their full potential while also growing my own confidence. My platform is called R.E.A.L. which means to (R)ecognize your potential, (E)ngage in healthy habits, (A)lign yourself with who and what inspires you, (L)ove yourself, others, and life. Try to be the best version of yourself while not losing your authenticity. It’s never too early or too late to start.
“Be humble in your confidence, yet courageous in your character.”
Miss Central Virginia USA 2017
Miss Northern Virginia USA 2018