There are moments in life when we experience disappointment, but how we handle the disappointment can bring growth, acceptance, and clarity. Competing at Miss Connecticut USA was an experience I will never forget. I learned being authentic, having perseverance and a commitment to personal growth pays off, and that everything happens for a reason, even though we may not know what the reason is for a long time.
My journey to Miss Connecticut USA has included being Miss Connecticut Teen USA 2011, 4th runner-up and 1st runner-up at Miss Connecticut USA, to last year when I competed and didn’t make the top 5. Going from first-runner up to not making top five for me was heartbreaking and confusing, and I began to question myself and my dreams. For some of you non-pageant people this may not seem like a big deal, but I compare this to being the athlete who trains and prepares for years, always makes the elite team, and suddenly doesn’t. I felt I was prepared, I trained, I felt confident and was in competition shape. Today I realize that I needed that setback to happen to create the drive I had this year.
This year I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid to return and compete again. I had self-doubt and didn’t believe in myself. But I had a dream and I wasn’t ready to give up on it. A woman special to me, Tiffany Delmonico, inspired me to give this dream another shot by telling me to go into this competition and “truly be myself”. Being yourself sounds so easy, but it is one of life's biggest struggles. To be yourself you must be mindful of who you are, have a true understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, fears and desires, and in spite of all the comparisons we make to each other and the influence of social media, love how you look!
I dug deep and thought of what I needed to improve upon and how I could improve an area of weakness. For me, the interview part of the competition was where I felt I needed to improve upon. I tended to get in my own head, try to say what I thought the judges wanted to hear instead of letting them get to know the “real” me. This year I pushed myself, took risks, and discovered more about ME. I became more authentic and confident. I got in front of as many people as possible to practice and accept feedback and constructive criticism and turn my weakness into my strength. I am so proud to say that as a result, I won the interview award, which for me, is almost as rewarding as winning the title. This was possible because of the encouragement, honesty and support of my friends and family.
I would have loved to have been Miss Connecticut USA, representing the State I was born and raised in at Miss USA, but it was not meant to be. It is sad and a bit overwhelming to know that the pursuit of a dream I have worked towards for so many years has ended. Through this journey I have come to the realization that almost everything I wanted to accomplish as Miss Connecticut USA is still a possibility (except competing at Miss USA). I am ready and excited for this next chapter in my life and I finally have the clarity that I don’t need a crown to make my dreams come true.
As for Jamie Hughes, Miss Connecticut USA 2018, I am lucky to have been the one holding your hands to the very end. You are inspirational, compassionate and a leader. The last time Miss Connecticut USA won Miss Congeniality, she went on to win Miss USA! I can’t wait to follow your journey to Miss USA and I will be cheering you on the entire way because…. girls compete with each other, WOMEN EMPOWER one another.
Head shot: Eric Snyder Photography
Opening Number Dress: Atiana's Boutique
Fitness & Nutrition: Tuttle Nutrition
Interview Dress: MILLY
Evening gown earrings: DesertRoseDesign10 Only $40 off of Etsy!
Evening gown alterations: Irene Rocha
Pageant Photographer: Leroy Amankrah
Hair color, cut & extensions: Allusions Salon & Boutique