To begin, I have not been doing pageants my entire life. Some girls have, but I am not one of them. I competed in only three pageants, the Miss Illinois USA pageant for two years and then Miss USA. My first year I placed in the top 16 and the second year I won.
The year I placed in top 16 my fellow Luvabull, Shanon Lersch, won. I told her after she won that I was going to win next year because I wanted to receive the title from her. That year I did everything I could to go into the pageant feeling my absolute best. I have always been physically active, but I thought could I train harder? Could I work harder at the things I wanted? The answer was yes. And luckily for me, it paid off. (I mention this because I believe, in fitness and in life, you can set a goal and achieve it if you want it bad enough).
Personally, I do not believe that this system is degrading to women. (I am very interested in hearing peoples' thoughts and opinions on if and why they believe it is degrading? And is it pageants in general or the swimsuit competition?). The swimsuit competition was my favorite part of the competition. Why? because I worked my butt off to look the way I did. I view this segment as a fitness competition. My goal was not to be the thinnest person, it was to have a strong, toned and feminine body. And I can assure you, (as my friends and family will attest), that I eat a lot and definitely do not throw up afterward.
In case you're wondering, I did have a sparkly dress, and I absolutely loved it.
I also know that brains will help you accomplish what you really want to in life. There is a reason why I focused on graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before I focused on my other goals, (such as this). I graduated with high honors receiving my bachelor of science in Kinesiology, just in case anyone wanted to know haha.
I personally did not feel that the Miss Illinois USA system was at all rigged. (There are different owners from when Jen was in the pageant as well. Obviously, it was proven that they were rigging their pageant).
I will be completely honest when I say that I was heartbroken that I didn't place in the top 15, yet alone win, while competing for Miss USA. I felt I worked hard and would have been a good representative. However, life isn't always fair. My reality is that everything works out the way it is supposed to and I was meant to come back here to Chicago.
Because I wasn't done with Chicago and Chicago wasn't done with me.
back home allowed me to meet the most amazing people. I have met
numerous athletes and celebrities while rallying together for good
causes. I even met Oprah Winfrey at a charity event. I mean its Oprah
Winfrey, this hugely empowering, spiritual life force. Who doesn't
want to meet her? I've met athletes and business owners right here
from Chicago. Many of whom have a common goal of making our city a
Not to mention, all of the wonderful people I
have met that dedicate their lives to a cause. I have attended
numerous charity events over the past nine months. Some of them are;
the Best Buddies Organization, Children's Memorial Hospital, Kicks for Cancer, the H foundation, Special Olympics Polar Plunge, Be Bright Pink and Autism Speaks. (Check out their websites to see how you can get more involved).
of the reasons why I wanted to become Miss Illinois USA was to help
others on a larger scale. I have had organizations tell me they have
raised more money because I was involved with their event. Whether
that be attending, selling raffle tickets or getting the word out about
their event. I am personally honored to have met such wonderful people
that have allowed me to be a part of making a difference for others.
am also the president of Dream for the Stars. Dream for the Stars is
an non-profit organization that empowers women and children by helping
them believe they can achieve their dreams. This organization is an
affiliate of Wings, an amazing program designed to help women and children that have been affected by domestic violence.
I have also had amazing experiences as Miss Illinois USA. I have
thrown out a first pitch at both of our home baseball teams, the White
Sox and the Cubs.
These events were two once in a lifetime opportunities I have seen
people pay thousands and thousands of dollars for at charity events.
These two experiences meant so much to me, because I love Chicago and
our sports teams. I believe we have the best fans in the country.
(How many of you agree with me? And if not what city do you think
believe this system and this experience is what you make out of it.
I knew going into it what it would be like. I did it to network, help
others and have a year filled with once in a lifetime opportunities. I
hope that I have many more amazing experiences and opportunities to
meet such great people as I finish out my reign this year.
that being said, the Miss Illinois USA system is about intelligence,
beauty, hard work, genuineness, excitement, confidence, health,
fitness, empathy and generosity.
How do I know this?
Because I represent our state this year.