As the reporter for the Fort Leavenworth Lamp, it is my job to support the Fort Leavenworth community by covering changes of command, community programs and the accomplishments of our soldiers, civilians and families of Fort Leavenworth, and I enjoy every minute of it.
But last week the tables were turned, and I got to experience the support of the community as I competed in my very first pageant — the Princess of America National Pageant July 29 through Aug. 2 at the Mansion Theatre in Branson, Mo.
When the idea of competing in a pageant first came up back in February while talking with my vocal coach (and pageant coach), Jodi Rinehart Keay, I wasn’t sure what to think. I had never even thought about it before and didn’t know where to begin. Knowing that I needed to write an introduction, establish a platform, learn to walk in six-inch heels, shop for the wardrobe — 15 different outfits total — and more, not to mention all the finances that go along with that, I was completely overwhelmed. Yet, from the minute I committed myself to the process, the support I received became even more overwhelming, but in the best way possible.
Having been the Lamp reporter for almost two years now, I have come to know many people in the community on a personal level, and as soon as they found out about the pageant, they were quick to send me words of encouragement whether in person, via e-mail or on Facebook. Then, when the time came for sponsorships, local businesses in the Leavenworth/Lansing community and friends everywhere stepped up to help me out. I wouldn’t have gotten to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience (literally, I’ve aged out at 24) without their help.
With a whole community behind me, I departed July 28 for Branson as Miss Southern States POA. Monday through Wednesday was filled with rehearsals, optional competitions, Dolly Parton’s Stampede and parties so that all of us delegates could get to know each other, which opened the door to making lifelong friends.
Meeting all of my sister queens like Tiny Miss Southern States POA Kamrie Mountain, the delegates who made up the five younger age categories like Junior Miss Tennessee POA Abbey Dovey, my state director Mikala Jane Wilkerson, as well as the 11 amazing women I competed with for Miss Princess of America like Miss Wisconsin POA Alexandria Wiseman, was the highlight of it all. The camaraderie established was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Everyone was truly happy for each other and wanted everyone to do her absolute best.
This made it easier to head into the official competition, which began Thursday morning with judge interviews and preliminaries later that night. Preliminaries was a whole new ball game with quick wardrobe changes backstage while nearly 100 girls, ranging in age from 4 to 24, were running around at once. But, once again, every girl had everyone else’s back zipping up dresses, lacing corsets and touching up hair and makeup. Then, just before walking out on stage, gathering in a circle to pray together gave each of us the confidence to walk out on stage with our heads held high.
For me, walking out in my evening gown was the highlight of that part of the competition. Never have I felt more beautiful or confident than when I put on that dress.
Friday afternoon was the climactic moment we had all been waiting for as we headed into finals and crowning. Going into it, all I knew was that I was walking back onto that stage with the confidence that I had done my absolute best and was proud of myself no matter what the outcome.
Now, I am proud to announce that I finished in the top eight for my division and was awarded second runner-up in my division for talent. While walking away with a national title would have been amazing, I wouldn’t change the experience for anything because I was so blessed to meet the people I did, experience the things I experienced and learn firsthand of the amazing community I have around me.