If I had a dollar for every time I ‘failed’ at something, I would be a pretty wealthy person.
Sunday morning I received a text that read “Steph I am so sorry! Are you ok?” Yesterday I got home and my mom asked with a sympathetic voice “How’re you doing?” I responded “Good! I’m fine” to both of these questions. I had just competed for the job of Miss Oregon on Saturday night for the last time, and ‘failed’ again.
Let me take you through my Miss America journey…
When I was in high school one of my teachers told me I should compete in our local pageant. I laughed, thought of the ‘stereotypical pageant girl’ and told her pageants weren’t for me. I grew up playing sports. She twisted my arm, telling me that it was about service, that I interviewed well, and it was a way for me to pay for college. I gave in and decided to compete, not having a clue what this pageant thing was about.
In 2009 I competed for the title of Miss Klamath County/Miss City of Sunshine. I failed.
In 2010 I competed for the title of Miss Klamath County/Miss City of Sunshine for a second time. I failed.
In 2011 I switched it up and competed for the title of Miss Lane County/Miss University of Oregon. I failed. A few weeks later I competed for Miss Three Rivers. I failed again.
In 2012 I went back and competed for Miss Klamath County/Miss City of Sunshine again. I failed. The very next day I competed for the title of Miss Southern Gem. I failed once more.
“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly” – John F. Kennedy
At one point someone asked my dad “Is she ever just going to be done with this?” I’m sure she wasn’t the only person who was wondering that. Sometimes I did myself. But what people on the outside didn’t see, was that each time I failed and didn’t walk away with the crown, I walked away with so much more…
My interview skills improved, and I learned how to better speak in front of large audiences. I always enjoyed talking, but I learned how to slow my pace down and ‘take someone across the street, not on a safari’. I learned how to live a healthier lifestyle; as an athlete I was always in shape, but when the sports ended I wasn’t burning as many calories. So I learned how to eat healthy food and enjoy it, I learned how to incorporate running, weight-lifting, zumba, and other forms of working out into my daily routines. I learned how to walk in heels, and how to do my hair and makeup. I learned to push myself and believe in myself; talent was always something I struggled with, and I learned that if I tell myself ‘I can’t’ or ‘I don’t’ then I’m right. I learned to break past barriers and tell myself ‘I can and I will entertain’. I learned how to fail graciously, and in front of a large audience of people! I learned how to be confident in the young woman I am.
Some girls win their first time competing; good for them! I’ve gained so much and grown as an individual from my failures, and you can’t put a price, or crown, on that.
“Failure is a much more faithful teacher than immediate success” – David Duchemin
In 2013 I competed for the title and job of Miss Klamath County/Miss City of Sunshine. This time, I was fortunate enough to be crowned Miss City of Sunshine 2013. As I began my year of service, I quickly realized that all of my failed attempts had better prepared me to be a titleholder. I had a better understanding of the program, I had a plan for my year, and I had a stronger sense of self than I did when I first competed in 2009. My failures had made me relatable, and had given me a story to share and tie in with my platform. I continued to grow and improve on all of the skills I had learned when I had failed, but I was now also able to use my crown and sash as a soapbox and megaphone to share those lessons and my story with others.
That summer I competed for Miss Oregon 2013 and failed. It was such a whirlwind of a week, especially being there for my first time, and I left knowing I wanted another chance to compete for the job of Miss Oregon.
This past year I worked harder than ever before – I spent extra hours in the gym, ate really clean, watched the news more frequently and listened to NPR in the car, I pushed myself in talent and tried something I never thought I would. In April I was incredibly thankful to be crowned Miss Columbia River 2014 with the opportunity to compete at Miss Oregon one last time.
I had worked so hard and pushed myself in every phase of competition. I set goals for myself. I had pictured my name being called for the Top 10, and had even envisioned my crowning moment. I had done everything in order to be a successful pageant girl. Had I prepared to the best of my ability? Yes. Was I ready for the job? Yes. Would I have made a great Miss Oregon? Absolutely. Along with many of the girls I was competing with. Did I deserve to win? Sure. Did that mean I was entitled to win? Of course not.
Throughout the week of Miss Oregon, I knew I had done my best in every phase of competition. I had left everything out on the stage and in the interview room. So was I disappointed when my name wasn’t called for the Top 10? You bet! But was I devastated? Not the slightest bit. I knew there wasn’t anything I could have done differently. Different day, different judges, different outcome. I just wasn’t what they were looking for.
If we’re measuring winning by who walks away with the crown, then yes, I failed. But that isn’t what this organization is about. I’m walking away from my last time competing with so many priceless life lessons, new friendships (I have 22 new smart, talented, and beautiful sisters), forever being a part of this pageant family, feeling inspired and motivated, not to mention with over $25,000 in scholarships! This is all from failing nine times throughout my six years in the program and only winning twice.
A common onstage question is “How do you define success?” I define success by never giving up and always do my best. If I do that, I will always walk away a winner.
It is weird to think that my time in the Miss America Organization is over and that I will never compete again; but I know that it is because of this program and all of my failures that I have a bright future ahead of me and will succeed in all that I do.
”Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”