Monday, September 19, 2016

What I Learned at Miss America

About one week ago, In a matter of a few minutes, my dream to become Miss America ended.  For upwards of ten years I worked toward that ultimate goal, and after a few on-air minutes plus two commercial breaks, fate revealed that my pageant career was over.  It may sound harsh but we, as pageant girls, all understand the reality of competition.  Rather than questioning why I didn't "make the cut" or what I could have done differently, I decided to accept the situation.  "Decide" might be giving me a little too much credit.  None of us really have a choice, you see.  All 37 contestants who realize what I did- that it wasn't going to happen for us- we have no choice but to accept the situation.  Live television dictates that, as we are expected to remain on stage to watch 15 other women vie for the title we all so desperately want.  The acceptance is both freeing and painful.  On one hand, we can relax and enjoy the show without quick changes or critique.  On the other hand, we remember all of the sacrifices made and work that was done to not be on this side of things.  I remember thinking to myself when things got tough, "do you want to be one of the 37 left standing?" What a horrible thought.  Then, the thought of sitting on stage and watching the competition go on without me was enough to drive me mad.  But after actually living it- sitting on stage with 36 of my sisters, cheering on 15 of our class- I feel nothing but honor and gratitude.  Now, when I ask myself, "do you want to be one of the 37 left standing?" my answer is obvious- of course I do.  Of the 8,000 women who compete for Miss America local, state, and national pageants yearly, I was one of the 52 who had the privilege to compete for the coveted Miss America title.  Of those 8,000 contestants, I was one of 51 who got to stand on stage and watch as history was made and another remarkable young woman was crowned.  Of those 8,000 contestants, I am one who has the chance to use her title for good and make a difference.  I have always been aware of how lucky I am to just be a part of this organization, but my experience at Miss America truly showed me just how amazing being Miss New Jersey is- regardless of placement or awards.  I learned that something you dream about for ten years doesn't have to be what you dream about for the rest of your life.  I learned that dreams are meant to be chased, and when they are no longer attainable, new dreams should be dreamt.  I learned that no title or trophy can replace what I know in my heart to be true- I am enough, as just Brenna.

My heart is full thinking about the friends I made in Atlantic City.  I am so incredibly excited to watch my friend, Savvy's year unfold as she serves our nation as Miss America 2017.  There have never been and will never be enough words to say "thank you" to all of you who deserve thanks.  I will never forget the way you all make me feel like Miss America every day.  My year as Miss New Jersey will be jam-packed with service opportunities, local pageants, appearances, children's hospital visits, platform presentations, fashion shows, drives up the turnpike, and picture taking.  I am determined to do good in the world and make as many people breathe easier as I can, not only while I'm Miss New Jersey, but for the rest of my life.  I hope you'll join me.