Metamorphosis per definition is, “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.” Maybe this sounds a little extreme, but this is what pageantry, specifically the Mrs. Ohio America pageant, gave to me.
If you ask my husband he would tell you that the woman who entered the pageant for the first time is not the same one who wore the crown five years later. Yes, I did say five years. You see, I did not win my first time (or my second, third or fourth times obviously!). But, each year I learned more, worked harder, stretched further, and grew abundantly. The woman who entered the pageant was a middle income mother of five from a tiny little northwest Ohio town without a lick of pageant experience. I had no idea what I was doing…and honestly no idea WHY I was doing it, other than the fact that I was a busy mom of four boys and a girl who had lost herself in marriage, motherhood and work and forgotten how to dream, how to set goals and who was afraid of taking chances.
The woman who entered the Mrs. Ohio America pageant in 2008 was insecure, suffered from low self-esteem and social anxiety, imagined that no one liked her and everyone was judging her, and stayed safely in within the bounds of her comfort zone. The woman who became Mrs. Ohio America 2013 was transformed. I was a woman who had made many female friends, who no longer cared if people judged or talked about her because she had her “girl tribe”, who was able to speak to strangers and walk into places where she knew no one, and was able to speak confidently in front of large crowds. She was a woman who pursued dreams she never knew she had, took chances on things other people thought were crazy and became unabashedly herself…and was happy that way.
You are asking, “how can a silly beauty pageant do all that?” Well, first of all, it’s not silly if it is your dream or goal, and it’s not silly no matter what your reason for pursuing it is. No one gets to decide for you what is or is not of value. Only your creator, and you get to decide that! Second, pageantry, no matter if you agree or not, is hard work. It is not just about getting up on the stage in a gown and looking pretty. It is months, and in some cases years of preparation. It takes dedication, focus, goal setting and planning to get to where you want to go. Large amounts of time are spent reflecting, working on personal development and interview skills. Those tasks really help you zone in on what you are all about. Third, you are surrounded with like-minded women. They are working on being the best version of themselves as well. They come from all walks of life, all races and religions, and they challenge you, hold you accountable, lift you up, encourage and support you. Many of my best friends are women I have met through pageantry, and I know that at any given time, I could call one of them, and they would walk through the fire of life with me. My time competing and then my year as Mrs. Ohio America have been some of the best years of my life, and not because I got to wear a crown or a sparkly sash, but because it changed me from the inside out, led me to some amazing women who are lifelong friends and opened doors for me to represent causes that I care so much about. It has been years since that crown was nestled in its box, but I still hold onto those friendships, to the Mrs. Ohio America sisterhood, and actively work to make an impact on the lives of others, here and abroad
You don’t have to be a supermodel, spend a certain number of hours volunteering for something, be a certain age, have children or not, have long hair, be tall, weigh a certain amount, have a million dollars in your bank account, be blonde because last year’s winner was brunette, have a top of the line pageant wardrobe, spend ten thousand dollars on your gown, have artificial nails (are you getting the idea here?). You just have to be you! There are no set criteria. The judges are not looking for a particular build or look. They are looking for someone who best fits the job description of being Mrs. Ohio America. I can tell you right now, that the year I won was in a borrowed gown and a forty-dollar interview dress. When I placed in the top 15 at Mrs. America, I was the oldest contestant in that top bracket and it was with no artificial nails, hair and make-up I did on my own and a gown that was not one-of a kind. If a 41-year-old nurse from a town of 2000 people in rural Ohio can do this, you certainly can! Don’t make excuses, don’t let fear hold you back, just go for it! I promise you will never regret the experience and there are several of us who would be happy to help you with your journey. You have one life, make it your best one!
Teri, Mrs. Ohio America 2013