This past week I had the pleasure of speaking to over 350 JROTC cadets at Leavenworth High School. Here is how it began;
I walked in wearing my military uniform, nothing out of the ordinary for a group of students who see this on a daily basis. I asked them what opinions came to their mind when I stood before them in uniform, and as I expected they looked at me with expressions of confusion. They simply said I was a woman in uniform.
As an icebreaker, I then pulled out my crown and sash and my “glammed up” pageant headshot. Every reaction was the same; gasps, whispers, astonishment. I asked the students if their opinion of me changed any after seeing that I’m not just a woman in uniform. I asked them if they ever imagined putting the two together, a beauty queen and a soldier. When they said no, I asked why. The responses I received are as follows;
“Soldiers don’t mind getting dirty. Beauty queens care if they break a nail.”
“Beauty queens are full of themselves. ”
“Beauty queens are stuck up.”
There were many more, but you get the gist of it. After they gave their feedback I picked out a few students and labeled them. I pointed at a guy and told him he was a jock. I pointed at a girl and called her a cheerleader. And lastly, I told another guy that he was a band geek. After doing so (and getting a few glares from these students), I asked how they felt. They all said the same thing; stereotyped and labeled. As if simultaneously, the lightbulbs went off in their heads and they understood the point I was soon to make.
I backtracked to tell the students my story, where I came from and how I got here. I was a ghost in high school. I had no friends, no life, no confidence. I spent lunch period in the library, alone with my love for books. The characters in these pages being the only people I could relate to.
I took a leap out of my comfort zone one day and joined my school’s rifle team. Quickly escalating to the number one shot, I earned the nickname “Annie Oakley” and found where I belonged…in a man’s world. On that range is where I found myself and my confidence. I was never interested in the petty drama that followed most girls around in high school, so being around men on this range was relieving. No drama, just pure camaraderie and competition.
A year later, I joined the Army National Guard while still in high school. Getting shipped off to basic training was a fear come true….and I loved every minute of it. When one got in trouble, we all suffered for it. When one went down, we all went down. It was a band of brothers, unity and camaraderie at its finest. This is what I live for.
As I finished telling the students of my hard exterior, I softened it up a bit. How did a solider get into the pageant world? I said that God’s mission for me here on earth is to help people. To motivate, encourage, empower. The pageant world seemed best fit to catalyze my success in fulfilling God’s mission. It would allow me to speak to groups of people and share my platform.
As a final question, I asked them if their perception of a beauty queen was still the same….and they all said no. They said I broke the mold of what they assumed a beauty queen was like. My mission for this speech was a success. If I could just make ONE person think differently and stop stereotyping, I’ve done my part.
I left them with the lyrics from Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” song. “If you want to make the world a better place, you better look at yourself and make a change.”
Make a change in yourself, people! Stop stereotyping, stop assuming, stop labeling!
-Your Miss Outdoor Girl…
Disregarding the title of this post, I’d like to first start out by saying Happy New Year! I ended 2012 with a fantastic day of hunting deer, and began 2013 with an even better day of hunting squirrels with my dad! Who needs the ever-sought after midnight kiss on New Years when you have that?!
Anyway, a few people have inquired if I made a New Year’s resolution. It took me awhile to think about this. Last year it was to get in shape…okay, who am I kidding, EVERY year it’s to get in shape! I can’t help myself, I know that I can always do better than the present. After a particular incident, however, I decided on something new. Here is the story;
A week ago I had the official Miss Outdoor Girl photoshoot with the highly-talented Lisa Blake (pictures to come soon). As part of the photos, I asked that her 12-year-old daughter be in them with me. After all, I was the one who had encouraged Elli to pick up archery a few months ago! So, here we are getting our photos taken together and all I could think about was how stunning and photogenic this girl was, and at only 12 nonetheless! To give you an idea, she’s as tall as I am (5’7), blonde hair, fair skin, and the bluest of eyes.
Suddenly I remember feeling sorry for her. Why, you ask? I have two reasons. One; Throughout her entire life she’s only going to be complimented on what’s on the outside, her looks. Not her creativity, not her beautiful soul, not her intelligence. And soon she will think that’s all she has going for her. Two; How many girls do you know that are so aware of their beauty that they place themselves on a pedestal? I am so afraid of that happening to Elli. As sad as it is to say, I’ve seen beauty ruin people.
After the photoshoot I asked Elli if she would enjoy coming to Cabelas with me. We needed to get her bow adjusted anyway. So here we are in–let’s face it–a male-dominant store, and Elli kept pointing out every single man that stared at us as we walked by. I told her that she had better start getting use to it because that’s the life she is going to live. Am I aware that I get stares at Cabelas? Of course, but never do I let that affect my humility. Rather, I thank God for his gift. At that moment I decided to give her the most valuable of lessons. I said, “Elli, you are gorgeous. And because of that a lot of opportunities will present themselves to you that aren’t there for other people. What I want you to do, is be humble about it. Be grateful and appreciative that so many things happen for you, but never let them go to your head.”
External beauty is a gift from God, so of course you should acknowledge it and appreciate it. What you should not do, however, is revel in your beauty. There is nothing more unattractive than a person who knows they’re attractive and thinks they are above others because of it. I recall my highschool days when I saw the “popular” girls doing this. All of you have seen it at one point or another.
Now, I’d like to make a clear distinction. Just because you may spend a significant amount of time on your appearance, doesn’t mean you are self-absorbed. Not in my opinion at least. I spend at least 2 1/2 hours in the gym on a daily basis, and if I’m getting ready for the day I’ll spend the same amount of time getting ready! I enjoy feeling like the best version of me. I enjoy feeling like a woman. Is that vain? Superficial? To some it may certainly seem like it, but as I said, that doesn’t make you self-absorbed or conceited.
Every single one of you is beautiful on the outside, but what does it matter if your inside beauty is lacking? Are you humble? Are you compassionate? Or are you judgmental? Vindictive? Jealous? In a moment God can easily take away his gift of external beauty. And then what will you be left with?
So, my New Year’s resolution is to focus more on my inside beauty. To have a caring heart, a beautiful soul, a sound mind. Are you internally beautiful?
-Your Miss Outdoor Girl…