I competed at the 2010 Miss USA/Universe Pageant, representing the District of Columbia. I didn’t grow up a painted baby, meaning, I did not grow up competing in Toddlers and Tiaras pageant system. From the age of six on I was a competitive equestrian and highly decorated Junior Olympian in swimming.
My time outside of school was spent either in swim practice or mucking stalls and washing ponies/horses. My classmates complained I reeked of either chorine or hay and horse manure. I was a jock who went on to become a Division 1 student athlete.
Growing up with a mother, who was a former runway model, I was surrounded by pictures of her gracing Parisian and Italian runways. Ever year, I watched the Beauty Pageants with my mother and dreamt of gracing a stage – but I didn’t know how to apply makeup and I could barely walk in heels!
On the eve of my 20th birthday I had a quarter of a life crisis and decided to make a bucket list to accomplish before 30. I wanted my Cinderella moment so I decided to compete for Miss USA. But I had no experience and didn’t know how to get started.
So, I did what I do best, I researched and developed a spreadsheet of all the elements it would take to have my Eliza Doolittle transformation. I convinced a world-renowned pageant coach, she coached seven girls to Miss Universe titles, to take me on as a project. I trained, practiced, and pushed myself to give my best effort. I’m proud to say that on my first try I won the Miss District of Columbia title and headed to Miss USA in Las Vegas.
As the painful comments rolled in to message boards and youtube comments, I had to learn to cling stronger to my faith. I was called everything from a transvestite to a crack baby. Fat was an easy comment to manage, compared to the occasional, “go play in traffic,” that rolled across my screen.
I started to wonder why God had even blessed me with this, when it was an absolute nightmare.
I swore to anyone who asked that none of the vitriol was bothering me. I held it all in, until I couldn’t take it any more. When I found myself having a massive anxiety attack and laying in an ER hospital bed in excruciating pain, I turned to the one thing my parents and grandparents had taught me would help soothe any ailment…prayer and the bible.
God will call on ordinary people for extraordinary moments. And the miracle isn’t meant for the person involved; rather it is to impact those observing the miracle. Growing up in Metropolitan AME in Washington DC, I heard the story of the three Hebrew boys locked in the fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had faith, they truly believed in God and his miracles. When the King chose to punish them for their defiance to not worship his false idol, they did not lose their faith.
The punishment was, being thrown in a fiery furnace. The flames from the furnace were so strong that a few guards were killed just trying to open the furnace. They were restrained and forced to their death. Someone who lives with a godly spirit thinks differently when faced with certain death, this is a win-win situation – God would either work in the king’s heart and help him find mercy, or they would die and go on to the kingdom of heaven.
But every so often God has to flex his muscles, and “let everyone know he’s about that life.” God didn’t worry about the faith of the three boys, he wanted to instill faith in those observing. The miracle could have been that they were never thrown in the furnace, but what makes it truly miraculous is that they were bound, in the furnace, flames dancing around them, and they walked out unscathed. That miracle was meant for the King, the observers, the guards, and to instill faith in something greater.
I realized God had thrown me in this fire because he knew I had the strength to push forward, but my strength and determination would be an inspiration to someone else.
I would have killed for a Hollywood ending, walking away with the crown in Las Vegas, but I didn’t and I didn’t let that stop me. I had to have faith in the unknown and in myself to step out in to my life after the crown. However, I didn’t want to let the cyber bullies win, I wanted to use the hurt they tried to cause me to help the next generation of women behind me have the strength confidence and faith to succeed in spite of the nawsayers.
My work ethic, my drive, are all because of the standard of hard work I’ve grown up witnessing.
My father, Ernest Green, was part of the landmark group The Little Rock Nine, the nine black students that integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. My father was the lone senior and thus became the first African American to graduate from a desegregated high school.
I grew up looking at countless magazine articles, newspaper clips, and presidential letters. I sat through the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, statue unveiling, the issuance of by the US Mint of a silver dollar and US Postal Service commemorative stamps, in honor of the Nine.
“To whom so ever much is given, much is required,” is a motto I’ve heard repeatedly. I’ve been given a lot, and I expect a lot from myself in return. As my five year crown-iversary approaches I am (surprisingly) thankful for those awful internet trolls, they taught me how strong I can truly be when I lean on my faith, and love myself. I’ve been given an incredible legacy, and I want to use it to give be a history maker, and inspire generations to dream bigger, as well.
I have faith in myself, and my abilities to step out and into the role of my full potential, and to follow my dream. I am not afraid of the challenge that lies ahead, but excited by the opportunity to grow and learn in a new environment. I have the faith to step into the unknown.
If this message inspired you, be an inspiration by sharing with others.