Ever since I can remember, I watched the Miss USA competition on live network television. I watched the women mesmerized by their confidence, intelligence, and beauty. They had no idea that they were changing a little girl’s life. That they changed my life. At around age seven, I established my dream of becoming Miss USA. I wanted to inspire young women the way the women I watched on television had inspired me.
I visualized the moment I would be crowned and honored with my dream job every day of every year until I was ready to compete. That vision kept my morals and values in line with my faith. That vision empowered me to tune out the naysayers and bullies. That vision led me out of an abusive relationship. That vision gave me hope.
After graduating college, I won Miss North Carolina USA and would be going on to compete for Miss USA in the summer of 2015, LIVE on NBC! The experience I had been preparing for almost my whole life was finally here. It’s a very surreal moment. When it was finally announced that the pageant would take place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I was not thrilled to be honest. It was hard to convince friends and extended family to invest in a trip to Baton Rouge in the middle of July. So I thought, that’s okay, they’ll be watching and cheering from home!
So there I was, arriving in Baton Rouge to begin the two week quest for the crown. On day one, there was so much buzz and excitement. Registration, fittings, and official portraits were underway. As I sat in the makeup chair, I looked around the room and noticed nervous and anguished faces. I knew there had been worry whether Donald Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants would affect the pageant, as he was part owner, but I refused to believe that could happen. To distract myself I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through my Instagram feed. And there it was. The press release from Donald Trump stating he was cutting ties with NBC. I must’ve read it three times. But what does this mean? I thought. Surely this doesn’t mean what I think it means.
I called my older sister, a former Miss USA. She calmly confirmed the news that NBC was in fact dropping the Miss USA telecast. It’s hard for me to continue writing at this point because I honestly lose words to say. How could a network abandon 51 women? What did we do wrong? I had a flashback of myself as a little girl watching the pageant with wonder-filled eyes. How could a network abandon hundreds of thousands of young girls? I felt saddened and hurt by NBC’s decision. But again, my vision gave me hope. Everything will be okay.
But it only got worse. Shortly after NBC’s announcement, a major sponsor pulled their hair sponsorship. I watched, traumatized, as the team packed up their hair stations and left. One by one, the celebrity panel of judges withdrew. The host backed out. The musical entertainment pulled out. Less than two weeks out from the final competition we had no music, judges, hosts, or network. What was going to happen? Somehow, in the mist of the media frenzy that had struck, I had the mental toughness to remain positive.
The moods continued to shift. The contestants with Latina or Mexican heritage were constantly being pulled for special interviews. Everyone’s stories, hardships, and backgrounds came to the forefront. Our swimsuit music changed three times.
I was moved from the front of the stage to the very back.
After about a week, it was official that Reelz would be our new network home. I’m so grateful they stepped up. However, it is still devastating that the pageant was not able to reach the audience it would have reached on basic cable. My grandparents weren’t even able to watch.
It was then announced that the new panel of judges would be comprised of former Miss USA titleholders. Awkward pause. My sister is a former Miss USA, the judges would know who I was. Will this hurt my chances? Does this mean it’s already been decided that I won’t be in the top 15? No, I trust the process will be fair. I felt uncomfortable as the moods continued to shift away from favor.
Even with all odds against me, I knew my name would be called that night to advance into the top 15. But on the night of the telecast, as each semifinalist was announced, I listened to their hometown videos and personal stories. Uh oh, my story does not fit in with these stories. I knew instantly that I was not making the top 15. The last state was called, and it was not North Carolina.
It’s weird, I didn’t cry much. I actually didn’t feel anything. I was numb for months. Numbed by the fact that the experience you’re only allowed to have once in your lifetime, was distorted by politics. 51 innocent young women were punished for a comment by a man that has nothing to do with the pageant. Donald Trump did not suffer from NBC dropping the Miss USA telecast, I did.
Philanthropists, lawyers, researchers, students, athletes, nurses, volunteers, caretakers, immigrants, survivors, role models…these are the innocent women who were punished by one man’s comment. Why?
Shortly after Miss USA, Donald Trump sold his share of the Miss Universe Organization to IMG. Fox network became they’re new home, and the 2016 class of titleholders entered into the perfect scenario. They will appear live on Fox from the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas on June 5th. I just hope they understand how fortunate they are.
Only 50 other women will understand what I experienced. I thank God every day for our lifetime friendships and countless vent sessions.
Forgive me if I sound ungrateful, because that is far from the truth. After all, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity that a group of women have the privilege of experiencing.
If you have ever felt like you’ve been cheated, overlooked, dumped on, discredited, or forgotten…I’m here to tell you that it will be okay, eventually. But first, it is okay to process and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Run it out, take a vacation, talk your best friend’s ear off, have a glass of wine or two. You do what you gotta do to come to terms with it. Just keep it legal.
We have this hope as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. Hebrews 6:19
This journal entry started out as my reaction to the announcement that Miss USA 2016 will once again be broadcasted on network television. I never anticipated to publish my feelings. So to you, as the reader, thank you for listening to me talk through my emotions. Because no one ever asked me what it was like or how I felt, and I think that was the hardest part of all.
Man, that felt good.
Miss North Carolina USA 2015