I believe dreams are realized through a combination of God’s plan, our action and a synchronicity of the two. Sometimes it feels like He works over time for us, and other times it feels like we are the only ones working. But throughout all of these times, His plan is at play. My journey from a Miss USA contestant in 2009 (who didn’t make the top 15!) to a Miss USA co-host in 2015 is an example of this.
Growing up, I occasionally watched pageants, but never competed in them.
Confession: I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what the difference between Miss America and Miss USA was until 2007.
That’s the year I watched Rachel Smith glow on TV and go on to capture the (Miss USA) title I would soon dream of capturing myself. Something in Rachel’s sweet essence resonated with mine, prompting this still small voice to tell me to compete at Miss Wisconsin USA.
My desire to compete in a pageant was no doubt fueled by a larger dream–to become a TV host. When I saw past Miss USA winners like Susie Castillo and Shandi Finnessey go on to become successful hosts, I was hopeful this was my path too.
Winning Miss Wisconsin USA on my first try was definitely a combination of my action and God’s forgiving plan. Yes, I did all the work I thought was necessary to compete. I worked out, summoned friends to ask me interview questions, bought a dress at David’s Bridal for $199 (insert pageant girl laughter here), and tried my hardest to emulate the walk of past winners. At the competition, I asked my mom, a business woman, to do my hair–which ended up being way over-sprayed. But, according to the man who tabulated the votes, all 5 judges saw past the less than perfect details and voted for me anyway. Yeah, He was working over time 🙂
One of the crucial characteristics that’s helped my side of the dream equation (God’s plan + our action) is drive. After winning Miss Wisconsin USA, my drive was fully ignited. I was in it to win it. Everything I didn’t know about pageants before, I learned. I competed at Miss USA 2009 as my best then-self. Yet, I wasn’t called to the top 15. Why?!?! Sadness, disappointment and confusion set in for months after. This was supposed to be a part of the plan! Well, my plan. God had something else in mind.
From there, a sequence of events lead me to a path in local TV. I graduated from UW-Madison in the peak of the recession and became an unpaid intern for a couple media outlets that allowed me to shoot material for my reel. I Facebook messaged one of the preliminary judges at Miss USA who was a broadcasting agent and asked if I could send him my reel. He took me on as a client, and a year and a half after competing at Miss USA, I found myself in Rockford, IL, anchoring the NBC affiliate’s morning show.
Compared to Miss Wisconsin USA, this new title was far from glamorous. I would wake up at 2:30 a.m. and work ten hour days, three of which were on-camera. The other seven consisted of writing, producing, shooting and editing. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. There is a reason us newbies invented the saying “The Rockford Cry,” describing the way we fell asleep crying many of our first nights on the job (in hindsight… I’m laughing).
As challenging as Rockford was, I really felt it was exactly where I needed to be. This was my time to work. And honestly, I wasn’t ready to have a big glamorous hosting job. I needed to make my beginner mistakes on live TV in a small market. Because at least in Rockford I’d be less likely to go viral for accidentally saying the time is “six o’ tit” versus “6:06.” Yeah that happened once. Sigh.
Plus, I learned the wide range of skills that are imperative for being a successful host. That first TV job was the best thing that happened to my career.
Every success since can be traced back to this first job. It prepared me for my next job in Oklahoma City, which prepared me to host for a nationally syndicated morning show based in Dallas. From there, I signed with the top agency in the world, moved to LA and have hosted for brands like VH1, E!, ABC and now Miss USA!!!
Turns out I didn’t need to win Miss USA to accomplish my dream of becoming a TV host. Being Miss Wisconsin USA 2009 was helpful on its own. It ignited a drive within me, strengthened my confidence, enhanced my communication skills and opened many doors. I came to this realization long before hosting Miss USA 2015. However, during the full circle moment of going from a (non-top 15) contestant to a co-host, it hit me extra hard. It was an in-my-face reminder: there are multiple paths to the same destination & our destiny has a way of working itself out.
My journey continues to have ups and downs, and I experience “rejection” regularly. I’m in the entertainment business after all 🙂 But, I now see this rejection as redirection to my purpose. And this shift in perspective is what inspires me to persevere.
To anyone reading this who can relate to these ups and downs: have faith, work hard and enjoy the beautiful ride!
If this message blessed you, be a blessing by sharing with others.