a much overdue miss virginia 2013 review

Well, let’s just state the obvious…I didn’t win Miss Virginia. In fact, I didn’t even make the Top 11. I will be honest, I was surprised by that. Not because I felt like those who made the 11 were undeserving. Quite the opposite–getting to know the other contestants throughout the week is an amazing and humbling experience because it becomes quite obvious that any one of the amazing, accomplished young women would make a fabulous Miss Virginia! I was disappointed because I felt that all of the work I had put into preparing for the one-of-a-kind job interview had made me as prepared as I could possibly be and I wished that would be enough.

Arrival at the Hotel Roanoke

Arrival at the Hotel Roanoke

Pageants are a subjective game. There are so many variables at play…what are the judges’ preferences? what are they looking for? what if one judge had to go to the bathroom really bad during my interview? …seriously, you never know what factors are at play. I truly thought I had done the best I could do in each element of onstage competition. So after I wasn’t called as a finalist, I thought, “I must have blown it in the interview room” which is such a discouraging feeling because I had originally thought my interview went very well!

After a long period of confusion and self-doubt, I realized that I had done my best. I had done my best. I don’t know what anyone else’s interview looked like or what the judges were looking for. While I had done my personal best, perhaps it just simply did not scream MISS VIRGINIA in the same way that others’ did. And that’s okay.

Because in the end of it all, I know I put it all out there. I did my personal best and that is enough. I am enough.

Post-interview

Post-interview

One of my goals for the week was to live in the moment. I didn’t want to get so caught up in what the outcome would be that I missed out on the experience. That I didn’t laugh and bond with the other contestants, show my appreciation for the volunteers, and giggle with my teen & preteen sisters. I am happy to say that I accomplished that goal!

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My Miss Virginia journey took a large role in a powerful faith-building experience that has changed my life forever. It wasn’t until I put God at the center of my life and sought to use my experience to glorify his name that I really started to do well–both in terms of actually competing and getting the most out of my experience as a local titleholder. The crazy uncertainty of pageants forced me to throw my hands up in defeat and look towards God for one last shot at the game in my final year of eligibility. When I competed at Miss Greater Richmond I felt the calm of trusting Him with my future, and I had never felt so at peace about the outcome, whatever that might be. I rejoiced when I won and praised Him because I knew He had given me this title as a gift and that there would be much to learn from the opportunity.

Backstage at the final night of competition at the Miss Virginia pageant, I took a quiet moment to ground myself in prayer. I remember praying that I trusted whatever God’s plan for me was, whether that was to become the next Miss Virginia or not. I was ready to accept whichever outcome He had planned for me that evening. BUT…I can admit that in my heart there was a caveat…and deep down I was saying “but pretty please just let me at least make the top ten so that my efforts will be validated and I can be on TV and I can say I accomplished something!!!!!” Instead, God humbled me and reminded me that HE is in control. I had to accept His plan without any stipulations.

As previously mentioned, after the pageant was over, I did a lot of self-reflection and I talked to God a lot about my experience and what I should take away from it. Here’s where I am so far…

1. My efforts were validated. My friends and family and MGR team know how hard I worked and what I put into my preparation. It didn’t take more than five seconds for them to tell me how proud they were. And I couldn’t me more grateful for their support and the sacrifices they made to let me pursue my dreams.

2. I was on TV. BOOM. Y’all saw me in that amazing purple gown! :)

3. I have developed life skills, built a network, and made friends that will last far beyond my years vying for a sash and crown. These are invaluable assets that I may not have gained, or gained so abundantly, without the Miss Virginia Organization.

4. I truly reaped the benefits of sacrificing a part of myself to make the world a little brighter for someone else. Between graduate school, an internship, and a hectic schedule of preparing for the Miss Virginia pageant, there were often times I didn’t want to wake up at the crack of dawn to get done-up for an appearance (or even take a shower, for that matter). Sometimes I would wonder, “does this really matter?” and time and time again, an interaction I had would blow that doubt away in an instant. Walking away from an appearance and realizing that I was part of a memory a pediatric heart patient would cherish for years to come or that a hardworking volunteer felt they had a noteworthy guest of honor made every early morning, every gallon of gas, and every high-heeled step SO worth it.

5. I gained a better understanding of who I am and what I value. I spent many an interview trying to play the part of Miss Whoever and say what I thought the judges wanted to hear. Preparing for Miss Virginia and being Miss Greater Richmond gave me the confidence to be myself because that’s good enough. I stopped obsessing over what I ate and regretting a “bad” food choice and started developing a passion for fitness and wellness. I stopped counting calories and I didn’t stop eating ice cream. I stopped telling myself my talent was no good and started practicing a lot more. I stopped trying to impress people and started having more fun! I stopped desperately grasping for a title and started actually appreciating how each experience has shaped/will shape the path of my life. I  stopped trying to control things and started trusting God.

While much of the growth process has occurred over the several years I competed, a large portion took place within the past year. The effects of trusting God have made an astounding impact on my life outside of pageants as well. When I look back and see how far I have come from when I was crowned Miss Greater Richmond only a year ago, I think, “If only I had trusted God sooner!”

There are so many exciting things happening in my life and I cannot wait to see His plan unfold.

I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to serve as Miss Greater Richmond 2013. It was an incredible year!

Team Greater Richmond/Hanover arrives at the Hotel Roanoke

Team Greater Richmond/Hanover arrives at the Hotel Roanoke

My fabulous roomie, Miss Hill City!

My fabulous roomie, Miss Hill City!

All the contestants with Miss Virginia at the Rockledge Mansion on Mill Mountain

All the contestants with Miss Virginia at the Rockledge Mansion on Mill Mountain

Overlooking Roanoke

Overlooking Roanoke

Reception with Miss Greater Richmond's Outstanding Teen and Preteen

Reception with Miss Greater Richmond’s Outstanding Teen and Preteen

Spending time with Miss Greater Richmond's princess before crowning her onstage

Spending time with Miss Greater Richmond’s princess before crowning her onstage

Miss Virginia week is exhausting!

Miss Virginia week is exhausting!

Talent: Jazz Dance to "The Twentieth Century Fox Mambo"

Talent: Jazz Dance to “The Twentieth Century Fox Mambo”

Swimsuit

Swimsuit

Onstage Question

Onstage Question

Evening gown

Evening gown

Evening gown

Evening gown

Thursday night visitation with a fraction of my amazing supporters

Thursday night visitation with a fraction of my amazing supporters

At Friday night visitation with Brad

Friday night visitation with Brad

My awesome family

My awesome family at the Fourpoints Party

Feeling the love!

Feeling the love!

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actual sorority move

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Sorority membership placed a stamp on my collegiate experience that no other opportunity could have replaced. I grew as a woman and leader through my friendships and dedicated work for the continued success of the Gamma Eta chapter of Phi Mu Fraternity at Roanoke College. I’ll even be real with you and admit that not all of my experiences with Phi Mu were positive. As a “Phi” or pledge of Phi Mu, I experienced psychological hazing that caused me to relive the emotional distress I experienced as a freshman at an institution from which I had transferred the previous semester. I seriously questioned whether or not to continue joining the organization–maybe sorority life just wasn’t for me?? However, Phi Mu’s love had already been emblazoned on my heart and, for better or worse, I pushed on.

Little did I know, my experience with hazing would be a pivotal moment in my personal story; a “defining moment” in my life. As new chapter leadership worked to eliminate these negative “traditions” from our chapter, I became a strong voice against hazing in our chapter. I continued to reflect upon those experiences and became an advocate for hazing prevention initiatives with my platform in the Miss Virginia/Miss America Organizations. I attended the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention and became interested in Student Affairs professions, which lead me to my current role as a graduate student studying Higher Education Administration. I have been able to contribute my knowledge of hazing prevention as the Graduate Assistant in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. I am passionate about this issue and encouraged by my story, because it’s just one small example of how all our experiences, negative or positive, shape who we become and are opportunities for growth.

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Last spring, with graduation looming only a few short weeks away, I reflected upon my times as a Phi Mu collegian in the post phi mu is love. My friendships with Phi Mu sisters have continued to grow and flourish despite the distance. I am so thankful for my sisters who have been loyal and true through thick and thin over the months of post-college life! As a member of the professional staff for Fraternity and Sorority Life at UVA, I have gained a new perspective on Greek Life. This new retrospective lens on my fraternity experience has allowed me to continue to reflect upon what it means to be a member of Phi Mu Fraternity.

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A hot-button topic in Greek Life is values-based fraternity living. “What?” you ask, “Fraternities and values?” I know, I know. The media’s portrayal of fraternities and sororities does not tend to place our organizations in a positive light.

“We raise so much money for charity!

We do community service!

We’re leaders and scholars!”

…these are our retorts to criticisms we face as members of a Greek community nationwide. But are we really living up to the high standards we pledge to uphold when we ‘live it up’ in Frat house basements every weekend? Are we promoting scholarship when we have a party on a Wednesday night? Do we invite true sisterhood into our organization when we base membership choices over superficial elements like looks and fashion?

I don’t think so!!!

We are giving society the ammunition they need to battle against us! So, what can we do?

Revisiting the Phi Mu creed has been a valuable way for me to spend some time lately. Reflecting upon what it actually means to be a sister of Phi Mu has allowed my understanding of my Fraternity to grow. I look forward to lifelong membership in this organization. Love, honor, and truth really are wonderful values to live life by, and our founders set up a fantastic standard for living in our creed.

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Reflecting upon values and gaining a greater understanding of the relevance of fraternity in our lives today leads me to share a new force in the Greek community, Actual Sorority Move. While there are many organizations that exist to promote the positive side of Fraternity and Sorority, this new trend resonates with me particularly well. It aims to directly combat websites like Total Frat Move, or TFM, that perpetuate negative stereotypes of Greek Life. The following video features Actual Sorority Move (ASM) creator, Jessie Garber, as she explains why she created Actual Sorority Move and what the movement is all about:

Follow ASM on Twitter and Facebook.

I think Jessie’s creation is FANTASTIC. It’s about time sorority women start having thoughtful reflection and meaningful conversations about why we joined a Panhellenic organization. It’s time we start standing up to the stereotypes society has for us, stop perpetuating them, and start proving we are so much more than that! I will be the first to admit that I was not/am not a model sorority woman at all times. I can and do commit to bettering myself every day. Our chapter does a lot of great things, but I am confident that my sisters–collegians, alumnae, all of us–can be so much more!

I challenge us all, Greek or not, to think about what we say we value and evaluate how that aligns with our actual words and actions. Even small efforts towards living a life that is congruent with our beliefs are steps in the right direction.

I hope this gave you a little food for thought, and please leave comments–I’d love to read your reactions!

xo, CEF

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:8