WHAT a weekend, what a night, what a day. I can't believe this has happened to me. I seriously put my heart and soul into winning the Miss Illinois USA Pageant this year and I am thrilled beyond all belief that my efforts have paid off to make my dream become a reality.
The whole weekend was nerve-wrecking. Well, nerve-wrecking and exciting of course. I was excited to be there, but I wanted to win more than anything in the world so I had to stay focused. I trained in the gym for months and had eaten the most healthy of healthy foods for weeks and weeks leading up to pageant weekend. To prepare for the big day I worked with a trainer, a pageant coach, make-up and hair-stylists, picked out wardrobe changes, perfected my interview skills, spoke with past winners, involved my friends and family for support, went to other state pageants to pick up tips and so very much more in order to try and achieve my ultimate goal. When pageant weekend finally hit I wanted so very much to just relax, but I knew if I didn't stay focused I would lose my chance at the crown. However, during the weekend the girls were all SO sweet I was able to relax more than I thought. We talked and laughed and got to know each other as we figured out how all of this pageant rehearsal was going to work. Many times people have asked, "Are the girls caddy, like in 'Miss Congeniality?" Not in my experience. During pageant weekend the girls are all so friendly and helpful ... it is hard to choose who should get the congeniality vote! I loved getting to know those girls and I hope so very much that they will keep in touch :)
So last night after being crowned (November 22, 2009 -- a day I'll never forget!) my family took me out to dinner at the Greek Isles restaurant in Greektown. It was wonderful because I hadn't gotten to eat "junk" food for such a long time. I got a little too excited though and all of that food ended up making me sick. Whoops! It was great to be able to spend time with family though. I am so grateful to all of the people who came to support me during the pageant. Having them cheering me on in the audience really helped break my nerves, and brought a genuine smile to my face. I couldn't have asked for a more supportive and inspiring group of people to back me during my pageant experience.
Monday morning following the pageant Mom and I met all of the pageant staff as well as the teen winner in the lobby of the hotel for a photo shoot. I didn't have any of the right clothes and my hair and make-up was a mess, but I didn't sleep a wink because I was so excited, so I knew it would have to do. The photoshoot was fun because Alexis (Miss Illinois Teen USA 2010) and I got to chat and get to know each other. It also gave a chance to get to know the people we'd be working with all year. We did three wardrobe changes and shot pictures both indoors and out. It was something I thought I would be really nervous doing in front of all those people, but it really came easy. I can't wait to see how the pictures came out now, but I'll have to wait!!
Following the photoshoot the directors took Alexis and I (and our moms!) to lunch at the hotel restaurant. Again, it was great to have "real" food, but it made me a little bit sick to my stomach. During lunch the directors told us a little bit about what to expect during the year, we talked a little bit about nationals, they told us what was next on our agenda, etc etc. It was nice to be able to ask questions because I had about 15 million things I wanted to know. They tell you it's going to be an awesome year before you take the crown, but once you have it, it is kind of scary! Its nice to have such a wonderful team to help me through this adventure!
Monday night mom took me out for ice cream (MORE food that made me sick!) and then I went to boot camp. All of the women in my bootcamp knew I was preparing for the pageant, and I guess Toni (the bootcamp leader) texted them all the good news Sunday night, because as I walked in EVERYONE was already there cheering and clapping for me with their cameras in hand! Luckily I brought my crown and banner with to show the girls so we were able to get some pictures together!
I ended up talking with some of their daughters who had also come to see me, and doing that made everything worth while. Watching those little girls' faces light up and knowing that they were listening so intently to every word that came out of my mouth was the most amazing feeling in the world. It made every early morning 4:30am workout worth it. It made every sore muscle worth it. It made every bit of junk food I passed up worth it. They were so excited to hear what I had to say, to have their picture taken with me, to ask me questions ... and suddenly I knew ... OK, this is the PERFECT job for me. I knew I LOVED being Miss Illinois USA just from how excited those little girls got. If I could make such a small difference in their lives, just THINK about the difference I could make to people who really need it. I'm so excited for this job. I feel like I was made for it!
It's going to be a GREAT year. :) I can't wait!