Friday, May 21, 2010

Did You Know?

This YouTube video is two years old, but when my boss sent it to me I was so interested, I knew I had to pass it along. It's definitely something to think about, including what an incredible globalized world we are currently living in. This is the future ladies and gents!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Beauty Queen Gone Mad

Take away my title as Miss Illinois USA ... I think I've earned a new one. I officially proclaim myself the QUEEN of "wants what she can't have." Goodness gracious, now this is a title I can say I live my life by. YIKES!

Let me tell you a story. One day, my boyfriend and I were on our way to the movie theater. Having had eaten salads for the past 30 some meals straight, I reaaaaaally wanted to splurge on something "bad." We happened to pass a KFC restaurant on the way, and I just couldn't handle it anymore. I begged him to pull in and order two grilled chicken legs. And like the well trained, er ... I mean ... kind-hearted boyfriend that he is, he stopped.

When the server handed him my order through the car window, I jumped up and down with delight as I asked him to hand me the bag. "No, you can have it when we get to the movie theater and eat it there," was his response. I. FREAKED. OUT. Like a crazed maniac, I demanded he give me the chicken using a forceful tone in my voice that had never, in our four years of dating, EVER been used before. His glance at me turned to fear, but he still refused me the chicken. I was soooo angry with him I thought I would scream. First of all, I HATE when people tell me I can't do something, and secondly, when someone denies me food, I REALLY HATE IT. He was doing both. I was about to kill him.

This is a prime example ... I wanted what I couldn't have. YOU SEE -- It was bad for me to want fast food, but I only wanted it because I knew I couldn't have it. The same thing happened after the Miss USA Pageant. I wanted ice cream soooooo much, but when it came down to eating it, it was no longer everything I imagined it to be. And today, when I was walking through the grocery store, going down the cookie isles where I've longed to travel for months and months, I suddenly couldn't find anything appealing. At least not as appealing as it had been a few weeks prior. I feel like now that I'm ALLOWED to eat those things, I don't even want them. Instead, I want salad. WHAT?! Well, don't worry ... I can actually eat salad with dressing now. It's amazing!! Food food food, when did you become such a wild obsession of mine? Geez Louise.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Post Pageant Thoughts

Two weeks ago I boarded an airplane to begin the adventure of a lifetime. I embarked on a journey that only 51 girls get to experience each year, and I was ready to soak up every glorious moment of it.

From the minute I stepped off the plane I experienced cameras flashing, camcorders rolling, tourists screaming, exciting events, as well as outrageously beautiful, intelligent and talented women from all across the glorious United States. With thrills exploding from every angle, it’s hard to believe that it was only two weeks ago. Those quick weeks seemed to last a lifetime – I wasn’t even allowed to use the restroom without security guards! And now, much to my dismay, it’s time to get back to real life – but a life fully changed.

I say I’m returning home “to my dismay” because as I’m sure you know … Illinois did not succeed in taking home the beautiful crown for 2010. In fact, a woman from Illinois has not managed to bring the crown home for more than 30 years. The last woman to win the Miss USA competition from the Land of Lincoln was in 1974! I wish I could have been the girl to change that, but now it will be a goal for next year’s lucky lady to try. In the mean time, all I can do is share my story:

Spending two weeks with 51 of the nation’s most beautiful women who are competing for a chance at fame, fortune and opportunity can get a little messy. It is nearly impossible not to judge each other, to analyze them up and down, question them to find out their values (and also their intelligence!) and “borrow” whatever beauty tips you can get. Yes, we all laughed, smiled and had a wonderful time together, but it was a competition, the stakes were high, and unfortunately being overly judgmental is aaaaaall part of the business.

I think being in the top 15 at Miss USA was my true goal. I didn’t have my heart set on winning the crown as much as I did for the Miss Illinois pageant, but I really wanted to stand in the top 15. When the states’ names were called and Illinois wasn’t one of them, my heart sank deeper than it ever has before. For the first time in my life I felt as if I had failed at something I shouldn’t have. I trained for a minimum of 2 hours (sometimes as much as 4) in the gym every single solitary day since the beginning of December. I ate healthy food I didn’t really like. I said “no,” to outings with friends so I could practice walking, or interviewing, or building my wardrobe. I spent thousands of dollars I worked years to earn. I dragged my mom with me to cities all across the country to learn how to do my make-up, hair, and things of the like. And to top it all off, I invited everyone I knew to watch or attend the big event on May 16th. Over 50 people had flown to Las Vegas and purchased tickets to be present at the Miss USA Pageant so they could see my hard work pay off. I think it was to their dismay as well that Illinois was left behind with the other 35 broken hearted women.

As the 15 “chosen” ones stood on stage basking in the glory of the spotlight, the rest of us returned to our dressing room to change into swimsuits for the dance we were about to perform. Silent tears dripped from my eyes. I didn’t sob, I didn’t pant, and I didn’t make a sound. But the make-up that had taken over 45 minutes to apply was being ruined because I felt nothing but sadness and disappointment. Everything I worked for, everything I had given up had seemed a waste. I thought of my friends and family in the audience who were now there for nothing, and it make me cry harder. I thought of my boss who had given me time off to “be the best.” I thought of my trainer who didn’t see her kids as much as she would have liked because she was always working me out. I thought of the little girls who sent me letters and internet messages because they looked up to me and believed in me and couldn’t wait to watch me on stage. It felt awful. I tried to suck it up and wipe my eyes since I knew I would have to be on stage in only a matter of minutes, but there truly was no stopping it. Suddenly, although I was trying to stay quiet and keep to myself so the other girls wouldn’t see my sadness, Miss Alaska came up and squeezed me with an embrace so warm my body gave up. I finally let the noise out, cried to her, and apologized for being so silly. When I looked up I noticed she was crying too, as well as nearly 15 others. It wasn’t just me who couldn’t manage to be brave … we were all feeling disenchanted. What a terrible thing to work so hard and believe in yourself sooooo much, and be turned away in an instant. That moment was probably the most disappointed I’ve ever been in myself. And hopefully I will never have to feel that way EVER again.

Regardless of the fact that I am saddened by the results of the competition, I am now returning home with a brand new outlook on life. For a brief moment, I lived in the spotlight, and realized how much of a real person a celebrity is. Although at one point I thought so, I now know that fame isn’t everything, and neither is wealth. For the last few months of my life I gave up a lot that, for now, didn’t seem to do me any good. It only took two weeks for me to realize it though, and now I can move on and have no additional regrets from here on out. However, I realized that what I did for this competition, I am also doing in my daily life. In addition to being Miss Illinois USA I work full time at a marketing agency that takes me two hours to get to every morning and two hours to get home from every night. Once I return home I start working on my freelance projects … usually staying up for hours into the night designing and coding websites or putting logos and presentations together for my clients. I work work work work work and waste so much time making money that I don’t have time to spend on things I enjoy. During my time preparing for the Miss USA Pageant, I worked for six months to discover that I wish I had done it all differently. What this experience has taught me is that if I keep living my life the way I have been, I am going to eventually regret that as well – but its going to be 50 years of regret instead of only six months. I now realize how absolutely incredibly important the journey is. It is the experiences that make the memories, not the paychecks. Have you ever heard the phrase, “We spend our health to make money and then we spend our money to fix our health?” That’s how I feel right now. I don’t want life to be for nothing. I want to do it right so that in 50 years when I look back on it I can think, “Ya, I really had a good time.” This pageant has taught me that, for example, when my friends invite me to come over for a potluck dinner and movie night and I refuse because I’ve got to go to the gym, I’m being silly and I will regret it. Some things are just more important, and for me … that is life’s journey.

Now that this chapter is nearly at an end, I have some new goals. First of all, I would like to stop designing and coding websites as part of my freelance business in order to open up more time for “life.” I would like to focus on my career at Robinson & Maites, with the hope of advancing to a position within the company that would keep me from having to work side jobs. In addition, I want to participate in activities I enjoy that are NOT work related! Perhaps I will take a dance class, a cooking class, or even just visit with the Best Buddies program more regularly.

Lee Ann Womack once sang, “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” I hope that with this lesson under my belt I will say ‘yes’ to life experiences that are worth having. I hope I will befriend people and touch their lives in positive ways. For me, family and friends are what make life experiences grand. Without them to share things with before, during, or at the end of the journey, life is meaningless. I am happy to have had this ride down the road to the Miss USA Pageant, and I will carry the memories with me for the rest of my life. Yes, now that it is over there are things I would have liked to do differently, but it is all part of God’s plan. I can’t wait to see what He has in store next. After all … the journey has only begun. ☺

Monday, May 10, 2010

Addressing the Fadil Photographs

Oh my, how scandalous.

Our Fadil photographs for the Miss USA Pageant are causing quite the scene in the media. I was told that this evening my picture was one of those displayed on E! News. I understand compleeeetely why the media is talking, but I also stand by the fact that the Miss Universe Organization is trying to change the pageant scene to be more "21st century." Perhaps many feel that being provocative isn't the best way to display that modernity, but as a woman in a beauty pageant trying to display confidence, sensuality, and embrace my own femininity to make myself a stronger woman, I am happy to display these photos. I feel they are well done, and although they're a little edgy, they're classy, high fashion, and beautiful black and white images. They capture our bodies in an artistic light, as if our bodies are works of art. Isn't that sort of what the basis of beauty pageants is about anyhow? I can attest first hand that each of the 51 women here has been working her body to the max trying to create the best curves possible so her body CAN be a work of art on that stage next Sunday night. Now, when we are putting that hard work on display, it has become a shock to the nation. I understand, like I said ... the controversy here ... but I would like to say this:

Women have been putting their bodies "on display" as works of art for decades in the Miss USA Pageant. Now, these women are given the opportunity to take it to the next level -- they are able to embrace the world as it stands in 2010 and show off the hours and hours of work and dedication they have put into sculpting them. There is no nudity, there is nothing uncovered that should be covered, and each girl was treated very well, and given every opportunity to cover as much as she felt comfortable with during the shoot.

I love our photos, and I think they work well for the show we've put together for Sunday, May 16th. I think the Miss Universe Organization is a classy, high quality company that works hard to create roll models and leaders, and having confidence is the first step. Fadil was able to pull that confidence out of us right from the get-go, and if we can't hold our heads up high and feel proud about our motives for the photography, then we don't deserve to hold such a prestigious title as Miss USA.

I hope I have not offended anyone. I just want to say my opinion on this current scandal.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Having the opportunity to spend time with the people in the Best Buddies Organization was hands down the most rewarding thing I’ve done thus far as Miss Illinois USA. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but when I met Vanessa I fell instantly in love.

Vanessa is a sweet, beautiful and talented 17‐year‐old girl who suffers from a mental disability. Not only did I get to know about her likes, her dislikes, and her talents as a young woman, but I was also able to learn from her. Throughout the morning we chatted about this and that and played some games while she quizzed me on current events and the names of all the biggest stars. Vanessa knew every celebrity there ever was from John Stamos to the Jonas Brothers. However, it isn’t just her knowledge and memories I was able to learn from. I learned from her demeanor as well. The excitement filled her heart as she caught the eye of another Miss USA contestant. She gladly greeted each girl with a big smile and a warm hug, saying how pleased she was to be spending time with them. She seemed to know something about every state too, from the capitol, to the states’ sports team statistics. The girl is just brilliant!

As the day went on, some of the kids decided to show their talents up on the stage by singing to the crowd. Each performed in his or her unique way, but at the end, some of them chose to give brief talks. This was one of the most moving parts of the Best Buddies experience for me. One by one, they announced how blessed they feel, and how successful they’ve been even with their disabilities. They talked about how strongly they are against, and how hard they are working to stop … the “R” word. You know the one. Never ever again in my life will I use the “R” word as an insult. It simply isn’t something to be ashamed of. These kids have bigger hearts and a stronger will power than any people I have ever in my lifetime met. They see nothing but goodness in the world, and they want to spread it like dandelions to all the people who inspire them, care about them, and stand by them through thick and thin. They keep jobs, graduate from school, start relationships, and so much more. Having a mental disability doesn’t mean you cannot live as fulfilling a life as anyone else. It simply means you have to take challenges on a bit differently – and boy, do they.

The courage, the empowerment and the appreciation these kids showed me makes me so grateful to be in the position I’m in. They continued to say one after the other how happy they are to have had the chance to spend a day with the Miss USA contestants … but little do they know, I am the one who is thrilled that I got to spend the day with them. I wouldn’t trade those three hours for all the chocolate in Switzerland. Vanessa showed me how to stop stressing the little things and appreciate life for all its worth. She dreams to one day be a soap opera star, and I hope and pray her dreams come to life.

At the end of our time together, I hugged Vanessa tightly as I told her what a gem she had been to spend time with, and how it was something I will never forget. Sadly, I made the poor girl cry tears of joy, and she said some kind words back that made me cry too. We two emotional girls hugged each other with tears in our eyes. I wish so much we could be friends for life. Vanessa is my angel. I have never felt such wonderful things from someone I knew so briefly, and I hope I made as large a difference in her day as she did in mine.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Today was a great day, although it had a very early start. Most of us woke up at 4am to prepare for the swimsuit photoshoot at the Planet Hollywood pool. We lined up outside in our swimsuits in the super cold weather and smiled our best pearly whites while the photographers snapped away. We were being watched by a helicopter circling right above us almost the entire time! It was fun, but brrrr it was cold!

After the swimsuit shoot we headed to the PH ballroom to be worked out in a bootcamp. We did some cardio work as well as some ab exercises and worked up a good heart rate by the end. That was the first time we had the opportunity to work out since arriving in Vegas. I think that has the most difficult part for me ... not being able to work out. I'm not used to eating the foods they are offering me here, and then not being able to work out on top of it. It has really been paying a toll on my body. We have another work out tomorrow, which is good ... and we also start rehearsals tomorrow. I'm sincerely hoping that rehearsals will constitute as some sort of aerobic activity to get my heart going. I need a little blood pumping through these veins!

After the workout we split into groups and traveled around to different events in the city. I got to make cards for kids in hospitals, compliments of Project Sunshine. It was a really nice thing to do for the sick children, and I hope the kids in Chicago who receive my cards will be excited! :) After that, I had the opportunity to go to the Cupcakery ... a delicious little cupcake shop! We put on some super cute aprons and went to town with frosting, sprinkles, and even glitter to decorate cupcakes in all sort of different ways. They were sooooo so so so yummy. MMM! I took one lick of the peanut butter frosting and knew I was in heaven. The staff at the Cupcakery even made cupcakes that had our pictures on them!!! They were soooo cute, and also super delicious. MMMM CUPCAKES!

Later in the day we went to see the Price is Right Live in Las Vegas. It was similar to the Price is Right Game Show that you've seen on TV, just with different hosts. It was fun to participate and see the people win prizes while Kristen Dalton, the current Miss USA, modeled on stage, showing off the different products. She's so beautiful. I don't know how she does it every day!

After dinner, we went upstairs to have our evening gowns "checked" for the show. They needed to make sure everything fit properly, and that the girls knew what they were going to wear. Some girls brought more than one dress with them, and others knew exactly what they would be wearing. Everything is so beautiful. This is going to be one heck of a competition next week.

All in all, the day went well, but boy am I sleepy. I really really really want to work out in some fashion right now, but I'm worried that the moment I start I'm just going to want to go to sleep instead!! I'm considering taking a short nap since we have the night off, and getting started on a workout once I've had a moment of shut eye. The first presentation is only 5 days away, ahh!! I'm so excited for all of the action to begin!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


What a great day so far! We went to Ceasar's Palace to hang out by the pool, and were welcomed by a red carpet and a team of gladiators!! Kristen Dalton, the reigning Miss USA came in on a lounge chair being held up by roman guards. It was so much fun!

We hung out poolside beneath the cabanas and dined on delightful little salads and sandwiches. Mr. Belding was there, from the television series, "Saved By the Bell," as well as a chef who gave us a fun cooking demonstration. It was such a blast!!

Tonight we're going to be heading over to Sushi Samba to have some delicious sushi and sing karaoke -- my favorite!! I am such an awful singer, but I cannot WAIT to belt it out on stage. WOO!!!

Also ... the photos for the Miss USA program book were just posted on the Miss USA website. Check them out when you get a chance. Its at ... and then click on "contestants."

Thanks everyone, I'll continue to keep you posted while I'm here in Vegas preparing for the Miss USA Pageant!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dinner at the Paris Hotel

Tonight we had a welcome ceremony at the Planet Hollywood resort. We were introduced one by one, and were given the opportunity to announce our name and state. At the end, the reigning Miss USA, Kristen Dalton, came through and gave a short talk. We all posed for pictures and said some things for the news station cameras, but were sadly shocked when one of the contestants passed out. It was very hot outside, and we were standing for a very long time. I'm not exactly sure why she fainted, but it could have been due to standing with locked legs. Regardless, it was shocking, we were all very nervous for her, but in the end, everything turned out alright. WHEW!

The welcome ceremony was cool because crowds were gathering to see the contestants and to hoot and holler at their home states. We smiled and waved, cheered for each other and had a great time. Following the ceremony we split into groups for dinner. I got to go to Paris for dinner. We did a meet and greet, and then had the most amaaaaazingly delicious meal EVER! I wish it weren't so good because I just ate and ate and ate. Mmmmm! I'm going to have to do a tooon of cardio tomorrow to make up for this. Yikes! It's OK, I'll be fine. The swimsuit preview is only 6 days away. AH! I can't wait! Being at Miss USA is the most awesome thing in the world. I'm soooo excited to be here!!!!

More to come, I have so much to say but I have to get to bed for an early start tomorrow. Good night ladies and gents!

Tool Time Inspires Me

"If I just believe in myself, I could win this." - Tim Allen
"No no, if you just believe in yourself, you've already won." - Al Borland

You guys can tell I'm sitting in the hotel room watching TV at the moment, right? LOL. But I think this episode of Home Improvement has inspired me to keep it up. Its going to be a fast two weeks, and we're already two and a half days done!!!

Loving life today. :) I can't wait for the Miss USA Pageant!!!


The girls are very nice and extremely beautiful. I would hate to be a judge for this pageant! With so many different personalities, it’s hard to know who will be the next Miss USA. I guess it all depends on how each of us presents ourselves on stage. I’m so excited to start rehearsals!

Miss Iowa USA and I just moved into our rooms last night after a long day of hair, make-up, and photoshoots. I woke up at 5am this morning to prep myself for the taping I have to do today before going off to a “VIP” dinner with the whole MUO staff and the other 50 girls. It really has been a wild ride so far with everything that has taken place, but every moment of this experience so far has been better than I expected. It’s busy, yes, but its soooo much fun. I certainly hope good things will happen to me during the competition, but if they don’t … after only two days of being here I know I will have had the time of my life regardless of the outcome on May 16th.

Yesterday Kristin Dalton, the reigning Miss USA, stopped by the hair and make-up room to say hello to some of the girls. I didn’t get to meet her personally, but I saw her come in, and boy, she sure is beautiful. She seemed very nice too. I can’t wait to get into prelims next week to allow myself the chance to be in her shoes. What an amazing opportunity. AH! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!!

OK, and now I’ve got to run to get to the taping … wooo!!! Stay tuned, there is a lot more excitement to happen in Las Vegas over the next two weeks!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Las Vegas

Ok its day two and it couldn't be more fun. I'm typing this on my phone while I'm waiting to be taped in an interview for the live television broadcast on NBC may 16th! Last night we did a risque high fashion photoshoot with Fadil, an awesomeeee photographer from New York. Today we were fit into our opening number outfits and swimsuits. Like I said we've also been taping and being photographed all day as well. Going to meals has been fun too. We wear our state banners everywhere we go and lots of people have been saying hi, taking pictures and getting excited.

Being here is so unreal. Its so much fun and unlike anything I've ever done. I can't wait to see what happens when we start making appearances and doing rehearsal. I will do my best to keep you updated. Check for pictures online on Wednesday or Thursday!!!