“But why aren’t you focusing on school?”

“… oh that’s cool, I guess…”

“So, have you, like, met Donald Trump?”

My journey into pageantry was an unexpected one to say the least. I don’t remember a time when I ever even thought I was moderately attractive because of how different I looked from everyone else. When the boys in my middle school class ranked all of the girls from ‘Hot’ to ‘Ugly’ and I evened out to number 17 out of 21, I had enough; thus began my deep seated resentment for ever trying to look attractive in any way possible. *cue angsty emo tom-boy phase*

In the spring of 2014 I received an email inviting me to compete for Miss Michigan USA. I was incredibly flattered. For the first time in my life people that were pretty thought I was pretty and wanted me to join their kind and I immediately started doing research, soon finding out that the Miss America Organization and Miss USA/Universe are TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS.  I also know now that one is a perfect fit for me and the other not so much.

So yes, I do compete in pageants. But even though I am open-minded enough to compete, I haven’t had the heart to try any other than the Miss America Organization. And these are the reasons why:

…and tickle my fingers against the ivories.

1. Talent: Piano used to be my life. My dream was to go to Juilliard and to play piano on a stage forever because I loved music and I loved performing and I loved winning things.  Bottom line is, when I graduated and went to the College for Creative Studies, I had no way of performing or exploring my first love in life. The Miss America Organization, however, allows me to play piano in front of large audiences AND earn scholarship money. This is something that sets MAO apart as there is no talent portion in Miss USA.

2. Females: I am studying Transportation Design; and because we were all taught from a very young age that boys draw cars and girls draw horses I sometimes feel lonely going about my day at school (and thinking about my foreboding future in the land of pants everyday).  Although I don’t have the means to join a sorority at my college or have a sister, I have a new family of amazing women by my side as I move on to the next phase of my life.

cat money
Me after winning my first talent award.

3. Scholarship: both regarding and disregarding John Oliver’s bit, the Miss America Organization is still the largest scholarship provider for women in the world. I have earned over $1000 by raking up talent awards and only winning once. The great thing about this organization is that winner does not take all and I have seen girls receive thousands upon thousands for school and not win a title once. There is also no entrance fee to compete, what you invest into your experience is purely up to you.

4. Service: I have always felt a deep need to be involved with my community and a even bigger desire to impact the world around me on a fundamental level for the better. It was frustrating as I was growing up because I didn’t have the tools to express or even understand why I felt the way I felt. But since competing I have an opportunity to champion my own platform: Redefining Success Through Creative Literacy along with the national platform with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and promoting STEM to young women across the county.

What I don’t understand is why anyone would ask me ‘why’, when all I can think is ‘why not?’. I love competing and being a part of such an amazing organization, I can’t wait to see what my first year of service brings!

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