Ever since I was young, I’ve always loved Wonder Woman. Lynda Carter, a former Miss World USA was the first woman to play Wonder Woman on a television series. As a young girl, I thought it was so nice to finally see a female Superhero. She was fighting for peace and equality, and she wasn’t a violent person. I would walk around in my Mom’s heels that were way too big, wearing a crown, and would tie a jacket around my neck pretending it was a cape. In my mind I was Wonder Woman. Now as a woman, I still love Wonder Woman and live by her philosophy which is to be a beacon of hope for those in need. I really couldn’t appreciate this beacon of hope until I was older and had so many life challenges. It's because of those challenges, I wanted to try to help as many as I could. My life purpose is to educate and spread as much knowledge as I can about the importance of breast cancer awareness. Trying to combat late detection, and in turn save as many lives as I can. The way for me to do that on a larger scale was through pageantry. My dear friend Carol who died from breast cancer 3 years ago as of February 25th always told me to do things in life that I enjoy, and pageants was one of those things. After not doing a pageant since competing in Miss USA 1998, I would find excuses to talk myself out of it. Shortly after Carol had passed, I realized that doing a pageant again was bigger than me. I had a purpose. A crown, regardless of whether it is on a local, state or national level, would be a megaphone for me to really get my message out about breast cancer awareness.
Being on a national stage again was such an amazing experience. I’d done all I could to prepare to get to that moment in time. The ultimate destination is to win a national title, but the reality is that only one delegate will win that title. Therefore, you should enjoy the journey. Learn and grow from the experiences along the way. When I arrived in San Antonio, I was at peace. I wanted the judges to hear my message and know my purpose. I wanted them to know that regardless of the outcome, that I would be coming back to North Carolina and continuing to work and give back to others. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all of the contestants from all across the United States. I think what made it so easy for us to get along was because as Ms. Contestants, we all were around the same age, and had similar life experiences. We have formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I enjoyed all categories of the competition. During interview, I was able to talk about “Treasure Your Chest,” and talk about why my platform meant so much to me. During the swimsuit and evening gown competitions, I just really enjoyed going out there being myself. It was an indescribable feeling. Patriotic Wear wasn’t judged, but it was my favorite. I’d known for the longest time that I wanted to be Wonder Woman. I didn’t want to be your typical Wonder Woman however, I wanted to be who I thought Wonder Woman was had she competed in a pageant in 2021. I didn’t need a cape, lasso or a sword. The only power she went on that stage with was the power of prayer. I always prayed that wherever I’m supposed to be on this journey, that I have the strength to continue down that path, regardless of where it would take me. I walked away with a Top 8 placement, and also was awarded the Ms. Congeniality Award. I was thrilled! What was ironic was that I had won Miss Congeniality at the Miss USA 1998 pageant as well. I walked away satisfied and ready to get back to North Carolina to continue my reign to the best of my abilities.
Speaking of going home. My parents and I started packing on Sunday night, but to my surprise, I received a text that our flight had been cancelled. Once we turned on the news, we realized that San Antonio was about to be hit with an ice and snowstorm. Prior to arriving to San Antonio, the weather had been in the 70’s. Once we had arrived the high was in the 30’s. I’d only brought my light pageant jacket, so my parents went out and got me a larger jacket just because the weather wasn’t going to be getting any warmer. We woke up on that Monday after the pageant only to find that we didn’t have any water. The pipes had frozen up overnight, and some areas didn’t have power. My Dad went into protective mode and went out to the river and got water for us to be able to flush the toilet. Our pageant Facebook group began to be filled up with messages from over 70 of us that had been stranded in TX. The longer we were there, the lower the food supply began to be, as well as a lack of water supply other than the river, and luckily the hotel still had power. So many other hotels in the area didn’t have either water or power. Our Wednesday flight was then cancelled, and we couldn’t get another flight home until that Saturday morning. I was afraid inside and was working hard to not have my anxiety become high. I stayed in bed a lot, not only because I was tired, but because it was my way to escape my emotions and not have to think of how I was feeling. I was so glad that I had my parents with me, because had they not been there, I know I would have really struggled. We kept each other’s spirits lifted and had so many amazing family and friends reach out to check on us daily. That really helped emotionally. We ate one meal a day, and a few mornings I ate potato chips and had semi-cold ice cream for breakfast. The 2 restaurants in the hotel had a very low supply in food, so we would choose what they had a couple nights. The newly crowned Mrs. Winner supplied dinner for all 70 of us one night, and had doughnuts sent to us one morning. Another Mrs. Contestant had pizza delivered to us for dinner another night. With the stress of it all, and not being able to eat healthy foods, my stomach was a mess. I was experiencing a Crohn’s flare up. Severe stomach pains, and constipation.
When our flight was a go for that Saturday, we all were so happy. The water finally came on, and of course it would be the last day we were there. We didn’t really sleep much Friday night because we all were so anxious to get home. We actually were up before the alarm clock went off. When we finally got back to Raleigh, NC we were so relieved. We were exhausted and definitely dehydrated, but just so glad to be home. I’m still getting my stomach back on track and trying to get back to a normal routine pre-national pageant. The entire experience was life changing in so many ways. Being back on a national pageant stage was a huge feat for me, and I’m so glad I achieved a goal that I never thought that I could. Just like I’d said in my ad page, I dedicated this journey to all the amazing and brave women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Being stranded in San Antonio those additional 5 days taught me how to really appreciate the small things in life. I’m grateful for the time I got to spend with my parents despite the circumstances. We’d not spent much time together since the pandemic, and we made the most of the time we had. I will never forget all of the experiences and life lessons I learned while in San Antonio.