Shh. Don’t talk about it.

“Just stop worrying about it.”

“Stop being so dramatic.”

“Cheer up!”

“Why are you choosing to be in a bad mood?”

“Just do it. Everyone gets nervous!”

 

If you’re like me, you’ve heard these phrases all your life, eventually believing that you were just a worrywart, a chicken little–always crying “the sky is falling.” You accepted that this was simply a part of your personality. Eventually, you even began to despise phrases like “happiness is a choice” because you were envious of how easy it seemed for everyone else. However, such sentiments still caused to be ever harder on yourself because you couldn’t understand why it was so difficult for you.

You probably thought some things like…

Other people can speak without stuttering… Why can’t I?

Other people can make phone calls without wanting to throw up… Why can’t I?

Other people can drive without fighting a panic attack… Why can’t I?

Other people can stop worrying about the “what ifs”… Why can’t I?

Other people don’t start crying and shaking out of nowhere… Why do I?

If you’re like me, you probably thought were emotionally weak. You probably thought you weren’t as good as everyone else. You probably even thought you’d never accomplish much because of all the things that were difficult for you. The one thing I never thought?

It’s not my fault.

I have an anxiety disorder. 

 

That’s not a real thing.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a serious issue affecting 6.8 million Americans.

In my day, we didn’t have “anxiety” or “depression.”

Yes, you did. People just didn’t get help.

Everyone deals with anxiety.

True, but not everyone deals with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are much more serious than getting a little nervous before a big test.

At least there’s nothing physically wrong with you.

False. Although it is not entirely understood, anxiety involves inappropriate nervous system responses, often out of proportion to a particular stressor or in the absence of a recognizable stressor.

It’s all in your head.

Literally, yes. The brain is, essentially, misfiring when it comes to stress responses.

Just tell yourself to calm down.

Trust me. I wish it were that simple. The best way I’ve found to describe anxiety is to tell you to imagine constantly feeling on edge, like something is going to go wrong any second. At its worst, it’s like you’re being chased by a tiger. And sometimes you can’t actually see the tiger–it might actually be a lion…or a bear–but that doesn’t stop your nervous system from being super sure it’s there and kicking into overdrive just to be on the safe side. Cue the pounding heart, urge to run, crying, shaking, and difficultly breathing.

You might be wondering why in the world I would talk about this (and I almost didn’t), especially as a titleholder in the Miss America Organization. Shouldn’t I keep it quiet so people won’t think I couldn’t handle the job of Miss Arkansas or Miss America? Come to think of it…how can I even handle the job of a local titleholder? I must not do very much.

Thanks for asking! This is what anxiety looks like for me… (I emphasize “for me” because anxiety is different for everyone.)

I tried not to overwhelm you with pictures, but as you can see, I stay pretty busy! I drive. I make phone calls. I speak and perform in front of large crowds (including the 2011 Alamo Bowl that I can’t find a good picture of at the moment). I ask for donations. I initiate conversations with people I don’t know when they feel uncomfortable approaching “the girl with the crown.”

How? Counseling and medication and really cool people like Glennon Melton (look her up) have helped, but it’s been more than that as well. What it really comes down to for me is that I have something to say–lots of things, actually–and, through MAO (and other leadership and service roles), I have the opportunity to say them. Most importantly, I have the opportunity to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, whether that’s because they have anxiety or depression, because they aren’t of the “right” SES, because they don’t feel like they’re worth it, or any number of other reasons.

Simply put, my desire to make a difference is greater than my desire to be comfortable. Now, I’ll be honest. Some days it’s hard. Some days it’s really really hard. But I’ve gone to appearances sick, I’ve gone to appearances tired, I’ve gone to appearances the day after having surgery, and I go to appearances when my anxiety flares.

Cool, so you just wrote an entire blog post to brag about yourself. Nope. I made a blog post in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month to brag on YOU because YOU can do whatever you want as well, even if you have an anxiety disorder…or depression…or bipolar disorder…or ADHD…or even if you just think you can’t. It’s going to be hard, but you can do it, and I’m here cheering you on. Never be afraid to speak up and share your struggles because everyone’s dealing with something.

I hope to someday end this story by saying “and that’s how a woman with an anxiety disorder won Miss Arkansas,” but for now, I’ll say that’s how she made the top 10 at Miss AR, held 3 local MAO titles, got elected to leadership positions in several clubs and organizations, won a national research competition that involves a presentation–twice, ran a mentoring program, advocated for education, is about to graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science, and got into her first choice PhD program at The Ohio State University. And I’m here to tell you that you can do it too. I’m not special–just determined.

Share your support for Mental Health Awareness Month by changing your profile picture and sharing your story! http://twibbon.com/support/mental-health-awareness-12

Until next time,

-S

Remember to like my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/StoniButler

**If you think you may have anxiety or another mental health disorder, PLEASE seek help. There is NO SHAME is admitting that you have a problem or seeking help, and it’s really fantastic to realize that it’s NOT YOUR FAULT and you’re NOT CRAZY. Don’t know where to start? My inbox is a good place. 🙂 **

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To The Teens…

As MArOT week kicks off, I find myself thinking about the teens (shocker, right?). Miss Arkansas week was rather stressful for me last year, and I can only imagine going through that as a teen. I’d like to say a few words not only to my teens, not only to the alphas, but to all the teens who arrived in Russellville today. I know some of you have more experience than I do competing in the Miss America Organization, but I hope there will still be some parts of this that ring true to you and offer encouragement.

1) Trust your preparation. Unfortunately (and fortunately), there’s nothing you can do to vastly change any area of competition at this point. If you’re like me, that’s a little scary because you may never feel prepared enough. You may always feel like there is more you could do if you had just a little more time. I know you all have worked so hard for this moment. Trust that. Trust your preparation. You. Are. Ready. All those mock interviews, hours of talent practice, and extra reps in the gym will pay off. Actually, they already have. Your determination and dedication thus far has helped shaped you into a more mature and successful person. Those are skills that will benefit you long after this Saturday. So, hold your head high knowing that all the work you have put in will be visible this week.

2) The judges already know who is going to win. What? Is there some funny business going on? No! I don’t mean they have a name, but they do have general concept of who Miss Arkansas’s Outstanding Teen is for them. And that may be completely different than the concept the judges had last year or the year before (it will even vary from judge to judge). What does this mean for you? Should you try to figure out what that is and be it? Absolutely not. Not only is that nearly impossible, but it’s setting you up for failure. How so? Think about it… Even if you could become someone else and win…would you want to have to keep pretending to be that person for the next year? Of course not. So what’s your best bet? Be you. Focus on making sure the judges know YOU when you leave that interview room. You might just be exactly what they’re looking for. That’s not all this means though. It also means that, even if you don’t leave Saturday with a new title, you shouldn’t immediately start questioning what you did wrong. The answer may be nothing at all! Because of the subjective nature of pageantry, what may not be “right” for one set of judges may be perfect for another. Is there always room for improvement? Sure. But that’s different  than beating yourself up trying to figure out your “tragic mistake” (that likely doesn’t even exist). Don’t focus on trying to figure out the magical winning formula. Be yourself, and hold your head high no matter what happens, knowing that you were the best version of yourself possible.

3) This one is admittedly a little more for the alphas… Whatever you’re imagining this week’s competition (and especially the interview) will be like, is probably way worse than what it will actually be. Will there be tough questions? Of course. But you’ve prepped for those, and they won’t be anything you can’t handle. Will you be nervous before talent? Probably. But you’ll excel at it anyway. Will you trip in evening gown? Not likely. But if you do, brush it off. Worse things have happened, and no, that doesn’t mean your chances at the crown (or even the evening gown/OSQ prelim) are gone. Stop worrying! Your week will be what you make it, so make it great!

4) I’m echoing Ashton Cambell here, but it’s worth saying again… Leave the competition on the stage. I get it. You’re competitive. Maybe you’re not actually THAT excited for the that girl who just won the prelim award you’ve had your sights set on since before you won your local title. I’m not going to be cliche and say you won’t remember it in 20 years because you may very well remember it. However, I will say that the friends and sisters you make this week will matter much more. Don’t get so focused on the crown that you miss out on the experience. I know that’s even harder for those who are about to age out because it’s you last chance, and you’ve undoubtedly prepared harder this year than ever before…but try to zoom out. I know the pursuit of this title has become a huge part of your life. You’ve had to dedicate yourself to it so much to have a chance to win, and may be hard to accept that it may not be in the plan for you life. As best you can, remember while it may be A dream, it shouldn’t be THE dream. If you don’t trade up your sash Saturday, set your sights beyond the title, and know that, while winning would be a wonderful opportunity and honor, there are things just as great (or greater) beyond the title of MAOT. You can and will be great with or without a crown.

I wish you all the best this week. I’m proud of each and every one of you, even those who I’ve never met and have only “researched” 😉  on Facebook. You are truly Arkansas’ most OUTSTANDING teens, and I’m blessed to be able to call so many of you sisters and friends.  Have the time of your lives this week!

-S

How to Become Miss America

I began competing in MAO with no idea what I was doing. I was completely new to the organization and didn’t even fully understand what it was all about. After competing for a couple years, I have to say I have learned a lot about the organization, and I feel like it is only right that I share this knowledge with others. In this post, I will share the single most important thing you MUST do if you want to be Miss Arkansas or Miss America. That’s right. I’m about to tell you the one thing that is absolutely necessary to be crowned Miss Arkansas.

Start competing.

Every Miss Arkansas (and OT) and Miss America (and OT) started by competing at a local (or at the state level for those states without prelims). If you dream of being crowned your state titleholder, you simply must make the first step and sign up for a local. I remember what it was like trying to get started when I knew nothing about MAO, so this blog post is for all the people who have asked me how to get involved.

Things to get/remember:

1) Evening gown. There is no need to spend hundreds on a dress, especially for a local. Wear an old prom dress if you have one that is appropriate, or borrow a dress from a friend. The price isn’t important. What’s important is how it makes you feel and whether it flatters your body type. Practice walking in your dress and heels a few times before you compete, so you can walk confidently on the day of the pageant.

2) Interview outfit. Think job interview for a fashion company. You want to be trendy, but professional. Many girls wear tailored dresses, but others wear classy jumpsuits or pantsuits. Go easy on the jewelry and wear nondescript shoes (taupe or a color that matches your outfit). You want them focusing on you and your opinions, not the feathers on your dress or rhinestones on your heels.

3) Swimsuit or active wear. The most important thing here is to choose something flattering that you feel comfortable in. While you do want to show off your legs-for-days and rock hard abs, you don’t want to make the audience or judges uncomfortable by showing too much or making them fear you’ll come out of your top. For swimsuit, most girls go for a strappy nude heel, but basically, like in interview, you just want a shoe that will not draw attention (bonus points if they make your legs look longer). Again, practice walking in these beforehand. For active wear, most teens choose a small, light tennis shoe (not chunky like shocks) or a jazz shoe. Again, none of this has to be expensive. Try Target or Walmart if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Check YouTube for videos of swimsuit and active wear walks. And don’t forget the butt glue!

4) Talent and talent costume. Talent can be anything from dancing to singing to painting to a comedic monologue. Do something that you have fun with and that the audience will enjoy as well. Pick a costume that enhances your performance and a routine or song that highlights your strengths. Make sure that you can sing/dance/play the piano/do whatever in your talent costume ahead of time. Pageant day is not the day to realize that your pants fall when you dance or that your dress is too tight for you to breathe well enough to hit those power notes.

5) Preparation. Personally, I won my first prelim without interview practice (although I got some after winning), but needed a lot of help with my talent beforehand. For those who can play the violin with their eyes closed or belt out any random song named by an audience member, it may be the opposite. It’s also perfectly ok to just jump in all at once with no coaching if you just want to get started and see how it goes. Who knows? You may win it all on your first try without any help. For interview, watch the news and make sure you know about your platform.

6) Platform. To compete for an MAO title, you must choose a platform or critical issue. Not only will this go on your paperwork, but it can be a big part of your interview. More importantly, it will be what your spend your year(s) as a titleholder promoting and working with. The topic itself is not important. What is important is that it is something you truly care about and want to spend your time with. Don’t pick a topic just because it’s popular or easy. Pick something you have a personal connection to and that you feel needs to be talked about. Has someone close to you suffered from a particular disease that you feel needs more awareness? Have you been through something that you think other people would relate to and benefit from hearing about? Choosing your platform is arguably the most personal part of competition, and your dedication to it should reach far beyond the interview room.

7) Have fun. It’s easy to get caught up in the process and end up nothing but stressed. Take time to meet new friends and enjoy the experience. Not only can you meet new people, but you can also learn new things about yourself and grow as a person. Don’t let those opportunities pass you by because you’re so focused on the crown.

To current competitors, this post was probably terribly boring. Thank you for suffering through, and feel free to add anything you feel I forgot. I hope this was helpful to anyone who is just starting out or has ever thought about competing. Also to those who are thinking about getting started, I’m thinking about doing a “dear parents, this is why you should let your daughter compete in pageants” post. Would you be interested in that?

If you have questions about anything I failed to mention or want clarification on anything, please do not hesitate to comment or contact me via Facebook.

Forms, prelim dates, age requirements, directors’ contact information, and other information can be found at MissArkansas.org and MissArkansasOT.org.

-S

“So, Why Do You Want to be Miss Arkansas?”

If you’ve ever competed in an MAO prelim, and especially if you’ve done interview prep for it, you’ve heard this question or some variation of it. If we’re honest, there are many reasons women compete for and/or want to be Miss Arkansas (or whatever state title) and/or Miss America…

1) For the prestige/fame/glamour that comes with the title and the crown

2) To prove wrong all the naysayers

3) Scholarships

4) Because every little girl wants to be Miss America

5) Because you would forever get to say “I am/was Miss Arkansas” and get to be a part of the sisterhood of Miss States

6) Because you think it will get your foot in the door for other personal goals or ambitions (journalism, acting, etc.)

7) Because you’ve always done pageants and Miss America seems like the natural next step

8) Because your friends (or someone else) got you involved, and I mean…you don’t NOT want to be Miss Arkansas

or

9) Because it’s an opportunity to promote a cause or issue close to your heart

Many of the reasons are perfectly valid ones, and I’m sure many Miss (insert state here)s started competing for one or more of these reasons. However, I would argue that the most successful and most loved titleholders all had one thing in common: they wanted the job. For those of you who don’t know, at Miss Arkansas, there is a point during the week at which Jessie (the executive director of Miss AR) passes out slips of paper and gives us a decision to make. On the slip of paper, we must check one of two options: “yes, I want to be Miss Arkansas” or “no, I do not want to be Miss Arkansas.” Now, to some, that may seem like a silly question. Isn’t that the whole reason the 46 of us are sitting in that room? Because we want the job of Miss Arkansas? Simply put, no. Some are there for the aforementioned reasons, and ONLY the aforementioned reasons, and it is her hope that they will do the honorable things and check “no.”

But wait… Isn’t it a scholarship organization? What’s wrong with competing for scholarship money? And platform is so important! That’s a great reason to compete! 

You’re not wrong. Miss America is the largest provider of scholarships to women in the world, and Miss Arkansas provides more scholarship money than any other Miss America state organization. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting or needing the scholarship money provided by the Miss America organization. There is nothing wrong with getting involved for that reason or with trying to win as much scholarship money as possible. And platform is important. Miss Arkansas will spend most of her year working with her chosen platform, so yes, your chosen platform must be something you are passionate about and yes, the title of Miss Arkansas comes with incredible opportunities to promote it. There is nothing wrong with competing for Miss Arkansas because you want the opportunity to work with your platform on a statewide and possibly even national stage. I would even add that I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with finding the idea of just being able to introduce yourself as Miss Arkansas fun or exciting. Who doesn’t enjoy signing an autograph or being asked for a picture?

But wait… didn’t you just say that people who compete for those reasons should check “no, I don’t want to be Miss Arkansas?”

Yay! You were reading! Yes, I did say that. And I meant it. Competing for one of those reasons alone is not enough. It’s not just about scholarships. With those scholarships, comes a year of service. It’s not just promotion of platform; it’s sponsors, growth of the organization, and taking pictures with little girls even when your toes are numb from hours of heels. Now let me be clear. This is not a blog post on how to win Miss Arkansas. Do I look like an expert on that? 😉 I think you can probably win Miss Arkansas competing for only one of those reasons. However, there is a difference between being crowned Miss Arkansas and excelling at the job of Miss Arkansas. To accomplish the latter, I think that you must be involved because you both understand and want the job. That’s not to say that you didn’t originally get involved for solely one of the 1-9 reasons, but at the time you are crowned, to be a truly successful Miss Arkansas, you must have been competing for the job, not just one of those reasons.

That slip of paper is something I take seriously because the job of Miss Arkansas is something I take seriously. Our state pageant is truly something to be proud of. Not many states enjoy the support and generosity of the sponsors and incredible volunteers that Miss Arkansas is blessed to have all the way down to the local level. To stay that way, however, to maintain the integrity of our organization, we will always need a Miss Arkansas who wants the job, not merely the title, the scholarships, or the fame. Because that distinction is so important to me, I thought it only right that I do some soul searching of my own, to make sure that I truly want the job, not just that title, and that if blessed with it, I would be ready for the undertaking.

Recently, I began to question whether I did truly want the job or if being Miss Arkansas had simply because an item on my bucket list. Did I want the daily ins and outs of being a state titleholder or did I just want to accomplish a goal I had set for myself? I was beginning to think that maybe it was the latter, at least more so for me than it was others, but then some things happened….

I recently started a STEM based mentoring program for girls at my mom’s school (4th and 5th grade) called Girl STRONG, Mission: STEMpossible. Last Thursday was the first meeting, so I drove to Camden to help kick it off. The girls were all excited to see me, ask me questions, give me hugs, and even ask for my autograph. Yes, that’s always fun, but it wasn’t the best part. The best part was seeing them intently listening as we discussed their futures, as we talked about how they and only they can determine the courses of their lives. The best part was hearing them cheer when we agreed that girls can do anything (including pursue STEM careers) and that anyone who believes otherwise can get out of our way. The best part was sharing my story and seeing the surprise on their faces when they found out that it sounded a lot like theirs, that I had all the excuses too. The best part was seeing their excitement about the speakers to come. The best part was being reminded that the crown and the sash may make them listen, but it’s up to me to make sure that, when they do, they hear something worthwhile. The best part was being reminded that the empowerment that comes with a title is most fulfilling when used to empower others. 10712784_10152832760679948_5097065591898154716_n

The next day, while in Little Rock for a different appointment, I stopped by to see Rusty Hart at Applause (if you haven’t been by, you should go). We did some interview work, but we also talked a lot about the job of Miss Arkansas. We discussed the surprises, the downsides, and the opportunities, and even when talking about the cons, I found myself excited. No, no one can ever be fully prepared to be Miss Arkansas or Miss America ahead of time. There will always be aspects to the job that you weren’t expecting or facets that you just didn’t expect to be as bad as they were. That being said, though, the past few days have convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I want to be Miss Arkansas, not simply for the title, the money, or the fame, or to check it off my list, but for the job itself. Will that ever happen? I hope so, but who knows? All I know is that, if given the job, I will be able to accept it knowing that it is the reason I stepped into the interview room and onto the stage. “Why do you want to be Miss Arkansas” will forever be the easiest and most complex question I will ever answer in interview.

-S

Round Two

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I’m not really sure what to think about the fact that I won’t compete again for 10-11 months, but I do know that I am so excited to be Miss Southeast AR 2015. While I will absolutely miss my wonderful South Central family, I am looking forward to everything this new title will bring. I have a great executive director and field director and a sweetheart of a teen queen. It is incredible to have so much time to prepare for Miss Arkansas 2015, and I plan to take full advantage of it. All my weekends in August are booked already, and that makes me so excited! From working with my platform, Raise Your Hand, and the national Miss America platform, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, to working to benefit my community in other ways, I love the opportunities for service that come with a crown. As always, if you would like me to speak to your school, organization, etc., please feel free to contact me. I also always enjoy emceeing pageants and other events and volunteering for causes other than my platform, so please let me know about those opportunities as well! I have several events in the works myself, so keep your ears open for information about those.

The send off party for Miss Arkansas 2014 Ashton Campbell is this Sunday. Yes! Miss America is that soon! Even if you can’t be there this weekend to wish her luck, be sure to tune in Sunday, September 14 (the day after I give up my South Central title 😦 ) to watch her compete for the title of Miss America and to see Miss America 2015 crowned. I know she will represent us well, and it’s really a win-win for us. If she wins Miss America, obviously that will be very exciting for Arkansas, but if she doesn’t, we will get to have her back here serving our state for her year. Be sure to send good thoughts and prayers her way that week and the week before as she goes through rehearsals, appearances, and preliminary competition.

I ask for your support as I spend the next several months preparing for Miss Arkansas 2015. By support, I mean everything from sponsorships to prayers. I will need both and everything in between as I make appearances, work with my platform, and prepare to compete. Thank you for all the support I have received thus far. I could not have not gotten even this far without every single one of you.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions about myself, my platform, or the Miss America Organization.

-S

 

10 days!

There are only 10 days until the official Miss Arkansas arrival. What? Where did all that time go? I have been hard at work for the past 4 months to prepare for this one week in June.

 

First some thank you’s to those who have helped me get prepared for competition…

Thank you to Jennifer Kirby at MKDS for choreographing my dance, and helping me get it stage ready. Thank you to my boyfriend, Gary Fortney, and to Jenny Rice and Lucas Sandry at Jenny’s Gym for getting me in swimsuit shape (or at least as close as possible). Thank you to Jane Slocum for preparing me for interview. Thank you to Laine Berry and Studio D Imaging for my perfect evening gown and headshots. Thank you to my directors for helping me with everything and always being available for advice and questions. Thank you to my mom for driving me places, taking up my swimsuit, offering encouragement, setting up mock interviews, and so much more. I would be a nervous wreck right now without all of you.

 

To our Miss Arkansas sponsors who I have not already thanked in previous posts…

Thank you to Jane White, Megan Farmer, Mountain Valley Water, You’ve Got the Look Photography, Bella’s, Applause, CITGO, Oaklawn, The Royal We, and Clarisonic for our t-shirts and other gifts for the week of Miss Arkansas. Thank you to Ecotools for all the goodies we received at the spring meeting as well as the scholarship they are awarding. Thank you to Tony Bowls and Laine Berry (The Royal We) for sponsoring our opening number dresses and shoes.

 

So what have a been doing?

In addition to working, I have been dancing, working out, preparing for interview, and stoning my costume.

Representative John Baine

Representative John Baine

I have also been working with my platform “Raise Your Hand: Reaching Higher With Higher Education” speaking to schools, college admission offices, counselors, legislators, and people at the Arkansas Department of Education on some, hopefully, big things to come. Education is the key to bettering the future of our state, nation, and world, but studies show that we have to get to students early. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to do just that and encourage students to pursue their education as far and long as they can.

Raising my hand for higher education with students

Raising my hand for higher education with students

 

At the end of May, all the contestants gathered in Little Rock for the contestant meeting, Miss Arkansas Golf Tournament and kickoff cocktail party, and Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH)

Miss Henderson Brittney Humphrey, Miss Western AR Kendreka Myles, and me at the contestant meeting

Miss Henderson Brittney Humphrey, Miss Western AR Kendreka Myles, and me at the contestant meeting

tour. It was easily of the best weekends I’ve ever had. At the meeting, we got lots of goodies, including the gifts from Ecotools and our opening number outfit and swimsuit. We also got a lot of information about the week of Miss Arkansas, the job of Miss Arkansas, and how to get the scholarship money we win during the week of Miss AR. I so enjoyed getting to interact with and get to know the other contestants as well as our sponsors. Because the contestants are from all over the state and because the week of Miss Arkansas is so busy, there aren’t many opportunities for all of the contestants to really get to know each other. Therefore, the chance to do so over that weekend was a unique one. We got to have some fun, eat, dance, take lots of “selfies”, and meet the people we will be spending a week with very soon. A big thank you to Jones and Son Jewelers for their sponsorship and

Kickoff cocktail party

Kickoff cocktail party

to professional golfer Christina Lecuyer for attending and helping with the tournament. It was a huge success and wouldn’t have been possible without all the volunteers who organized it and made sure it ran smoothly. The Pleasant Valley Country club in Little Rock is an absolutely gorgeous place. Thank you for making us feel so welcome. The visit to Children’s was incredible. For those of you who don’t know the nationalplatform for the Miss America Organization is Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), a fundraising network of 160 children’s hospitals all over the country. For more information on CMN, you can go to childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org. Because Arkansas Children’s Hospital is a CMN hospital, we got to take a tour.

Miss Greater Jacksonville Erica Brewer and I at the golf tournament kickoff party

Miss Greater Jacksonville Erica Brewer and I at the golf tournament kickoff party

Miss Arkansas also visits ACH and interacts with the children there at least 6 times during her reign. From the themed hallways to the “Family House” where families can sleep and relax, I was blown away by the attention to detail. I am so thankful to be able to raise money and awareness for such as incredible place. I have heard from so many people have been personally touched by Children’s and the work they do there, and I have to say that we are truly blessed to have such a gem right here in Arkansas. Also, thank you to Walmart for the 2 new helicopters they will be providing to ACH at the end of the year. On the same weekend, I got to work the Little Rock Greek festival because part of the proceeds of the festival were donated to ACH. I so enjoyed getting to support a great cause, get in touch with my heritage, and interact with lots of wonderful people. I have also gotten to participate in other fundraisers for ACH including a pageant that I directed myself.

 

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They wouldn't let me fly Angel One

They wouldn’t let me fly Angel One

Professional golfer Christina Lecuyer

Professional golfer Christina Lecuyer

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Sharing about Arkansas Children’s Hospital at a benefit

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Miss Greater Camden Sarah Clayton and I at the Greek Festival

If you haven’t done so already (or even if you have), you can go to MissArkansas.org/photoshoot and vote for your favorite contestant in the Tony Bowls Photoshoot. It’s $1 a vote, and you can vote as many times as you would like.

983663_10152465804999948_804111938664898658_nThe contestant who receives the most votes will win a scholarship. I would love to have your support at the pageant in Hot Springs on June 15-21. The preliminary competition days are June 18-21, and tickets are available now on ticketmaster.com. The pageant will also be live streamed if you can’t be there in person. The link for that will be available on MissArkansas.org each night. Thank you for your support! This has been an incredible journey, and I am so ready to compete in less than two weeks. Those who know me know how hard I have worked to have this opportunity, and I can’t wait to compete on the Miss Arkansas stage.

 

-S

 

Photoshoot, Placement, and Pictures

The Tony Bowls shoot is one of the official Miss Arkansas events that I have been the most excited for. We are so lucky and blessed to have such incredible sponsors who give so much and who truly believe in the Miss America Organization. With that, I have to say a huge thank you to CJ Wilson, Jessie Ward Bennett, Jane White, Lauren Colclasure, Joel Green, Kattie Hansen, Jones and Son Jewelers, and Tony Bowls for making the photoshoot happen. Another big thank you to Laine Berry for sponsoring our swimsuits, opening number dresses, and opening number shoes as well as for my headshots and for helping me find my evening gown for Miss Arkansas.

On the day of the shoot, we showed up at our assigned time without our hair or makeup done (those of you who know me, know how big of a deal that is). We got our hair and makeup done by some pretty talented people and wore a dress hand picked for us by Tony himself. For those of you who don’t know, Tony Bowls is now the official evening gown sponsor for Miss America. From the “wind” blowing our hair to the borrowed Tacori jewelry, it was so much fun living the model life for a day.

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Tony Bowls/Miss Arkansas photoshoot

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting stopped for pictures. It’s not that I just love taking pictures (I’m not a selfie girl), but I remember what it was like to be a little girl looking up to ask the big girls with the crowns. To me, it’s posing for 30 seconds. For them, it’s potentially a memory that will last a long time. Now, they very likely won’t ever remember my name, but that’s perfectly ok. All I really want them to remember is their happiness. Miss America titleholders are in a unique position to be role models every day, and I love getting the opportunity to be a part of that see it in action.

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I have to give another thank you to some sponsors who have been particularly generous to me personally: Robin’s Place, Cindee Mason, Caylie Covas, Teeter Motor Company, Kristen’s, Bliss Boutique, Norma Castleberry, and Lisa Tucker. Among other things, they sponsored my ad in the Miss AR program.

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Thank you, Bliss Boutique!

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Thank you, Mrs. Robin!

What have I been up to? I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several events since receiving my title. During IHOP’s National Pancake Day, I had the opportunity to share the story of Children’s Miracle Network with patrons at my local IHOP. I also got to attend a Muscular Dystrophy walk and meet some incredibly inspiring kids. My sister queen Lauren hosted a Princess For a Day event to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network, and I got to be Ariel! In addition, I’ve gotten to emcee and entertain at several pageants as well as participating in various other events.

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Princess For a Day

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MD walk

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IHOP National Pancake Day

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Miss Greater Camden

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Daffodil Festival

The contestant lottery was two weeks ago (wow, really?). I met with my directors, my sister queen, our moms, and Greater Hot Springs director Missy Gibson to watch the lottery online and to wait for our names to come up so we could call in and pick our placement. Thank you again, Ms Missy, for welcoming us into your incredible home. I am contestant #41 in Group C. This means that I will compete in interview Tuesday evening, swimsuit Wednesday, evening gown Thursday, and talent Friday. Tickets go on sale June 1, so come cheer me on. You don’t have to come every night, but be sure to come see me at visitation after the evening’s competition if you do attend.

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Online lottery

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I mentioned going to get my headshots in a previous post. I thought I should post some of them so you can see the amazing work of Studio D. Laine and her dad are wonderful, and I also picked out my dress that night (which you’ll have to come to Miss Arkansas to see).

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I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had, and I’m really excited about some things that are in the works. I promise to keep you updated!

-S