Pssst. Come closer. I have a little secret.
I'm not exactly the beauty queen you think I am.
“Huh?” I hear you saying. “You? With your flowy, sparkly pageant dresses and 3 big ol' crowns and your gazillions of photos on Facebook which clearly show that you're one of those rhinestone princesses??? You're not 'exactly' a beauty queen?”
Not. At. All.
Recently, I competed in the Miss Plus America Pageant (MPA), an affair I lovingly nicknamed The Rhinestone Bowl. Because I am the girl that a) works from home 80% of the time b) has a 4 year old and c) spends a majority of my “free” time (I use that term loosely) doing community service of some sort, I spend most of my life in yoga pants and a ponytail. Consequently, being around more than 50 of the most beautiful, well put-together women I've ever seen, made me feel like an interloper in the pageant world. On a daily basis, I don't make a big fuss about my clothes. I like jersey knit because it requires very little ironing. I'm not big on jewelry because it typically gets caught in my hair or on KidWonderful's various snaps or velcro fasteners. And I am very rarely “beat for the gods.” So, it was a bit overwhelming to spend an entire week being able to focus on the details of my outfits. And, clearly, I had not spent as much time on the details as many of the other women. Don't get me wrong, I didn't walk in there looking like Ms. Celie, but you could definitely tell that my inner Mariah Carey was somewhere off the coast of Santorini on her yacht and not in Dallas, TX, helping me get it together.
Now, before you respond with think pieces about my confidence levels and pageants making women feel like they're not good enough, take a breath. I deeply believe in myself and the power that God has given me as a woman. I know who I am, my strengths and my wow factor. However, Proverbs says that as iron sharpens iron, so should we sharpen each other. I can be transparent enough to say that as an active mom and community servant, I've gotten a bit dull on the taking-a-deep-interest-in-my-physical-appearance front. Being around a bunch of pageant beauties only reminded me that it's okay to take out a little extra time for myself and my outfits. It reminded me that while I don't have to dress up in ball gowns everyday, it's perfectly fine for me to break out the rhinestone bracelets or add glitter to my t-shirts.
That wasn't the only nugget of wisdom I got from playing in the Rhinestone Bowl. The whole week was full of Oprah-esque “Ah Ha” moments. Like....
1. Your fashion game ups your fabulosity
“Oh, you fancy, huh?” A notoriously overused phrase made famous by (boo-in-my-head) Drake which I found myself overusing extensively while at the Rhinestone Bowl. Usually, thinking about my “looks” means making sure that my color palettes match or that I throw in a print here or there. I have always been a little understated on the fashion front because I have a big personality and I don't want to overwhelm people. What I learned at MPA is that a big personality in a fabulous dress is double the awesome. I met women who were not afraid to sparkle (inside or out) and it made me want to be a more fabulous me. That's what I mean about iron sharpening iron. Like Marianne Williamson said, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” These girls did not come to play with you. These girls came to slay. In doing so, they unconsciously gave me permission to be bold in personality AND attire. I used to think that I didn't put a lot of effort into my clothes because I just didn't care that much. But, being around all of these fashion plates made me think twice. Do I really not care or am I just not comfortable enough in my own fashion sense to try? Is it that I'm not prioritizing myself? Did I tell myself that I don't care to give myself an out? These questions are the beginning of a whole lot of self discovery. Stay tuned.
2. E6000 is Your Friend
I am not crafty. On a crafty scale of Real Housewives to Martha Stewart, I am Kendra Moore's 4th cousin, once removed. I fear that day when KidWonderful comes home and says “Mom, I need help with my school project” because, unfortunately, he is going to be SOL. Howsoever, this weekend I learned the joys of E6000. Coupled with a pack of rhinestone, this industrial strength, craft adhesive can change your life. It takes 8 hours to cure, but if you you need your clothes to have a little more wow, this is the way to go. Check out a few YouTube videos and learn how to add an extra ummph to virtually anything using this magic potion. I promise you'll thank me.
3. People respond to the sparkle
The average person doesn't know how you got your crown. They don't know if you had to compete at a state level or if you came straight to nationals. All they know is that somehow, you have a pretty crown on your head and they are hypnotically, automatically drawn to you. They are going to come up to you and ask you about it. And they expect you to have something eloquent and magical to say because, let's face it, you have a shiny crown. People don't just walk around in shiny crowns for the heck of it. The shiny crown means that you're kind of a big deal and they want to know why. The shiny crown creates an open door for you to market yourself and promote causes you believe in. As a person who hasn't historically been amazing at self-promotion, I learned that the shiny crown gives me a way to open up and talk about the things I deeply believe in: supporting sex trafficking survivors and empowering women to achieve. What's more, is that people listen because, in their heads, the shiny crown already makes me a winner and an expert. And if people don't listen to anything else, they will always listen to a winner.
4. Can't Hear You. Speak Up
Let's keep it all the way one hundred. When you get 50+ smart, educated, opinionated women in a room, being heard and having a distinct voice is like shouting at a spaceship from the bottom of the ocean. While I was there, I started wondering “What if all of these driven women got together and supported each others dreams? What kind of impact could we make? How amazing is our new network of sisters and how world-changing would it be if we galvanized?” So, I said that in an open forum. And you know what? There was a whole lot of agreement from women who were thinking the exact same thing. So, when you have something important to say, say it. Quickly, concisely and with passion. Even in the midst of all those smarts and opinions, your voice matters when you speak from your heart.
5. Sam Moon
If Walmart and Claire's Accessories had a baby, that baby would be Sam Moon. This store full of rhinestoned magic is proof positive that everything really is bigger in Texas. If you have never been, I am absolutely not going to spoil it for you, but I will post some pics of the magnificent steals that I got while I was there. The website does not do this store justice, but check it out to get a small sample of why every beauty queen, model and fashionista in Texas is shopping here.
The Rhinestone Bowl is over, and like Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, I didn't come home with the big prize. However, the wisdom I got is priceless. Maybe I'll go back and try again or maybe I won't, but what I know for sure is that I'm sharper than ever and I will never be the same.