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Guest Blogger – Olivia Michael, For All the Little Girls

We are so pleased that the beautiful Olivia Michael allowed us to share her most recent blog post, "For All the Little Girls," with the readers of Bravura Magazine. Her piece was so beautifully written, and empowering at the same time. She started her piece off with such a powerful statement, "Have you ever been so close to your dream that you could almost touch it… twice?" And that right there has set the tone for her entire post. Olivia has been part of the Miss America Organization for six years now, and she has not only grown on the stage, but she has personified how to shine with grace, poise, and so much more. Continue reading to find out what else Olivia has to share with our readers.

Have you ever been so close to your dream that you could almost touch it… twice?  I have, and it’s pretty indescribable.  Allow me to rewind.

Six years ago I entered my first Miss America Organization local pageant. Bright eyed and clueless, I found myself on the 2012 Miss New Jersey stage. To say that it was a catastrophe would be an understatement. After walking out in swimsuit competition for the wrong contestant’s number, forgetting half my piano piece, and bombing my interview, I swore I would never return. (If you know me, you’re most likely laughing at this point).  I decided to take a “year off” as I watched my fellow competitors go on to compete. I later sat in the audience watching a beautiful, talented, charismatic blonde sweep the competition and become Miss New Jersey 2013.  I had to come back.  Fast forward three years later- I had made top 10 in 2014, 3rd runner up in 2015, and 1st runner up in 2016 (aside from interview and talent awards throughout the years).

Could I possibly have asked for better improvement?

Besides my growth, there was always one constant – I wanted the job more than anything, each year wanting it more and more.  Sure, the sparkly crown and sash were appealing, and who wouldn’t want to compete on the Miss America stage? But I wanted to implement monthly arts & crafts nights hosted by Miss NJ contestants across hospitals in the entire state. As Miss New Jersey I planned to meet with congressional representatives, school boards, and local nonprofits to bring “Arts for Everyone”.  I wanted my little star Taryn to experience wearing the Miss New Jersey crown and sash. I had plans to repay all those who’ve helped me along my journey.  Yet two weeks ago those dreams came to a screeching halt. Have you ever felt complete happiness for someone else, punched in the stomach, and wanted to cry all at the same time? Like I said, it’s pretty indescribable.

All those years of working tirelessly towards a dream, that now could never happen.  The 6:00am gym sessions, four-hour marathon piano practices, endless hours of alterations, dozens of mock interviews, and countless trips across the state, with no Miss New Jersey crown to show for it… at least that’s one way to look at it.  I (not surprisingly) always imagined what winning would feel like.  But I never imagined what losing would feel like.  Now that I’m on the other side, I’ve come to find in some ways they actually feel very similar.  I imagined an outpouring of love and support if I had won.  Ironically, I’ve received more love and support than I could ever imagine by not winning.  I imagined a sense of placidity had I won.  Yet now I’ve never felt more curious about what lies ahead and a hunger to persist forward.  When I pictured winning, I pictured the glitz and glamour.  But I never imagined walking away with best friends whom I once called competitors.  Each year that I competed, I gained (and will always have) a new extended family comprised of an eclectic group of people all with different backgrounds.  To this day there’s a thread that weaves us all together- it’s the genuine love we have for each other, this crazy sport, and the lasting memories made together.  I guess you could say I lost the pageant, but won more than I could have imagined.

Despite my thirteen years of catholic schooling, I don’t exactly go to church every Sunday. However, I do believe in a higher being and I do believe we were each put on this earth for a purpose. So technically this dream of mine didn’t come true. But after pouring my heart, soul, and every last ounce of me on (and off) stage I’m at peace with that- maybe there were other plans for me. I find comfort, and a smidge of excitement, in knowing the best is yet to come, after all “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”. – Jeremiah 29:11

Want to know a secret?
I’ve always had reservations about sharing with others that I competed in pageants. Half of the reactions I received were warm- people wanting to learn more, or excited about my prospects.  The other half had preconceived notions and showed concern, or in some cases antipathy.  I’ve been asked, “are all those girls mean? Are they as dumb as they appear in those viral videos?”  This is typically why I held back on sharing my involvement. Yet, I hope that by meeting and getting to know me for who I am first and foremost (my talents, my intellectual capacity, my character, and even my faults) that I can dispel those myths.  If not me, look at my “competitors”.  These women are athletes, philanthropists, scholars, artists, educators, aspiring doctors and lawyers, lobbyists, loving and caring women who simply hope to make some kind of a difference.  In today’s world where the objectification of women, wage disparities, and unequal female representation in government are prevalent issues, I think we need more role models like the ladies I’ve competed with.  But the best part of this rare group of women is that we realize the only way we can succeed is by lifting each other up.  At Miss New Jersey every year we have a chant that I feel best sums up this belief we practice: “We’re all for one and one for all.  Together we stand, together we fall.  And in the end we win them all, we’re all for one and one for all”.

So maybe I wont be meeting with school boards, giving speeches, or ever step foot on the Miss America stage… at least not as Miss New Jersey.  I used to think winning meant walking away with a crown and sash, but now I realize the best rewards come in all different shapes and forms.  So for all the little girls out there who may be reading this one day: competing in pageants (or any sport) will not define you, only YOU can do that!  Winning Miss ___ may or may not open doors for you- but you can always open them for yourself.  Figure out who you are.  Learn what it is that makes you unique.  Embrace your strengths and your weaknesses.  Stand strong in your values and beliefs.  And please, please, please never give up on your dreams. You never know, you may stumble upon something even better along the way.

“I guess you could say I lost the competition, but won more than I could have imagined.”