A Healthy Lifestyle. Week 10.

So, life rocks when you are Miss Arkansas! I have been blessed by volunteers and former titleholders of the Miss Arkansas organization. Also … I have been in contact with multiple sponsors this week, and I’m so thankful for their services! Special thanks to Allen Tillery Chevrolet, Solemates in Little Rock, Jane White Cosmetics, Gallery Salon of Little Rock, and Dillard’s in Hot Springs!

Speaking of blessings, check out the YouTube video featuring some very special people who make me feel like a celebrity: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZLqSXWzYO8&feature=channel_video_title)

Monday, I picked up Mrs. Bobbie and headed to the United Methodist Women’s Luncheon in Hot Springs Village. Mrs. Bobbie is Vice President of the Miss Arkansas Board and an open book of Miss Arkansas history. I appreciate her very encouraging comments after I spoke about my platform, “Second Chances through Mentoring.” I really enjoy opportunities to speak in churches!

Tuesday, I led the largest parade in Arkansas in a beautiful blue antique car! Faulkner County Fair officials expected 35,000 to watch or participate in the parade.Channel 7 surprised me and played a clip of my parade wave on the 7:00 news!

Wednesday, I had a great time speaking to the students in the Future Business Leaders of America Club at Lakeside High School. I explained the definition of “mentor leader” and provided several examples. It was a little more personal setting compared to the normal school assembly, and it was fun!

Thursday, I returned to my hometown to speak to Stuttgart Junior High School. I visited with several former teachers and dance students from the studio where I worked. I believe the most profound moment happened when a seventh grade boy asked, “Do you starve yourself?” That question brought on a roar of laughter from the students, but I considered it a great opportunity to talk about inaccurate perceptions of beauty.

I recognize that there is a lot of pressure to have a slim body in today’s world, especially when the Miss America Pageant swimsuit competition is televised on ABC for millions of viewers.However, most of the girls that I know consider the swimsuit competition a personal challenge to have a healthy body. I am a STRONG advocate of a healthy lifestyle. In preparing for Miss America, I have started a high protein diet to gain 5-10 pounds to burn into muscle. My trainer keeps a close eye on my weight and inches of my arms, legs, waist, and hips. It is a very controlled method to help me maintain a healthy body.

Miss America Teresa Scanlan chose the personal platform, “Eating Disorders: A Generation at Risk.” She addresses self-image by saying, “I hope to help others regain confidence in themselves and challenge them to redefine beauty, based on inner qualities rather than outward appearance. As God's children, every person is unique and incredible in every way, and should embrace who they were made to be, rather than hurting themselves in an effort to change.”

Friday, I attended the Cotton Pickin’ Festival!! That was the first time I had ever visited Caldwell, Arkansas, and I had a blast! I introduced myself to the audience, performed a tap dance, and played “Minute to Win-it.” A college friend, Hannah, met me at the festival, and it was really good to see her. My only regret is that I didn’t get to participate in the Cotton Pickin’ Contest.

On Saturday, Mom and I drove to Sherwood for what we thought was a board meeting of the Alex Blackwood Foundation for Hope. Wrong! It was a motorcycle rally called “Ride for Hope,” a fund raiser for the foundation.” Once we saw the crowd on motorcycles and wearing leather, Mom suggested, “Why don’t you go change from your black pants into jeans?” Once I was better dressed for the occasion, I met so many incredible people at the rally!

The Alex Blackwood Foundation for Hope challenges others to “break the silence” and to talk about depression and suicide. I heard several powerful testimonies from individuals who passionately spoke of the courage it takes to overcome these issues. When I was invited to speak, I shared my heart for mentoring. Intentional relationships save lives! For more information, check out http://www.alexblackwoodfoundation.org/.

Saturday night, I greatly enjoyed my appearance at the Diamond Lakes Pageant! Congratulations to Abby Turner, the 2012 Miss Diamond Lakes! Congratulations, also, to Jillian Bridges, who was crowned 2012 Miss South Central that afternoon! I met Jill at the Miss South Central Pageant in 2008, where we both won the South Central crowns. Along with directors Sharon, Leslie, and Lori, this is one great pageant family!

Guess what I am doing next week … going to Dallas! I am visiting Ted and Shannon Skokos, the generous donors of my $20,000 Miss Arkansas scholarship. We have a busy agenda, full of shopping, dinner dates, and entertainment. Make sure you read about all my exciting adventures in Dallas! At the end of next week, I will have a photo shoot and participate in two more preliminary pageants. Lauren Howell will crown the new Miss Spirit of Arkansas on Saturday, and Allie Brooks will crown the new Miss Conway on Sunday. Both pageants will be held at the Staples Auditorium on the Hendrix College campus.

Contestants before the pageant
Picture from 2008! Jill was named Miss South Central Outstanding Teen 2008 and I was Miss South Central 2008. Sweet flashback! Congrats on being named the new Miss South Central!
Congratulations to Abby Turner, Miss Diamond Lakes!

High heels give you back pain. Week 9.

What a great week! On Tuesday, I was invited to share my Promise House story at the board meeting for the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes. While living in the house for 10 weeks two summers ago, I served as mentor to the pregnant teenagers housed there. Speaking at the board meeting was an opportunity to thank them for the work they do so that the Promise House can be an effective ministry. I admire those involved with this ministry and the amount of prayer that directs their decisions. After the board meeting, I visited the open house celebrating 20 years of service at the Promise House. Here is a link to learn more about the Promise House: http://www.abchomes.org/promise-house-maternity-care.html).

Speaking at the board meeting.

House parents at the Promise House!

I attended the Arkansas Hospitality Association ribbon cutting on Wednesday to kick off the 2011 convention. Governor Mike Beebe and First Lady of Arkansas, Ginger Beebe, were present at the ceremony, as well. Governor Beebe announced, “Our hospitality sector keeps about 100,000 Arkansans gainfully employed. From greeting visitors at one of our welcome centers to hosting guests at a bed and breakfast or entertaining patrons of our museums and music festivals, these professionals are the driving force of the tourism industry.” It was an honor to be a part of an important industry in Arkansas!

Coleman Dairy was my host at the Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention. Mr. Buddy Coleman has been a long-time supporter of the Miss Arkansas Pageant, sponsoring the scholarship for overall talent winner at the pageant. I fully enjoyed getting to know the family and staff members of Coleman Dairy! We are blessed to have their support! I also tasted their delicious chocolate and eggnog milkshake… yummy!

Kathryn Kirksey, Arkansas State Fair Queen, Bill Warren from Coleman Dairy, and me!
Cutting the ribbon with the Governor

Thursday, I spoke at the Arkansas Dietary Managers Convention in Hot Springs, where I shared about my platform, “Second Chances Through Mentoring.” and answered a number of questions. They were interested in hearing about preparations for the Miss America Pageant and my family’s involvement in my job. I was very encouraged by their appreciation of the work of Miss Arkansas.

Mrs. Loretta booked me twice in one week... wow! thank you!

Speaking to the Dietary Managers Association of Arkansas

Saturday, my parents and I drove to Jonesboro for the Miss Greater Jonesboro Pageant. We stopped by WalMart so I could buy a digital timer as a public speaking aid. As I walked through WalMart in high heels, a toddler girl saw me and turned to her grandma to say, “Look at that girl!” Grandma said, “Do you like her dress?” The little girl answered, “Yes, and her shoes.” Grandma said, “Oh no. We are in trouble if you like those shoes at this young age! Those shoes will give you back pain.” Haha… yes, high heels do give me slight back pain, but I am getting better at walking in them!

The Miss Greater Jonesboro pageant was so much fun! Directors Sean Pollock and Christina Ryan had obviously invested an incredible amount of time in making Saturday a success. I chatted with several girls in the princess program while contestants were interviewing with the judges. After meeting me, 7-year-old Emma remarked, “I think I am going to have a heart attack!” I enjoyed getting to know the contestants and was very proud of their onstage competition. I spent most of Saturday with Natalie Marcus, the reigning Miss Greater Jonesboro, and my parents and I were so impressed with her warm personality and aspirations. Sean Pollock led a live band onstage while many individuals and groups joined him for some phenomenal entertainment!

Posing with the girls in the princess program at Miss Greater Jonesboro!

Beautiful contestants in the Miss Greater Jonesboro pageant.

Shelley Kelley, owner of Clark’s Bridal in Jonesboro, provided all of my clothes for the evening, including that beautiful pink evening gown, fun black cocktail dress, and gold dance top! I debuted onstage a new a capella tap dance, which is one I would normally perform on my small portable tap floor. It was an energetic crowd, and I really appreciated the applause throughout the performance! And CONGRATULATIONS to Bethany Bell, as she was crowned the new Miss Greater Jonesboro! She also received the interview award, and of course … she rocked that piano!

Shelley Kelley from Clark's Bridal and Bethany Bell, Miss Greater Jonesboro

The upcoming week consists of speaking appearances, schools, parades, and pageants! I may be releasing a new, fun YouTube video sometime soon! Miss South Central will be held in Malvern on Saturday afternoon. This was the first title that I held as a freshman in college, and I am so sad that I won’t be there for the actual pageant. However, I will be at the Miss Diamond Lakes pageant on Saturday night to perform and assist with crowning. Woohoo!

To my faithful blog readers … thanks for your support throughout this incredible year!

Reflections on the Miss Arkansas Pageant 2011

I want to share some thoughts about preparing and competing for Miss Arkansas since many people may not realize the extensive preparation required to compete for the title. Also, I hope to give some ideas and encouragement to contestants as they prepare for the job next summer!

With the goal of Miss Arkansas in mind, I began in August of 2009 to expand my platform so I could be prepared to promote it on a daily basis. My platform “Second Chances Through Mentoring” focuses on my work as a mentor to pregnant teenagers through the Promise House. In order to further develop this platform and give it a national connection, I chose to partner with a well-established organization focused on mentoring, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and to personally mentor a “Little Sister” each week. I also raised funds and implemented a scholarship for first-generation college students in my hometown. Finally, I outlined and worked toward perfecting my message to elementary and high school students through lots of presentations in the schools. I recognized the significance of working on my platform if I were given the opportunity to represent Arkansas at Miss America. Also, it is important to have a fully developed platform so that the year as Miss Arkansas can be marked with purpose and direction.

I gave my "little sister" Darlene a photo album... she loved it!

Reading to the class, "How Full is Your Bucket?" The kids love this story!

This past summer was not exactly an easy one because my life was drastically changing. After graduating from Ouachita Baptist University, I made plans to move to Little Rock. I leased my first apartment and prepared to enter pharmacy school in August. My best friends scattered to find jobs all over the state of Arkansas, and my boyfriend lived in Rwanda, Africa. Focused on my goal of becoming the next Miss Arkansas, I was starting to put pressure on myself. I wanted the job position so much and desired to do my very best in the pageant. Toward the end of June, I was completely emotional and second guessing every decision that I made. Finally, a good friend called to see how the preparation was going. We talked about how I was putting pressure on myself, and she said, “Just stop. Snap out of it.” As simple as her advice was, it was all I needed to hear! I finally relaxed during the next two weeks leading up to the pageant. I stopped second guessing myself and decided to enjoy the experience!

Before the arrival ceremony on Sunday, I moved my six bags into the Austin Hotel. I was so happy that arrival had finally come! Bethany Whitfield was my roommate, and we had a great week together! I really enjoyed getting to know some of the chaperones and backstage volunteers better this year. Their service is so valuable to the organization, and I appreciate their dedication and hard work!

I had lots of fun with the other contestants during the week! More than ever, girls put effort into getting to know one another and not being overly competitive. I credit some of the “veterans” for setting a friendly example. I also think that the Facebook group and interaction before the pageant helped to break the ice among the contestants. Abby Turner, who was named Miss Congeniality, actually made “behind the scenes videos” of the entire week of Miss Arkansas. Click here to watch the video of Day 6! Dinner with the contestants is always my favorite part of the day. Because we get ready in rotations, some of us sit down with rollers in our hair and no makeup, while other girls are entirely ready for the pageant. The girls competing in swimsuit that night normally pick up their dessert and take it back to the room for a midnight snack! Haha, dinner is comical!

Interview is the first phase of competition and the moment that the contestant first meets the judges. I love interview! I especially love the politically charged questions but also realize that it is my one and only chance to visit with the judges on a personal basis. Therefore, I try to respond to their questions in a way that will show them how passionate I am about my platform while, at the same time, incorporating some humor and knowledge. When preparing for interview, think about how to answer questions about the job position of Miss Arkansas and about plans for enhancing the Miss Arkansas legacy. I consider it more of a job interview and less of a pageant interview.

There are many strategies for choosing one’s competition number during the lottery in May. I chose group C so that I could start with what is, to me, the easiest phase of competition and then increase momentum during the week. My first competition phase on Wednesday was swimsuit, which is a measure of confidence in front of an audience. I also love the onstage question segment so I was pleased when it was included in the Wednesday preliminary. Thursday was evening gown, which I consider to be somewhat difficult since high heels, heavy dresses, posture, and grace make for a tricky minute of being onstage. Finally, talent preliminary on Friday night created the challenge for me to stay on top of my game throughout the week since talent counts the greatest number of points in the overall score.

Some of the girls in group C!

Speaking of talent, I danced on a weak right ankle on Friday and Saturday. I never told anyone because I didn’t want them to worry about it. In fact, I tried to wear heels to the autograph party at the mall on Saturday afternoon but couldn’t physically walk in those shoes. Personally, I was somewhat disappointed with my Friday night performance … which served as motivation when I was given the opportunity to dance again on Saturday night after being named to the top 10.

Learning to maintain stamina until the very end was the greatest lesson I gained during my first year of competing in Miss Arkansas. The week can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Many girls get discouraged after not winning preliminary awards during the week, making it difficult to focus on what’s most important … being well-rounded in all areas with the goal of being in the top 10 on Saturday night. Some say that it is possible to predict the top 10 by who has energy and high spirits during Saturday morning rehearsal. There may be wisdom in that statement since stamina is so important.

This was an amazing top 10!

Before walking onstage for the announcement of awards and crowning of the new Miss Arkansas 2011, I felt a peace. I have no doubt that so many friends and family members were lifting me up in prayer! The verse on my heart throughout the summer was Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” I had confidence that whatever happened onstage, I was given work to impact the kingdom of God. It is a blessing to be a part of God’s work!

Top 5!
Micki Konecny, Miss Arkansas 1982

Ted and Shannon Skokos, sponsors of the $20,000 Miss Arkansas scholarship!
Mom and dad!
The secrets behind a fabulous wardrobe! Laine Bery and Shelley Kelley from the Royal We and Clark's Bridal.

Speaking at the press conference following the Miss Arkansas pageant!

One principle that I have sought to follow, both before and after competing in Miss Arkansas, is to NEVER compare myself to other girls. It is much more important to be true to myself and appreciate what makes me different. When I have the temptation to compare, I quickly pray that God will teach me how to focus more on serving and loving others instead of thinking about myself. It is only natural for people to compare Miss Arkansas to former titleholders. Each Miss Arkansas has different strengths, which make her unique in a special way. Therefore, our sisterhood, with its combined strengths and abilities, make the Miss Arkansas Organization stronger and diverse. During this wonderful experience of wearing the Miss Arkansas crown, I keep in mind the following phrase: “I will do my best to be my best.”

Inspiration. Week 8.

What a busy, phenomenal week! During this week, I visited 11 cities and spoke to over 1,200 students in school assemblies! I met so many people this week who clearly have a heart to serve others. That is why I love Arkansas!

On Tuesday, I rode in the Saline County Fair Parade and signed autographs at the fairgrounds. The weather was beautiful, and we had a great turnout in Benton! I was surprised and thrilled to see Mr. Stephen Strauss at the parade. He is a long term supporter of the Miss Arkansas Pageant and has been my friend since I held the Miss South Central title in 2008. Mr. Stephen, thank you for your photos and friendship!

Also at the parade, a gentleman introduced himself to me and said, “Oh… so you’re the one with the bad parking job!” Haha! I learned my lesson. When I drive a car that says, “Miss Arkansas,” and walk around with a crown, I must park neatly within the parking space.

My driver for the Saline County Fair Parade.

Posing with a queen before the parade!

On Wednesday, I spent several hours at the Arkansas Rice Depot packing boxes and stocking pantries. The Arkansas Rice Depot distributes over 8 million pounds of food each year, feeding as much as 14% of the state's population! Since it was my first visit to the facility, I was so impressed with the organized warehouse and dedicated staff! I also got a sweet compliment from a regular volunteer, “You’re prettier than a speckled pup.”

Thursday was an exhausting and rewarding day! I spoke to more than 1,200 students in four school assemblies in Hazen and Newport. While speaking to younger students, I try my best to constantly interact with the audience. They really understood my message of “How full is your bucket?” and making good choices! With the older kids, it never ceases to amaze me how much they LOVE music! So it is easy to catch their attention with a “Name That Tune” game and then talk about some poor role models we have in society. That gives me the chance to talk about mentors and my platform of “Second Chances through Mentoring.” I received several compliments from students and teachers on my program. I can’t wait for another opportunity to jump into the schools!

Thank you Hazen for the t-shirt!

Students at Newport Elementary School!

Friday, I traveled to De Queen for the first time! Mom and I had so much fun at the District 7 nursing home pageant, where we met lots of great people! The pageant contestants were in high spirits and so funny! I brought my portable tap floor and performed my a capella dance, and Ms. Sarah clapped during the entire performance! Ms. Sarah was second runner-up in the pageant and always talked about how blessed and how loved that she was! One contestant was 100 years old and weighed 100 lbs! I took a photo with one lady who instead of saying, “Cheese!” said, “Eat your heart out!” Haha! It was a very special day!

The queen and her court!

Saturday was another exciting day! We started in Benton at Mt. Carmel Retirement Center for their 3rd anniversary. The facility was beautiful, and the staff was so caring! I had lots of fun entertaining on my portable tap floor and talking with the audience. They wanted to know all about my job, my hometown, and my Miss America adventure. We had a great time!

Resident at Mt. Carmel Retirement Center

We then went to Arkadelphia so I could emcee a style show that benefitted the Arkadelphia Health Club. The ladies poured so much work into the event, and I was honored to be a part of it!

Kids in the style show!

Mrs. Loretta has booked me for two events already! Thank you for supporting the Miss Arkansas Organization!

Mom and I sat with Ms. Emily Tally from Arkadelphia during lunch. Ms. Emily was such an inspiration! She was dressed beautifully in ruby jewelry and totally surprised us when she said she was 86 years old. The more we talked with Ms. Emily, we found out that she is very active in her community, cans her own vegetables from her garden, and serves as a foster grandparent. Every Monday-Friday, Ms. Emily volunteers to rock and feed babies at a public daycare from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. She had a vivacious personality and was a true inspiration! When we left, Mom said, “I want to be like Ms. Emily when I get older!” God has given me this job opportunity to meet special people like Ms. Emily. For that, I am very, very grateful!

I didn’t have the chance to attend Miss Little Rock on Saturday afternoon, but I know that it was an outstanding pageant! Congratulations to Bethany Whitfield for being crowned Miss Little Rock and serving as a wonderful role model for all of us! I was able to attend Miss Metro and had SO much fun! Justin, Kirt, and Amy did a fabulous job of putting together this pageant, and there were so many beautiful, talented contestants! Congratulations to Miss Metro Candace Carr … I am so glad that you are returning to the Miss Arkansas stage!

Rachel Harless (Miss Metro's Outstanding Teen), Bailey Moses (Miss Little Rock's Outstanding Teen), Candace Carr (Miss Metro's Outstanding Teen), and me!

This upcoming week will be great! Back to the gym with Ann Marie and back to the dance studio with Mrs. Micki! On Saturday, I will be attending the Miss Jonesboro pageant and will debut a new performance number! I am really excited about it! I also get to represent Coleman Dairy at the Arkansas Hospitality Association banquet. Mr. Buddy Coleman is a long time supporter of the Miss Arkansas Pageant and an admirable man! With a few other appearances to come this week, I look forward to another week as Miss Arkansas.

On my Facebook page, I have posted Miss Arkansas Pageant pictures by Mr. Danny Barger with You’ve Got the Look Photography. Expect an upcoming blog entitled, “Reflections on the 2011 Miss Arkansas Pageant.”