Monday, July 8, 2013

Lessons from Miss Virginia Part I: What I Told Them in Interview

Well, it's been a little over a week since I got back from Roanoke, where I competed to become Miss Virginia. I was honored to make the top 11 in a group of 26 inspiring, smart, and beautiful women who I came to love a whole lot over the course of the week.

I could probably write a novel about what I experienced and learned, how I was inspired, and how I grew, but I don't think you want to read all that :) What I do want to do is write a little about my interview, because it really speaks to why I was even competing in a swimsuit competition in the first place (hint! The swimsuit competition is just a means to an end). I'll write a more general post tomorrow about my entire experience.
top 11 gown - Julius Tolentino
monologue - Julius Tolentino

prelim swimsuit
My interview kicked off with questions about SEC football changing to a rotating conference schedule (no, seriously), my job with Delta Gamma, and ways to provide healthy food to low income families. And then, I was asked about my various interests and where Miss Virginia fit into them. Here's the gist of what I told the judges:

I was competing to become Miss Virginia because I absolutely, positively wanted the job. Because if I could put down on paper the job that I wanted to have at 24, traveling the state as Miss Virginia was (and is) it. Because I had already had a job where I lived out of a suitcase, traveled all over the country, and inspired women. It was a job that challenged and fulfilled me on a daily basis, and it was a job that I very much wanted the opportunity to do again.

I wanted to be Miss Virginia not only to impact the lives of little girls but because I believe that Miss Virginia is also the perfect platform to empower and inspire women.

As it stands, the Miss America Organization is the world's largest provider of college scholarships for women, and last year alone, it provided nearly $50 million in scholastic assistance to women at the local, state, and national level. Clearly MAO empowers contestants to achieve their scholastic and career ambitions already, but what if we took it to the next level?

What if, by speaking on college campuses and having real conversations with women, Miss Virginia (and ultimately Miss America) could inspire and empower her own generation -- even those women who will never enter a Miss America preliminary? I was competing because I know that Miss Virginia can be that role model for women that our generation really needs.

Miss America isn't just a pageant. It is a values-based organization, building and rewarding well rounded women who are driven to succeed in whatever field they choose. By building relationships with and inspiring her peers, Miss Virginia (or Miss America) becomes a role model for college-aged women, and ultimately inspires participation in local preliminaries by women who may have never considered competing in a pageant.

It's just like sorority recruitment. People don't join organizations, people join people. In this case, women join women. If you are able to communicate the values of the organization in your words and actions through building relationships, women want to be a part of your organization because they understand the value the organization can give them.

My story of my year would have been one of empowerment, inspiration, and recruiting new women to be a part of an incredible organization. I envisioned closed local preliminaries at colleges and universities throughout the state, much like in Georgia, as a way for MAO to widen its circle of influence.

I was competing because not only did I want the job of Miss Virginia, but I knew that I could do the job of Miss Virginia.

And while I may not have won, the judges did select a fantastic representative of our group of 26 winners. Desiree Williams is a role model for women; I know I certainly look up to her. She's smart, fit, driven, personable, and successful in pursuing her passions.

Look how much we love her - Julius Tolentino
And I cannot wait to cheer her on at Miss America.

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