Love them or hate them, beauty pageants are more than what the eye can see.
Three years ago, I gave myself a deadline, a goal, to lose 60 pounds. I failed at Weight Watchers three times before I actually succeeded, and I've never regularly gone to a gym. I was over 200 pounds and quickly approaching 50 years old when I decided to become a delegate in the Mrs. New Jersey America Pageant. Mrs. pageants are extremely competitive, but I've met some amazing ladies and have learned a lot about myself along the way.
"Haters gonna hate" no matter what I say, but maybe it's time to take the word beauty out of beauty pageants.
The women that I've met, some more beautiful than others, have worn a crown because of their commitment to charities and because of their volunteer work. Yes, there are gorgeous women in pageantry, but true beauty is on the inside, right? I challenge those who despise these women for competing in bathing suits to show that they have done more volunteering than women in pageantry.
Pageantry became my carrot on a stick.
Over the years, I lost myself in being a mom and a wife, and I just couldn't seem to lose weight. Being overweight and finding myself on daily blood pressure medication wasn't enough to get off my butt to get serious about weight loss. Knowing that I will compete against girls half my age while I'm on stage wearing a bathing suit somehow motivates me while giving me a deadline to be in tip-top shape.
With many pageant systems, the swimsuit competition is evolving into more of a fitness competition. The Miss World Pageant has just eliminated swimsuit all together. There are pageants that instead of swimsuit will have an active wear competition, and there are plus-sized beauty pageants and other types of pageants that replace the swimsuit category with "fun fashion."
Personally, I enjoy swimsuit competitions even at my age because it challenges me. I'm in the best shape of my life. I wasn't this toned in high school. This experience has shown me that life isn't over as I approach a half century of aging. Instead, a new life is emerging.
This year, I competed at the Mrs. United States Pageant in Las Vegas. It was one of my most challenging pageants ever. I've learned that I can perform under pressure and I'm more than comfortable with public speaking. I can ace any job interview after sitting in front of various pageant judges, whether it's one-on-one or standing in front of a panel.
I've even learned to walk in super high heels. As a mom, I always wore practical flat shoes and pondered how women wore six-inch heels comfortably. I've even seen women run in heels and workout in them. Now I can do the same and I have to tell you that it has worked wonders on fixing my lower back pain. Yes that's right, I started wearing six-inch heels for the first time at age 48 and I'm 5'8.5" tall bare foot. My mid-life-shoe-collection-crisis is becoming impressive.
My children are all adults and now this is my time!
I gave my all as a mom and now I'm a grandma. I'm working to get better as I get older. I know that I have Mother Nature against me but maybe I can help ease the transition as I take better care of myself. I have one body and I want to treat it well.
I'm now down 70 pounds. People keep asking me, "How did you lose the weight?" I tell them that you have to find what works for you, but my best advice is to set a reasonable date in which you cannot renege.
I once thought weight loss was impossible. That those who were dramatically losing weight had some trick up their sleeve they weren't disclosing. Instead, I found it would be one of the hardest things I would ever do -- and I mentioned that I birthed three children, right?
The 70-pound weight loss took three years. I didn't gain it fast. I couldn't expect it to come off fast and stay off. This type of long-term discipline is very difficult and to make it even more challenging, I have a husband who is trying to gain weight. He would eat a cheeseburger in front of me! Oh, how I hated him in that very moment but in reality he's my biggest supporter and I adore him.
Now more often I get the question, if I will compete again and the answer is yes, of course! I found that not only are beauty pageants a way for me to stay in shape but I gained a huge voice for various animal and children's charities in which I volunteer.
It's fascinating how our society values a huge crystal crown.
I can walk into a room looking great and maybe I'll get a glance or two, but let me walk into a room with my sash and crown and it becomes a conversation starter. Listening is an art these days and not many people seem to know how to do it well, but when I am in my regalia, people really do listen. I am able to bring awareness to my charities and sponsors that I represent.
So yes, I will compete again. One day, I will be that older woman on stage at the Ms. Senior America Pageant with her blinged-out cane, but know the reason I'm up there, will be much bigger than me.