I succeed because I fail

by She Flies With Her Own Wings

If I had a dollar for every time I ‘failed’ at something, I would be a pretty wealthy person.

Sunday morning I received a text that read “Steph I am so sorry! Are you ok?” Yesterday I got home and my mom asked with a sympathetic voice “How’re you doing?”  I responded “Good! I’m fine” to both of these questions. I had just competed for the job of Miss Oregon on Saturday night for the last time, and ‘failed’ again.

Let me take you through my Miss America journey…

When I was in high school one of my teachers told me I should compete in our local pageant.  I laughed, thought of the ‘stereotypical pageant girl’ and told her pageants weren’t for me.  I grew up playing sports.  She twisted my arm, telling me that it was about service, that I interviewed well, and it was a way for me to pay for college.  I gave in and decided to compete, not having a clue what this pageant thing was about.

In 2009 I competed for the title of Miss Klamath County/Miss City of Sunshine. I failed.

In 2010 I competed for the title of Miss Klamath County/Miss City of Sunshine for a second time. I failed.

In 2011 I switched it up and competed for the title of Miss Lane County/Miss University of Oregon. I failed. A few weeks later I competed for Miss Three Rivers. I failed again.

In 2012 I went back and competed for Miss Klamath County/Miss City of Sunshine again. I failed.  The very next day I competed for the title of Miss Southern Gem. I failed once more.

At one point someone asked my dad “Is she ever just going to be done with this?”  I’m sure she wasn’t the only person who was wondering that.  Sometime’s I did myself.  But what people on the outside didn’t see, was that each time I failed and didn’t walk away with the crown, I walked away with so much more…

My interview skills improved, and I learned how to better speak in front of large audiences.  I always enjoyed talking, but I learned how to slow my pace down and ‘take someone across the street, not on a safari’. I learned how to live a healthier lifestyle; as an athlete I was always in shape, but when the sports ended I wasn’t burning as many calories.  So I learned how to eat healthy food and enjoy it, I learned how to incorporate running, weight-lifting, zumba, and other forms of working out into my daily routines.  I learned how to walk in heels, and how to do my hair and makeup.  I learned to push myself and believe in myself; talent was always something I struggled with, and I learned that if I tell myself ‘I can’t’ or ‘I don’t’ then I’m right.  I learned to break past barriers and tell myself ‘I can and I will entertain’.  I learned how to fail graciously, and in front of a large audience of people! I learned how to be confident in the young woman I am.

Some girls win their first time competing; good for them! I’ve gained so much and grown as an individual from my failures, and you can’t put a price, or crown, on that.

In 2013 I competed for the title and job of Miss Klamath County/Miss City of Sunshine.  This time, I was fortunate enough to be crowned Miss City of Sunshine 2013.  As I began my year of service, I quickly realized that all of my failed attempts had better prepared me to be a titleholder.  I had a better understanding of the program, I had a plan for my year, and I had a stronger sense of self than I did when I first competed in 2009.  My failures had made me relatable, and had given me a story to share and tie in with my platform.  I continued to grow and improve on all of the skills I had learned when I had failed, but I was now also able to use my crown and sash as a soapbox and megaphone to share those lessons and my story with others.

That summer I competed for Miss Oregon 2013 and failed. It was such a whirlwind of a week, especially being there for my first time, and I left knowing I wanted another chance to compete for the job of Miss Oregon.

This past year I worked harder than ever before – I spent extra hours in the gym, ate really clean, watched the news more frequently and listened to NPR in the car, I pushed myself in talent and tried something I never thought I would.  In April I was incredibly thankful to be crowned Miss Columbia River 2014 with the opportunity to compete at Miss Oregon one last time.

I had worked so hard and pushed myself in every phase of competition.  I set goals for myself.  I had pictured my name being called for the Top 10, and had even envisioned my crowning moment.  I had done everything in order to be a successful pageant girl.  Had I prepared to the best of my ability? Yes. Was I ready for the job? Yes. Would I have made a great Miss Oregon? Absolutely. Along with many of the girls I was competing with. Did I deserve to win? Sure. Did that mean I was entitled to win? Of course not.

Throughout the week of Miss Oregon, I knew I had done my best in every phase of competition.  I had left everything out on the stage and in the interview room.  So was I disappointed when my name wasn’t called for the Top 10? You bet! But was I devastated? Not the slightest bit.  I knew there wasn’t anything I could have done differently.  Different day, different judges, different outcome.  I just wasn’t what they were looking for.

If we’re measuring winning by who walks away with the crown, then yes, I failed.  But that isn’t what this organization is about. I’m walking away from my last time competing with so many priceless life lessons, new friendships (I have 22 new smart, talented, and beautiful sisters), forever being a part of this pageant family, feeling inspired and motivated, not to mention with over $25,000 in scholarships!  This is all from failing nine times throughout my six years in the program and only winning twice.

A common onstage question is “How do you define success?” I define success by never giving up and always do my best.  If I do that, I will always walk away a winner.

It is weird to think that my time in the Miss America Organization is over and that I will never compete again; but I know that it is because of this program and all of my failures that I have a bright future ahead of me and will succeed in all that I do.

”Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”


This last part I’m sharing from a Miss Georgia contestant, Miss Greater Atlanta 2014, Amarinda Trear.                                                – 14 things that will make you miserable in the Miss America Organization….And lets be honest, in life.

1. You are obsessed with what other people think about you. This requires no explanation. You are in for a very long life if you cannot learn to be you regardless of others.

2. You think this competition will be easy because you’re pretty. You might be thinking “uhh yeah, its a pageant, dum dum,” but your face stopped winning you Miss Grand Supreme back when you were 7. If you think being pretty is all it takes, then just c’mon. I can’t wait to watch this wake up call.

3. You think this is about having the hottest bod. *Insert sarcasm from above paragraph here.* Swimsuit is only 15% of the overall score – do the math.

4. You are bad at putting on false eyelashes. (for the funnies) So this may not make the rest of your life miserable but it WILL make that 55 minutes you have to get ready for the pageant after dinner during pageant week a living nightmare. No, I am not being dramatic. Maybe a little.

5. You like being recognized for your hard work. This is a pageant. One chick wins and everyone else goes home. One chick gets the swim suit award, one gets talent and one gets interview. Sometimes, one chick gets them ALL, leaving you sitting there with a fake smile thinking “but I worked so hard…” Deal with it. You will never be the only girl who worked hard on stage. Clap for her because you’d want her to clap for you.

6. You think hard work deserves recognition. Please notice I used the word “recognition” and not “reward.” You will ALWAYS be rewarded for hard work. If not in accolades, then in the progress and transition from one point to the next. You will not, however, always be recognized. Especially in a pageant.

7. You think you “deserve” this title.
You don’t.

8. You think working the hardest will win you the title. Yeah, it might….along with luck….and making a connection with 5 random people who met you 10 minutes ago…and the aligning of the stars that ‘said 5 random people’ will like your gown, hair, walk, body, talent and the opening number presentation that everyone says isn’t judged (but we all know that ain’t true.) If you think all nighters and killing yourself over prep will somehow make a judge like blondes vs. brunettes or opera over lyrical, then you just have fun with that.

9. You “want it” the most and therefore you should have it. Okay so: (A) Please don’t ever assume you want something more than anyone else on stage. You’re wrong. (B) Wanting something means nothing unless you work for it, and working for something only means you had the guts to try. There are no guarantees. Learn this. Now.

10. When you work towards something and you don’t get it, you feel like you have been robbed. I have special words for people like you but I will attempt to be tactful. By thinking you have been “robbed”, you imply that something that was rightfully yours has been taken from you. I’m not sure who you think you are exactly, but I will tell you who you are not: Someone right for this job. Life isn’t fair and if you can’t accept that then how are you going to tell kids in CMN Hospitals who are everyday living the nightmare that is “unfairness,” to not give up? Your job as a model for others starts now, in the moments you feel the least inclined to do so.

11. You can’t handle rejection. Now I am not saying that if you weren’t in top 10, top 5 or the winner, that you are in the reject pile, but I think we can all agree that it feels that way for a hot second. As competitors, we put ourselves out there night after night and ask for a score and it’s either what the judges like or it’s not. We’re either their cup of tea, or we’re not. They either accept what we present, or they don’t. And that’s okay. This mentality is not unique to pageants…it’s life. Rejection is an everyday thing, so if this is something you can’t deal with, I suggest getting some tougher skin. It’s okay for it to hurt, but it should not break you.

12. You don’t see the benefits to competing unless you win. How sad. I don’t know who I’d be without this organization. In the grand scheme of things, very few people walk away with state titles and only 93 women can call themselves a “Miss America.” and yet, thousands of women’s lives have been genuinely touched and changed because of competing. Whether it was through money for education, learning to be more confident, or even finding your best friends, I promise you have walked away with more than you stumbled in with. It may be buried under a few layers of hurt and disappointment, but it’s there. Find it.

13. You can’t be happy for other peoples achievements.
Possibly the greatest thing I have learned from competing in pageants is finding a way to be happy for other people, even when I am sad for myself. Now, we are human and there are people out there who make this more difficult than others and shoot, maybe even some who don’t deserve your hug or “congrats”—give it anyway. If not for them, for you.

14. You “live for the applause.” I have to be careful with this statement or I will be talking about myself instead of to myself…and that would be (aca-)awkward. I will use the analogy of stage and theater for this one. There is a difference between those who crave being on stage and being in the moment and those who do the act solely for those few moments when its all over. Now, I can’t think of a performer want doesn’t want to hear applause and know that the work they have done is appreciated…but it should be the icing on the cake. Not the reason you perform. Applause will come and it will go. You could put your heart and soul into something and people just might not like it. Does that mean your work, your passion, your worth is lessened? Well, if you live for the applause it does.