I used to be one of those girls who lived and breathed the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11…until I realized that I didn’t like God’s plan for me. The plan that I was told I had to trust. I had spent my entire childhood and teenage years working towards becoming a professional dancer, and these words shattered my entire world.
“We think you’re a beautiful dancer, but your body just doesn’t fit the part.”
My body? But what was wrong with my body? I was 5’1, and 118 lbs. I was a sophomore in high school, and doing all that I could to maintain that weight as best as I could. My heart was broken, and I felt like a piece of me died that day. All I could see flashing in my head was “you’re not good enough.” And that was enough to push my love for dance out of the door.
Fast forward a few years, when I took a leap into the pageant world. Not too drastic of a leap coming from the competitive world of dance, but I did know that this was going to be allllll about image. And I was absolutely right. Luckily most of the “tough love” I received towards my body didn’t come around until college, but when it did, it came in like a wrecking ball (sorry Miley, it’s the best reference for this.)
I was 19 years old, and finishing up my sophomore year at the University of Alabama. I traveled home to South Carolina every weekend until I won a preliminary title to qualify for the Miss South Carolina pageant. It took me 5 solid weekends of travel, but I finally won Miss Piedmont aka my Golden Ticket to the big show. From that point on I would hear the gossip, read the oh-so-lovely Voy board posts about me, and once again all I could see flashing in my head was “they still don’t think you’re good enough, so you aren’t.” Every year the same words would be said to me:
“You could absolutely be the next Miss America, if you would just lose 10-15 more lbs”
But why 10-15 lbs? I was a healthy college student. I frequented our student recreation center, and took advantage of the healthier options at the sorority house during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I took a step back from the party scene once I saw just how many calories were in those lovely drinks I had been consuming. 10-15 more lbs? How? Never eat again? I always envisioned Miss America to truly be the girl you wanted to hang out with, the one who would fit right into your group of friends. She wasn’t this unattainable figure who starved herself to look the “best” that she could, she was absolutely your hometown best friend. I knew I would be Miss America, but if it meant not being true to myself, then that was a title I was absolutely ok never holding.
“I have plans to prosper you. To give you a hope and a future”.
On Sept 19th 2013 I was reassured that Jesus sure does have a crazy way of prospering people. I gave birth to my son William, and I was scared to death. I was 23 years old, unmarried, and in the South those are just two things that make you feel like you’re permanently wearing a scarlet letter loud and proud on your shirt. I questioned my decision of keeping William once, but never again (and that questioning came around 3 am a few months later when I was dealing with a baby who refused to sleep…so I can 100% that no matter what your life is like when you become a mother for the first time you can agree, we have all been there.) I was extremely lucky in the sense that I hardly gained any weight, and once I had William I dropped even more weight and was finally the “size” that people had wished I was back in my “glory days”. I was exhausted, but more importantly I wasn’t caring for just myself anymore so I let my physical appearance take a backseat. Within a year I gained all of my weight back, plus 20 additional pounds. I was miserable, but I was also happy. Happy because I had this absolutely perfect baby boy who everyone adored, but miserable because I had let myself go.
Then I met someone. Someone who made me feel incredibly beautiful inside and out. Within weeks of us beginning a relationship, he wanted to meet my son. I couldn’t believe it…was this my plan for a future? It had to be. The first few months were amazing. He loved my son, he loved me, and we were making plans for OUR future. For the first time in a long time, I was no longer miserable. I was happy with all aspects of my life, and it was incredible. But my weight? Yeah that was still the same. This guy seemed to love me for me so who cared what I looked like? Not this girl.
And then came the boom. The inevitable. The moment that seemed to stop my whole world every time something would seem to be going right:
“You know, you would be a lot more attractive if you just lost a little weight. You’re beautiful, but maybe we could start going to the gym.”
Strangely I wasn’t as hurt as I thought I was going to be. I really thought maybe he was saying this because he really did love me. Stupid me. He didn’t. Suddenly, he didn’t believe in my hopes or dreams that I had. I realized that my shot at being a state title holder in the pageant world wasn’t over, but he didn’t care. In the blink of an eye, he was gone. Just like that.
Press the fast forward button one last time, to today. Today, I am the reigning Ms. South Carolina United States, and will compete in the Ms. United States pageant this summer. I have lost over 40 lbs—not for anyone else but myself. I have become a bit of a “gym rat”, and find myself there 4-5 times a week. I began running once my ex left me, and now I’ve run 4 5k races, and enjoy the time to myself during my runs. I spend most of my spare time away from family life traveling to schools promoting the importance of childhood literacy, but most importantly I have the opportunity to give everyone I meet the chance to believe in themselves again. I love being able to empower women of all ages with my story of never giving up on who you know you want to become, no matter how long the journey may be. I love meeting other single moms, and sharing our stories of struggle and how our children empower us to become better than we ever imagined we could be. I love meeting other pageant contestants, and teaching them the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Because while I know I could’ve been a great Miss America, I plan on being the *best* Ms. United States, but most importantly I plan on being the best mom, daughter, sister, and friend because of my life experiences thus far.
May 2015 to April 2016
When I was asked to write this blog post, I knew I wanted to share my story, but I wanted people who read this to understand the importance of believing in the power of YOU. YOU are beautiful, YOU are incredible, and YOU are so much more than what other people lead you to believe. No matter what stage of life you’re in, or what tribulations life is throwing your way, YOU will overcome it. I knew I was beautiful no matter what my scale was telling me. Heck, my parents have told me that my whole life. But it wasn’t until I started working hard for what I wanted—for ME—that I truly realized just how much more beautiful of a person I was becoming. YOU can absolutely write the best chapter in your life once you believe in the power that YOU have.
So now I am coming around to once again believe whole heartedly in the words of Jeremiah 29:11. The Lord does have a plan to prosper me, it just may not have been in the time of my life that I wanted. But I’m a firm believe that he’s prospered me more in the past 2 ½ years than I could have ever imagined. And His plan for my hope and for my future are probably just as good, if not better.