What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been! I am going to take a little detour in telling my story through quotes and write about my pageant journey, starting from the beginning (which happens to be a year ago).
For those of you who have been following, I was crowned the first Miss DC for America 2019 on April 14th. There have been so many different emotions since then, here we go… putting it all into words…
Every year I come up with a big event/goal to accomplish, it started after college and getting on stage at a bodybuilding competition. That goal took 9 years to accomplish, but every year I set the same goal, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I have come to learn, if I can’t stop thinking about it, I need to keep working until I do it. So 2016 I accomplished the goal that I had set almost a decade earlier. I had put so much pressure on myself that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped to but I did it, which was what mattered at that point. The next year, 2017, I set the same goal, this time a different federation. The prep was a bit easier, the stress wasn’t as high and I absolutely loved being on stage! Last year, 2018, I was thinking about my next goal, did I want to step it up and get my pro card or try something different? All of a sudden I started researching pageants. The more I learned the more I could picture it, utilize the additional exposure for something good, to make this world better (as cheesy as that sounds). I knew about Miss America and Miss USA but what happens if you are too old for either of those? While I could probably pass for the late 20s age cap, my birth certificate indicting I am in my early thirties would give it away. I quickly became overwhelmed and knew I needed to find an expert. I wanted someone in the DC area, bingo, Pageants to Go! I met with MT Duvall towards the end of February and we started in on a plan… little did I know where it would lead me a year later.
We had decided the International Ms pageant would be a great place to start. I applied and soon became International Ms Virginia 2018!!! I had a crown and everything!!! Now what!?! I needed to figure out my platform, something specific I could advocate for during my reign. In general, I have a ton of interests so narrowing down one area I wanted to help with was going to be difficult. I prayed and prayed for an answer. One night, I woke up, sat straight up and said “Inspiration Across Nations, a place to inspire people and make it easier to volunteer”. While getting an annoyed look by Keeley, my dog, for waking her up in the strangest way (although I can’t say this is the first time that’s happened), I typed www.inspirationacrossnations.org into GoDaddy, it was available. A sign I should proceed.
There is so much that goes into getting ready for a pageant. I was researching events I could attend, emailing them introducing myself, my platform, that was similar to my line of work, sales. Then comes the area I knew very little about, photo shoots, picking a head shot, makeup, hair, gowns, appearance outfits, massive earrings, stage outfits, how to walk, how to tell my story as concise as possible, social media – just to name a few. Along the way, MT introduced me to another coach, Julie Cangialosi.
As I neared taking the International Ms stage in New York City, I was excited, nervous but felt as prepared as I could be. I went into the weekend with an amazing team behind me, amazing support and knew I was on the path to something good. It was a blast to get on stage but it didn’t quite end the way I was hoping. As they say, you never know what a judge is looking for, it wasn’t my time. I felt a little discouraged but at the same time I knew I had grown in ways I never would have without the experience. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do another pageant but it didn’t take long (or much) to convince me otherwise.
The next week, I had reached out to Julie to debrief about the pageant, what I learned, what I could have done differently, if I wanted to do another and (if so) which pageant system? As luck would have it, the Mrs. America organization had just announced they were starting a Miss for America division, women 18 and over, not married, no age cap. Having attended the Mrs DC pageant in 2018, I had a feeling I should go for it. Soon after I applied and became Miss Capitol Hill DC for America 2019!
I was much more comfortable and hit the ground running with the new title! I felt like I knew what I was doing a bit more, it didn’t seem as daunting, plus I had started to build an amazing team around me. During my reign as Miss Capitol Hill DC from October 2018 and April 2019, I attended/volunteered over 30 events, one TV mention, spoke at the DECA conference, 4 photo shoots, wrote over 10 blogs for Inspiration Across Nations, launched meganeunpu.com, started this blog series (7 and counting), started a new charity organization Operation XYZ, hosted the first Inspiration Across Nations Soiree, helped raise almost $30,000 for 5 different organizations and have met so many amazing and inspiring people! See a short video clip here!
Walking into pageant weekend for Miss DC for America, I felt even more prepared than the last pageant. I knew I had done everything I could over my local title reign, now it was time to just enjoy the spotlight. I spent the weekend at Watergate, gathering my thoughts, relaxing. Sunday morning came and my team met me in my hotel room, I opened the door “ITS PAGEANT DAY!!!!”. After my hair and makeup was done and I got a quick pep-talk from my team, it was off to the Kennedy Center for interviews. I was a bit nervous about this part, I have done so much that sometimes it is difficult for me to show it all. I walked in and there were 5 friendly faces looking at me as I said hello and they started in on the questions. Those 4 minutes went quick! I couldn’t help smiling! After everyone finished interview, we went into rehearsal, walking out on stage, hearing the music we would walk out to… gave me chills! Then we had a few hours before show time, amp’d up the makeup, made sure the hair was good and put on the swim suit!
There were a few moments during the pageant when time stopped, there were times I looked out and thought man… I am on stage at the Kennedy Center, there were times I thought shoulders back, belly in, breath, there were times I just took it all in. I had my family, friends and sponsors (who have turned into friends there), they had light up signs which made me smile even brighter! Just the act of coming to see me on stage was so heartwarming… I am blessed in so many ways.
After the gown portion, there was an intermission, a few minutes to get off the feet before awards. As we went back on stage, my title was called for Most Photogenic, Entourage and Fabulous Face. Aahh… I made it into the top 4!!!! On-stage question is what separated me from the crown… I was the first one, the question was pulled by a family friend, I remember getting a chuckle from the crowd after I thanked her for picking a great question. I responded, ended with a thank you and received applause, hoping my answer was enough detail without being too long. The rest of the semi-finalists answered their questions as I stood, smiling, excited and nervous for the results.
Finally, it was time… time to announce the first Miss DC for America… Renee, the announcer, goes 2nd runner up is… Trinidad! Applause. 1st runner up is… Adams Morgan… Applause. At this point I am doing the math in my head… that means I won???? I looked out in the crowd and saw my friends and family mouth “she won” but I didn’t believe it until they said my title. I stood there patiently waiting… “and the first Miss DC for America is… MISS CAPITOL HILL!!!” How exhilarating!!! I walked to the front of the stage, beaming!!!