Can I start this post by being flat out honest with you? There have been days where I thought I was ugly. I picked my face apart because I disliked some of my facial features—my nose looked weird sometimes and my bottom lip is slightly bigger than the top. One eye seems more open than the other when I take pictures. My ears look like elves. I was so nitpicky. I’ve even compared myself to other women, more so to admire them and belittle myself. “Her abs are perfect... Her butt looks better than mine… Her nose is perfectly contoured. Her hair texture looks prettier than mine… Her skin is so smooth and flawless…”
"Insecurities are ugly. Stop wearing them!" #Beauty101 -Miss T.N. King
In Journey to the Crown I announced that I will be a contestant for the Miss Illinois-USA 2016 pageant. I had to compete with 81 women in swimsuit, evening gown, and interview. This journey was life changing for me--I had to face every characteristic that I disliked about myself. There is no hiding or faking confidence when you’re on a stage in front of hundreds of people being judged on your body and appearance. All of that picking myself apart and comparison had to stop. After all, I knew that if I didn’t own my beauty and love everything about myself, then the judges certainly wouldn’t.
“Leaving your house without your confidence is like trying to drive a car with no gas—you won’t get anywhere.” –Miss T.N. King
Prior to the pageant, I struggled with some body insecurities. My stomach had a little extra meat on it. By no means was it huge; I could still wear nice outfits and look "in shape". But it wasn't the nice, toned lean set of abs you see on the famous Victoria Secret and Instagram models. Then let's talk about my booty: I have one. I’ve always loved having a curvaceous figure, but the complete opposite happened when I started to prepare for the pageant. I put this thought in my mind that I had to lose my curves so I could look like the past winners or typical pageant prototype. I remember complaining to some of my friends how hard it was for me to lose weight in my lower body. I remember working out really hard and then staring at my thighs in the mirror. They were still there. “Ugh, why won’t they just go away!”
I was trying to mold myself into something I wasn't created to be instead of embracing and improving what God gave me.
Ladies, why do we do this? I'm not just talking about physical appearance. Even in relationships, jobs, and everyday situations, we try to change ourselves for the acceptance and approval of others. For example, you know you love chicken, lobster, and ice cream. But Bae is vegan—so you now cut out all animal products in attempt to appeal to his lifestyle and preferences. Perhaps you silence your intelligence at work because you don’t want to come off intimidating to your boss. Or maybe you know you want to be a business owner, but instead you’re wasting thousands of dollars in medical school because your parents always wanted you to be a doctor.
Doesn’t all of this sound foolish when you think about it? It’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel love and accepted, but it’s a problem when you start to alter who God created you to be in attempt for that. I wish we realize that the only acceptance and approval we need is from God—people’s opinions don’t determine your salvation.
I remember my mom yelling to me, "Boo, you are not some skinny little girl who’s “up & down” and “across”. You need to accept that and realize that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes!"
Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. She was right. Who said I had to be super skinny and bootylicious-less to win? And, if I don’t proudly represent my body type, then who will?
The answer is no one. No one said “KING, you must have a thigh gap if you want to be Miss Illinois-USA!” There was never a weight and height requirement for the pageant. Yes, a lot of winners have toned and lean bodies—but a toned and lean body appearance varies on different shapes and heights. I poisoned my own mind with these silly expectations hoping to be seen and accepted as beautiful enough to be the pageant winner.
After I got done crying I said “F**k It.” I put my thigh gap goals to rest and just started to focus on being fit and healthy overall. If my thighs still touched? F**k it! As long as they were toned I was happy. If my butt looked too big in my swimsuit on stage? F**k it. And if anyone had a problem with it, they could kiss it too. :-) By no means did I say “F**k It” to my diet and training regimen. I ate VERY clean and worked out six days a week. I developed so much discipline, will power, and self-control. But this time, I decided to create more realistic expectations for my pear-shaped body and love my progress along the way.
So you’re probably wondering what my pageant results were. I finished in the Top 20 out of 81 contestants with an Honorable Mention award. I lost 25 pounds and finally achieved the 24 inch waist I talked about having in my "Chicken Biscuits & Abs" post--all without a personal trainer (Yes, discipline & hard work pays off). I went from size 6/8 to a 0/2. I still have my curves and appreciate them more than ever. Peep the photo slide show below to see a snapshot of my competition.
Queens, there’s power and beauty in pursuing your dreams fearlessly, confidently and unapologetically.
Some of you may be thinking, "Oh really?! Well you still didn't win the pageant after all of this! You just wasted a lot of your time, money, and energy to lose in a competition". No, I didn’t win because it simply wasn’t God’s will. Sometimes you will work so hard for something and still come up short in the end. Then you may think, "Why did God allow this to happen?! Why did He allow me to spend so much time, money, and energy on someone or something when He already knew the end result wouldn't be what I wanted." Sometimes it's not always about the end goal; it's about the process you go through to get to that goal. That relationship may not have worked out, but in the midst of it you learned so much about yourself and your worth. That job may have had an expiration date, but you gained so much experience and skills while having it. And for me, I did not win this pageant, but the process that I went through to prepare myself for it is what made me kiss those ugly, inner layers goodbye and welcome my true beauty.
My life has changed for the better—almost a month after the pageant, I still workout six days per week and eat pretty clean (with some drinks, fries & desserts here and there—it’s called balance :-) ). I’ve fallen in love with myself and my more confidently beautiful mentality. Thank you to everyone who showed me love and support along the way. I wouldn’t be this successful without you, your prayers, and God. Right now I feel so fortunate and favored. I'm advancing in my professional career, enjoying life’s pleasures, and focused on moving to my dream city. I am exactly where I am supposed to be and I can’t wait to share more of my life’s journey with you all. In the meantime Queens, I want to encourage you to shoot for the stars. Even if you miss, you’ll still be amongst the stars. God bless you always.