It’s funny how one thing leads to another in life…especially mine. How growing up in a small town led me to big dreams…singing country music led me to Miss America…Miss America led me to The Amazing Race…The Amazing Race led me to hosting travel shows…….so on and so on….
Through all these travels and experiences I’ve learned a thing or two about a thing or two. About travel, makeup, hair, fashion, people, and life in general, and everyday I have people asking me to share my secrets. Well I’ve never been great at keeping secrets anyway…so…here they come. Welcome to my newest venture. I’ll be going on a new journey while sharing all the secrets and tips I’ve learned from the ones before. I’ll teach you how to go from looking like you could work in a haunted house(for example, the before photo of me above) to looking like a beauty queen, how to travel like Anthony Bourdain and how to dress to impress for all occasions. I’ll tell you about my many bouts with diets and fitness. About allllllll the things that worked and the things that so did not…and how to lose 20 lbs in a month if you so choose to ‘crash diet’(not recommended). And if none of that works I’ll teach you how to do the best spray tan you could ever imagine to tan what you can’t ‘tone’. I’ll shine a spotlight on my favorite places, products, and people, and I’ll answer all your questions. I’ll even teach you how to help your man not go bald…really…I have so many tricks up my sleeve. So here goes…and to think it all started with InstaGLAMMING these shocking before and afters of makeovers I did on myself, my sister and my bestie Shawn. I’ll have links to all the products I’m using, things I’m wearing and places I’m at to make it easy for you to check it out if you so choose…and if not at least keep coming back and reading about all the goings on…
I have started this blog over and over. I’ve rewritten it, added to it, taken away from it, deleted it. At first I went on and on…slamming away at these poor little donut glazed keys…going all the way through Miss America…story after story after story about Rush Limbaugh’s kindness, Mario and I sharing peanut M & M’s backstage, sneaking room service in the dead of the night, prayer circles, race car crashes, security guards wearing air force ones…but as I typed and typed, something kept me from posting it. I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say. So I had to wait. Thank you for waiting too. So now that the glitter has faded a little, now that people have forgotten how to spell my last name, now that I’m back to flipping pancakes at IHop and singing Miley Cyrus songs like a broken record, now that my Miss America wardrobe is hanging from a chandelier in my dining room WAY too small, I am back to the job that I asked for in the first place…I am 6 events a day, seven days a week, driving in the dark, drinking red bull and feeling bad about it and I am even more grateful for this thing that I have. And if there is ever a rare second that I don’t remember what I have, I walk into a store, or a school, or an event and into a room of people whom I have never met before and someone grabs my hand and says…”You made us so proud!”…and I remember. I got the best of both worlds that final night at Miss America. I got more that I ever could have dreamed of from my experience at Miss America then I got to walk off that stage and came back to you…to this. Here is a cliff note version of my Miss America story…(followed by blogback#2, which will cover the three months of aftershock)…
In the moments before Miss America, while all of you were settling into your seats to watch, I was kneeling down in a locked port-a-potty outside of the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino on the fabulous Las Vegas Strip…45 seconds before you saw me hop onto that stage this is where I was…on my knees, my head in my hands, on the floor of a white and green port-a-potty. Outside I can hear the stage crew and hostesses running back and forth shouting, “WHERE IS KENTUCKY!?!?”…”IT’S ABOUT TO START!”…”WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO GO ON WITHOUT HER!!” Inside I knew that the show would begin with or without me, I knew that that floor that I was kneeing on was really dirty, and I knew that there was a small chance that that lock could stick and I would be stuck in there forever…but I had to say a prayer. In a moment like this it is usually hard to think of what to ask for…but I found it quickly. “Thank you for what you gave me, please let them see it, let me shine your light and be ok when I leave the stage…ok?..ok..OK!”…I felt it…I burst out…I was ready. I looked up at the anxious and relieved faces of my search party as I ripped a brown paper towel from my left knee, grit my little teeth together, and ran to join my friends. I stepped on that that magical stage and my prayer was answered. In two hours, something changed me. Every time they called my name, every time I scanned my teary little eyes across those state banners, every time I saw someone jump to their feet when my name was called, I was humbled. I was thankful for yet another gift that I didn’t deserve. And I couldn’t believe I was standing on that stage…I still can’t believe it.Rewind…at 2:00 am the night before I leave for Miss America I am downstairs on the treadmill(in fact, that was the last time I stepped foot on that treadmill), I come up the elevator and smoke is billowing down my hallway. I knew it was coming from my door. I get closer, the smoke is thicker, I begin to run. I walk into my condo and my mom(who was packing my things like I was headed off to my first sleep over) is standing in the kitchen…a broom in her hand and every window in the house wide open…my competition wardrobe is now wrapped in bags and on its way to the balcony…oh…no…The next day on the plane I am cramming. Trying to remember every single thing I have ever done in my life, the judges middle names, the reasons I want to be Miss America…however, that was the last time I thought about these things. As soon as we landed in Las Vegas I felt it. It was going to be ok. We get room assignments…MICHIGAN…YEHHHEESSSS!!…I cried…reality tv filming every second from then on…9 days…9,000 emotions…here are the highlights of the highlights of a typical dream day…Sleep Deprivation…There was no way I got more than 9 hours of sleep TOTAL the entire week and a half. We got in late, ordered P.F. Changs room service at 2:00am. Sometimes Nicole(Michigan) would drift off before it arrived…so I got to eat hers too…I rest my little head on that pillow and 2 seconds later the alarm goes off…4:00am…”Are you gonna work out?”…”No”…back to sleep…one hour later…BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP…time to get up. Rehearsals…we would pile onto the stage, rollers hanging in our eyes, spray tans rubbing off on our t shirts, getting in trouble for laughing, falling asleep, and forgetting dance steps because we were talking or sleeping under chairs…then we would file off the stage. One by one we would hit the ground…boom boom boom…Another one bites the dust…We pile in rows, on top of our dresses, under seats, on top of each other…Piles of these wonderful little women who, through exhaustion, starvation, and emotional strain couldn’t ever stop smiling because we were all living in our dream. We would turn into a bunch of little girls at a slumber party as soon as we hit those floors, only these little girls weren’t watching their beloved Miss America on tv…this year they were the girls…the girls they never dreamed they’d be. And there was something that I felt, all nestled up with Arkansas, and Florida, and Michigan, and New Mexico, and Louisiana, etc…we came to this hotel a few days before as competitors, and now we were nothing but friends. I knew then that I wouldn’t be upset at all if one of them had walked away with the crown. I knew Miss America would be one of the most wonderful girls in the world because they were. They became living proof of a simple truth that I have come to know this year. These piles of my sleeping little friends proved that happiness comes from service. I have met a million smart girls, beautiful girls, intelligent girls, successful girls, but none as happy and joyful and thankful as these. They were given everything in the entire world they could have ever asked for then someone placed a crown on their head, and gave them a special opportunity to use these things to give it all back…and they too had been humbled by what they had. They never appeared entitled or justified to be in their positions, just thankful, and that is a rare and special thing. The common thread that linked us together was service. It was our job to give to other people, and that had changed us. Buffets…I’m talking Thanksgiving on steroids…every food in the world, every reason not to eat it, every day…three times. Interview… Vivica A Fox, Shawn Johnson, Rush Limbaugh, Brooke White, Dave Koz, and Katie Harmon VERSUS ME. You would think the odds would have been stacked against me, but they weren’t. So the moment arrives…I have an opportunity to show these six people what I have to give and I have ten minutes…I walk in…there’s magic in the room. Vivica looks me up and down…from the crown of my head to the soles of my shoes and says…”Well…you’re obviously very physically fit…”…”What, oh my gosh, thank you Vivica…wow…gosh…you should see the rest of them…thank you…” I rambled, they laughed. Questions, laughter, and so many stories finally led me skipping out that door, knowing that it wasn’t a perfect interview at all, but that I had made a real connection. They appreciated my less rehearsed and less refined stories of growing up in the country, and smiled as I told them about always being in trouble for getting my sash so dirty this year…mud spots from kneeling in a pile of dirt speaking to a star struck child at a fair, or pink splatters from eating ten watermelon slices in a minute to win an eating contest at the Letcher County Kids Day. Story after story, then I paused for a second…”You know, at one time during my year I got a little worried that I wasn’t going to be prepared once I got here, then I realized that I was doing the job of Miss America all day every day, and there was no greater preparation than that…” Rush Limbaugh asks me…”Mallory, what does the America Dream mean to you?”…silence…followed by an answer…a realization maybe…“Well…it’s hard work…it’s pride in not taking handouts when you know they’re there…and it’s satisfaction…satisfaction once you get there…(here it comes)…and…don’t you think it’s funny how you think you want something so badly then you get there and you’re already looking for something else?…not because you need something else, but because you know you can do something else…??” WHAT!? Was I asking Rush a question now?…He smiled at me, I stopped talking and smiled back. I scanned that panel and they were all smiling. It seemed as though we all understood what I was trying to say. I think we all kind of knew in that moment that this year Miss America wasn’t going to be the one who had perfect answers, she wouldn’t be the one with the perfect dress, or the one who could walk down those mirrored stairs in her swimsuit without looking down…that crown was going on someone who was already in love with this job, someone who loved giving back and bringing a light into places that had only seen darkness, someone who would use this life changing opportunity to change other peoples lives, and I couldn’t ask for any more than that…”Is there anything else you want to say before you go?”…well…for the first time I didn’t really feel like I did, so I started to leave, then I blurt out uncontrollably…”I just have so much to give…I just have so much to give, and I just love it, I’m just so thankful…and I just, just, thank you…” Lord have mercy get out of that room…I skipped out…Visitation …the hour after the preliminary nights when we got to see our families and friends. After the show we hiked up our evening gowns, slipped on our Uggs and ran through the service hallways in a pack of excitement…”Oh, I just can’t wait to see my mom and dad!”…”I want to meet your boyfriend!”…”Is your sister here yet?”…”Hawaii, can I get a lei necklace?” We squeezed the entire midwest portion of states…or the south…or the north…onto a tiny service elevator all at once. We burst out and get closer and closer to that room. We could already hear the cheers. I made a bee line to the Kentucky table, a table that one year before I had been anxiously awaiting Emily’s arrival, hoping that I would get to be the one who walked through the doors this year. There they were my family, my best friends, my pageant friends, people from my hometown, my college roommate, my sister and brothers friends, they were all there. Clutching my signs, smiling from ear to ear, beaming with pride, making their way into my tiny little arms one by one, and with each teary eyed conversation I knew that I had nothing to lose that week, because they were all already so proud. We laughed, we cried, we whispered and wondered, then we were pried away by security guards and hurried back. As I walked back I remember praying that I would always remember how lucky I was to have them, and praying that I would make them proud on Saturday night…and that prayer was answered too. The only reason that I did what I did, the only reason I even wanted to, the only reason that I will continue to do great things is because so many people did that for me. People in my hometown say that you could walk outside that final night and hear a roar of cheering. They said they’ve never seen anything like it. They tell me their stories, then they start to thank me…for bringing their family together in front of the tv that night, for giving their children an example to follow and a role model who won’t disappoint them, for being proud of being from our small town and for being myself onstage…And in that moment I feel that feeling again, I am humbled to my core. Why in the world do I get to be this person? Why do I get to know people like this? What did I ever do to deserve the love that I’ve felt this year? How in the world could I ever ask for anything else in this world? And for a second I feel a little guilty. How could I have ever asked for any more than this? He already gave me what I asked for…Last July I stood on a stage at The Singletary Center in Lexington, Ky and he answered my prayer. They called my name. I stood in the middle of a stage with a spotlight in my eyes and someone placed a crown on my head and changed my life forever. In that moment I knew that I could never feel justified in asking for anything more. However, before I knew it I fell in love. I fell in love with the job and the change that I was making as I marched into your schools and across your fairgrounds and stages, into your homes, onto your soap boxes to support the things you cared about, and finally, onto a national stage all of this because of that sparkly little crown…that first sparkly little crown. Thank you for showing me every single day that that one is all I ever needed and for sharing in my joy as I wore it. You are the only reason it means anything at all. It is my responsibility and my purpose to do good from here on out, to change the things I’ve seen, to help other people feel what I’ve felt by making their dreams come true, to give back on an even bigger stage, and to show everyone after all of this that it’s not about a crown, it’s not about a winner, it’s not about the judges, the clothes, the fleeting fame, the trip to Las Vegas, it’s about love. It’s about finding a path in this life where you use what you have to serve, and I am thankful every day that this was mine. To whom much is given of much is required…but what about when he gives you this much?I could go on and on about every single little thing that I want to tell you about Miss America. I have pages written, but I can’t overwhelm you with this first blog back…and looking at my schedule(that is completely jam packed from morning to night every day for the next three months), chances are, I will probably see most of you around at some point soon, so I’ll just save them. I just hope all of you know what you did for me. That this was a shared success. This entire year, and especially at Miss America you prayed, you cheered, you voted, you sent trashbags full of cards and letters, you told your friends, you told your parents who told theirs, and you enabled me to succeed. Thank you. I was proud to represent you at Miss America and every day as Miss Kentucky. I wake up every day and remember the way you have made me feel. There has only been one moment of a fallout, of a sadness, of a ‘man, it’s over’, of feeling a little sorry for myself, eating Dunkin Donuts in the dark and watching Marley and Me by myself, my phone sounds like a doorbell on Halloween…I turn it off…that’s when I look over at my dresses hanging from my chandelier and wadded up smashed behind a door, under a suitcase, literally, in my purse…that’s the second I see again that even something this exciting will fade away if you don’t use it every second…and that’s the moment I say, “Mallory Christina get off that couch, what are you doing.?!…I shove the last 5 munchkins in my mouth as I’m smearing makeup onto my swollen little face and throwing on a dress that I know I can fit into and won’t send me running back to that couch and I run out the door…on my way to a school, a hospital, Miss Priss dress shop, the grocery store…and everyone still remembers…”You were beautiful, I loved your dress, your mom and dad were so great on camera…” then a child looks up at me and says, “Miss Kentucky…you have chocolate in your teeth.” …and instead of being provoked to tell this four year old child and her father some rant about being a deprived beauty queen on a rampage after Miss America, I know that all I need to say…all I want to say…and what I automatically say as I bend over and hold my mouth open for her assessment is…”Which One?” As she jams her dirty little fingernail straight into my gums she smiles. She realizes that I am just like her, and that she could do this too. She realizes then and there that I don’t live in the castle in Lexington and that I didn’t come to the grocery store in a limo, that I’m just a real girl who gets to do a really cool job. It has my gift, a gift that I don’t deserve, to get to crash through these misconceptions that dresses, lipstick, pictures, recognition, and a crown will change who you are, will make you successful, will allow you to change the world around you, because you and I both know that beauty can’t change the world…but making a person feel beautiful about themselves can…I am humbled to have the opportunity to do this every day. Thank you for loving me so much, thank you for being proud, thank you for encouraging me to shine that light. I always thought that Miss America would be sort of an ending for me, however it revealed itself as a beginning…the start of something new, something great, and something that I know I can do, because of you. Thank you thank you thank you.
Ps…I dedicate this blog to my dad. Your example alone made me want to succeed, not only in the Miss America pageant, but in my life. You are the example that I go back to time and time again when I lose my way. Now that I feel like I’ve seen the rest of the world I see how special you are, and humble you are. The moment I finished my song I looked over at you. You jumped to your feet, without an ounce of hesitation, clapping your hands and shaking your head…”Wow!”…you said under your breath. I thought the same thing about you. I was so proud you were my dad.Pss…New blog of the past three months is in the works…Thank you for not giving up on me.Psss…Sorry this blog is so choppy and long and not as well written. I knew that I just had to write something, and I knew that you could weed through my banter.
I love Kris Kristofferson. There is a presence about him that is so special. It reminds me of Christmas. There is something that radiates from him that I am certain is a presence that can’t be explained. I feel in his voice, and hear in his songs, and each time I see him I wonder what it is that he understands that the rest of the world (including myself) does not. I also get this feeling on Christmas. I know you feel it too, that unique joy that takes you over. You may not feel it the entire day, but it’s always at some point, at least once, or at least for me it is. Today it has happened more than once. Maybe it’s Miss America, maybe it’s chocolate cake, maybe it’s watching ‘The Blind Side’, maybe it’s my aunts trying on my old dresses and talking about how excited they are about Las Vegas, or maybe it’s just that I finally have that presence that I see in Kris Kristofferson. From serving and loving and understanding joy by bringing it into places that have not felt it in a long time, not even on Christmas. Repeatedly throughout the day and night I remember what it is that I have done, the dirty faces that I have pressed against my own, the towns I have sped through, the adults whom I have somehow renewed a sense of hope in about our generation. And, at this point, you know I don’t sleep anymore…EVER, so at 4 am all I can do is think about it. Will I continue to feel it all the time from now on, not just at Christmas? I am blessed to have been given a feeling of joy, a presence of faith, and a desire to do good, so the question I ask tonight is how in the world could I not? How could my dream ever become a burden? Once you achieve something so great I think it’s easy to turn it into a victory march. It’s easy to see all the good that you do as a stream of justification of just how worthy you are to be in your own shoes, this is where you will lose that joy. I forget it when the mountains become a blur. I forget it when I give a high five to a child as I’m running out of a school instead of holding their little hands and listening to their fifteen minute story that will make me late for my next school. I forget it when I put on a swimsuit and still don’t look quite like I should not be walking a runway in lifesize angel wings, but everyone forgets. I am blessed that it is now rare that I forget because I am reminded of it every day, and because it is my job to remind others. I knew from a very young age that I had an ability to make people feel valued. Despite what society had made them feel about themselves or their worth I could somehow leave them feeling a little bit better about their situation. Whether it was an elderly person in a nursing home who felt that they had nothing left to offer this world, or a child in the mountains who was afraid to smile, somehow I could leave them feeling a little bit better about their situation, and this is why I think I have finally found ‘IT’. This is where my new Christmas(Kris Kristofferson) feeling stems from if I had to guess, and there is nothing that I have ever wanted more. Kris Kristofferson said in an interview a week ago that a long time ago he fell in love with humanity. That he felt a joy every second of every day because he had the opportunity to do something that serves it…Kris, I feel you. And to anyone who reads this, no matter your situation, your hardships, your temporary problems or even the burden of sharing your blessings, remember to find your joy, to be happy, that maybe you don’t have complete control over the cards you’re dealt, but you certainly do have control over how you decide to play them, or how you feel when the game is over…whether you win or lose. Give this year and you will find this joy, not just on Christmas, but every day. The two weeks leading to this hour in the middle of the night were not completely blissful. In fact I think I almost died…but they brought me to this point, in my home, on my couch, surrounded by my brothers and sisters Christmas presents, at 5am typing softly so that my mom and dad won’t find me in blissful insomnia yet again…trying to explain this feeling that I have…synopsis…in my opinion, the best series of events thus far… Thursday night, December 10th I found that my quality of life was not so great as my “Quality of Life” application was due in a matter of hours….and I had to drive 3 hours to Knott county for nine schools, a Christmas parade, light festival, camel ride, civil war reenactment, etc…THAT NIGHT. As the clock struck midnight I was far from Cinderella and closer to Gus Gus the mouse as I tripped down the steps with a pile of clothes and curling irons in my arms in the middle of the night. I began drive at midnight, knowing that I would arrive at 3am and this would give me plenty of time to prepare for my 6am start. This is my life. My mom loves me so much that she tries to make a better situation for my safety by talking to me on the phone the entire night…since driving with one hand vs two over mountain ranges is in fact safe. People usually say that they suffer from insomnia, for the past three months(and especially on nights like this one) I think that I am in fact blessed with it. I arrive. My clothes are still in a pile, hangers hanging off them, curling iron cords scraping across the driveway and I creep into Marada(the kindest woman in Hindman)’s beautiful home. My toothbrush is in my purse, my makeup is wrapped in my nightgown slung over my shoulder, I am a cross between santa clause, homeless, and maybe a very small glimpse of a Miss America …So, 4ish by now, of course I’m not sleeping, 6 arrives in a matter of hours and I am ready to go. SAINT Susan Amburgey greets me a few hours later in all her glory…a bit worried about mine…however, she knows that I can find it by the time we get to the first school, the first of about 9. I regained my will to live at Carr Creek Elementary School. We whip into the parking lot and I look over…the sign out front, where most schools have announcements about parent teacher conferences, swine flu vaccinations, or Christmas break, says, “Welcome Mallory, The Next Miss America” I was now fighting exhaustion, hunger, car sickness, and tears…and I knew at that point that I would be fighting them for the rest of the Knott County day. Especially when I saw those signs the children had made…you know how I’ve described before how it feels to win, how it’s a certain feeling that is like no other, one I can’t describe and one that I thought I would probably never feel it again…well at Carr Creek Elementary School, for one second, I felt it again. I made it through, singing extra songs, asking extra questions. Then Susan drug me into the office to make an announcement …my announcements are risky…I get way too close, talk way too ‘football game’, but they rule…”Carr Creek Indians!!!…I heard someone say that you had were trying to win a little contest by having the best attendance in Knott County?!?!!(I look at Susan for the next thing I am supposed to address)…well I hear you guys are the best, so I expect you to win it!!, Oh and I’ve just been informed that you are about to have testing week, so I just want to make sure you TRY YOUR BEST…GGGOOOO IIINNNNDDDIIIAAANNNSS!!! chckluchulkdfudch I hang the microphone up in the wrong place…I hear a scream…I’ve gotten through to someone. Over the meadows (where we stopped so that I could take a picture with an elk), and through the woods, to school after school we go. There was a little boy who chased me out and almost barreled the door down , “I HAVE A DREAM I HAVE A DREAM , MISS KENTTUUCCCKKKYYY!!” What would he do if I didn’t hear him, if I didn’t turn around, if I ignored his desperate cry? I always wonder that right before I whip around and wrap my arms around them to hear their little dreams. “I want to be a football player”, he had even drawn a picture of his dream. He gave it to me. Another School…Another School…LUNCH(yeah right)…Another School, Another School… The High School, where I am ‘welcomed’ by a few attitudes, slouched back in theatre chairs, ready to eat me alive…these are my favorite scenarios though, because they always end the best. I spoke, we became friends, then I took song requests, ‘Cowboy Casanova’ and ‘I Told You So’, etc. Great Group…Very great…Very Respectful…very sure they will go far. There is so much more to tell about the other thousand schools, but it is now turning daylight, and I must at least get in my bed before my dad gets up and begins his daily Bejing 2008 work out routine and tries to make me participate… So we’re at the last school, and Susan and an English teacher are hacking away at my paperwork in a classroom next to the auditorium. They fixed my grammar, my runnons, and my anxiety for one second, until I decided to listen to my voicemail…”Hey Mallory, I hope that you guys make it to the Whitesburg Christmas Parade by 5, I just saw it in the newspaper that you were the grand marshal.”…”WHAT?!?…IT SAID 6 ON MY SCHEDULE, IT IS 4:30 AND A 40 MINUTE DRIVE!” I dramatically drop my purse and run to the English room, “Susan, it’s at 5 it’s at 5!!!”…and whether she meant it or not she said, ok. It is 12 degrees outside. I had silk pants and a blazer to my name. No time to change into warm clothes, get a coat, gloves…anything. Dale Earnhart Jr.(Susan Amburgey).. herded me into her racecar and instructed me to fasten my seat belt. Oh Oh No. Well we made it, and I was probably as white as a ghost when we arrived to Whitesburg, but ghostly or not, I got there…now I had to get to the top of a convertible somewhere. Susan is driving against the parade traffic holding my crown out the window and she tells me to get out and RUN. I have to find my car, she has to find a computer to print my application. I climb atop a yellow Corvette and confiscate the driver’s red gloves. I watch from a distance as Susan transforms from Dale Earnhart to Hussein Bolt before my eyes as she is now running down the street screaming, “Does anyone have a computer I can use?!? It’s for Miss Kentucky!!! We need to print a paper!!” Luckily she hears a cry from God from the front porch of the funeral home. She disappeared into the front door. I was still there, sitting atop that cold yellow ice cube convertible and went back and forth from santa clause to the grinch to some form of crazy aloof queen that you all have seen in parades where you know she is not really waving at you and is throwing candy to compensate…I am never that queen, but I was so cold I couldn’t feel ANYTHING at all, and my vision was becoming blurred, so I felt like I was for a second or two. Of course the convertible is stick shift, so it was all I could do to hold on for my dear little life(that I want to badly to last until at lease after Miss America) each time it launched forward and my silk pants slid slid all over the top of it. Despite all of this, I waved up a sandstorm…and speaking of sandstorms, at the next portion of the Christmas Parade(The Festival of Lights) I found that I was, in fact, provided a CAMEL to ride. Enough said, look at the picture. Normally in my life, if someone directed me to a camel to ride I would have asked questions like, “OH my gosh how is there a camel in Whitesburg?!”, or “Oh does it hurt it for me to ride it?!”, or “Will it run or buck?!” or anything but what I said this time…”…ok, do I sit on the hump or between the humps…?” I was so cold I was not even phased by the camel ride. I was shaking like I had been electrocuted, spelling my name wrong signing autographs, not in complete control of my arms nor the flaming marshmallows squashed on the end of the sticks as they waved dangerously close to my Whitesburg friends…who I do really love more than almost any city of people I’ve come across. At this point I needed to get to a car. So as we were walking out I hear “Hey Little Lady, Ya Ever Shot A Canon Before?” I turned around with my mouth kind of opened, my face kind of scrunched and red, I could hardly speak because my face was so numb, “No Sir, but when I was on my camel I heard you shoot one…” I knew it was coming…”Well come on over here(somehow this invitation to me also served as an announcement to the crowd to watch me partake in this danger) and shoot it!” I was scared, obviously, but far too cold to care. Even if I had actually been hit with the cannon ball I don’t think I would have felt it…Abraham Lincoln and Robert E Lee handled the safety procedures…this time only addressing the crowd. “Ok everyone, now this is dangerous, step 50 feet away, cover your ears, hide your children, confess your sins!!”” Kidding. Kind of. So everyone is moving further and further into the distance and I am standing there with no other instruction but to hold this string, wrap it across my leg, and pull like ‘the dickens’ when they said so. In this moment, holding that string, one foot away from this deadly weapon I could have felt unsafe…but I was fairly ok with the situation. I kind of felt like I was about to help end the war or something. And the pride and warmth that was radiating from my civil war impersonating friends was surprisingly making me feel ok. If I died in battle I knew it was not in vain. “Here we go!!!” I begin to scream bloody murder as I am now back to scared to death and pulling the cord at the same time…”AAAHHAHHHHHHHHHHH” “RRRRRRUUUUAAAAAAHHHHHHH” I wasn’t strong enough. I think it was George Washington who latched onto me for assistance, we pulled the cord, the cannon fired. I kept screaming bloody murder, even after, maybe from excitement, maybe from frost bite, maybe from the small gash and large bruise and welp I knew was quickly developing on my right thigh, but I finally stopped. They were trying to tell me something important that I had accomplished during this feat that had guaranteed me good luck…Robert E Lee opens his glove to reveal a twisted L-shaped piece of metal…”Ya See this pick?”…”Yes Sir.”…”Nobody ever shoots a cannon off and don’t break this pick, they say if someone actually does it’s good luck that surpasses all kinds of luck…and somehow little lady, you’ve done it.” “AAAHHHHHHH!!” I scream with glee again! He might as well have just set that little pick on my head because I felt like I had just won Miss America in that moment. Just as I am about to say thank you and to give a brief frost bitten spill on how the civil war paved the way for the things I’m now free and able to do etc, I am interrupted by a cry that surpassed all cold, application deadlines, and silk pants with burnt marshmallows stuck to the side of them , “AT MISS AMERICA THIS YEAR, THE SOUTH IS GONNA RISE AGAIN!!!!” There was screaming and cheering, laughing and muffled glove clapping, marshmallows and hotdogs whipping about with excitement, because in that moment, whether it was/is or not, we all knew it was true. I looked at Susan , she looked at me, and we knew that if anyone could make it though a day like that, they were ready to be Miss America. We made our way to the car, laughing, holding onto each other, running into each other, being halfway carried by my poor parade driver who could not get rid of me but felt responsible for making sure I made it to the car considering I was fairly certain that I had lost a toe at that point (either that or he wanted me gone because his girlfriend kept calling him and I believe was on her way there). We got to the car and couldn’t even speak to each other. We had both lost an earring, I had also lost an eyelash, and a few years off our lives…but that day was well worth a year or two. Knott County and Letcher County, I am in love with you. Thank you for loving me too. Stayed up all night again, left at 7 then drove home to throw the annual Miss Kentucky Christmas party for the board. I was informed that the mulled cider that I was so proud of was actually called mulling cider, and that you are not supposed to leave the spices and sticks in it…you are supposed to strain them out…but I was far too strained to read the directions. Next day. Did schools in Harrodsburg, one in a house, then raced back to Lexington then Cincinnati to catch a flight to New York City. My mom, sister, and I were on a mission to complete my wardrobe for Miss America, and we so surpassed anything that we ever could have dreamed…YOU JUST WAIT!! We made it out of the city that never sleeps, that I feel I get along with quite well given this fact, and I don’t even want to wear the dresses and shoes we got because they are so magical. It all came together in those little personal shopping rooms where they lined up things for me to try and fed me pink and green macaroons. We wrapped up our preparations as every single item I needed was unzipped, ready for me to try on, and PERFECT! We stayed at the New York Palace(where Gossip Girl is filmed) and the staff would greet us(all three of us) as Miss America each time we busted through the revolving doors, tripping over the other one because for some reason we all three would try to squeeze in the same section…And I can’t wait for you to see what we found!!! AHHHHHH! Last scream. Sorry. I rushed back from New York to Lexington then had one day to get ten thousand things done, visit my friends at Total Med Spa in Louisville, and prepare for Christmas Eve! I decided, on a whim, while at Marcia’s house sitting on the couch with Kaitlynne Dorothy that I would get my little brother a puppy for Christmas. The last thing I needed to do given my situation. We found a breeder in Georgetown on her iphone and 15 hours later we found ourselves in a stable trying to choose between two tiny little batdog baby pugs. Kaitlynne carried our selection, ‘Raisin’ out the stable doors and she became my best little purchase ever. I loved her. Then that night I kind of lost a bit of the love I had for her as she wouldn’t stop running in circles and licking my face. Thank you to Christian for taking her in the middle of the night so that she would live through the night. The next day I picked her up and we began our journey home, I fed her chocolate Dunkin’ Donut munchkins(not really knowing the whole dog and chocolate thing), but she loved them and is alive and well. And Gabie LOVES her! We all do. Her name is now ‘Pearl’ and I love to hold her in pictures because she makes me look thinner. Christmas Eve I sang in a wedding for my friend Brandon and his sweet new wife Elizabeth, then the most magical Christmas Eve Mass ever, then the wild Ervin Christmas(I am the oldest of 23 cousins on one side remember). My family is the reason I have found this joy, the reason I keep finding it, and the reason that it is so worth it to share it, because they constantly are an example of it. The next day was my mom’s side, and so wonderful as well. Christmas was magical this year, it was different, kind of like it was when we were little. There was a joy, an excitement, a wonder, a wholeness, and a special hope that was there. Maybe it’s Miss America, or maybe it’s just all that joy that I’ve come to feel from all the love I now know. Or maybe it comes from finally realizing that beauty can’t change the world, or who you are, but that making a person feel beautiful about themselves certainly can. Christmas was real. The world was more beautiful. And I am ready.
P.S. I apologize for my blog delay, or lapse at this point, but instead of going on and on about making excuses, I will simply make it up to you by sharing this wildly embarrassing video of me singing at Coal Days at age 6. They say the best gifts to give are the ones that you want to keep for yourself, well you will see why I wanted to forever keep this to myself…So I obviously thought that I was Reba McEntire, and that I was a little bit famous, now I see why my family sat in the back row and the camera shakes while they’re filming, because they’re laughing. If anyone ever thought that I was not born this way, that I am not a true performer at heart and completely in love with the stage, think again. I promise this video will make it worth your wait. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgd2QEhemkM&feature=player_embedded# P.S.S. That’s my mom leaning against the front of the stage in the video…hahahahahaha…not really, but that’s what I would like for everyone to think, so please feel free to spread that rumor. She gets so mad.
Today, in Clark County, I experienced something new. I thought I had been in every situation possible until I did a program in an auditorium where they were giving flu shots on the stage behind me. It was my first school of 8 today(one of 28 this past week) and by far one that I know has prepared me for any interruption in my Miss America interview. So the sound system doesn’t work, naturally, and I begin my program without it…I don’t need it anyway…my voice projects, they’re quiet…ha…”Alright boys and girls, now, I want you to be really really quiet today because the microphone doesn’t work and I have some really important things to talk to you about…it is silent…as soon as I begin my first sentence I hear the deadliest most terrifying scream I have ever heard, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO …AHHHHHHH …NONONONO NONONOOOO!!” Of course it’s a little funny because it was so silent, they were so loud, etc. I felt bad for laughing a little, but I knew that they would soon recover and realize that it wasn’t that bad…I too recovered and went on…surely that was the last one, poor thing, they must be bad with shots. Not the case. I look over and there is a line of children looking like they are about to walk a plank. I am trying to talk to them about dreams and their future and they have this look on their faces like, “I DON’T EVEN HAVE A FUTURE, I AM GETTING A FLU SHOT!” This continues, as do I, and I get to the end and despite their dismay they were rather eager to ask questions. One little girl named Jocelyn, who I had met before her flu shot and had made it out alive, is among the hand raisers. I call her up and she meets the occasion…she slaps a smile on that tear stained face and saunters up. “Jocelyn, since you were so brave getting your shot I am going to let you wear my crown…” In that moment she knew that what she had been through was completely worth it, and I placed it on her head…”Jocelyn how does that crown feel on your head?”…”Sure feels better than that flu shot!!” She was right. It does.
27 schools, far from 27 dresses, I am tired of packing new dresses every single day, so I decided that my coat now counts as a new ensemble. I dress it differently with different scarves, gloves, shoes, until a little boy(while running his sweet dirty little recess palms across my white (fake) fur coat) tilts his head to the side and says, “Miss Kentucky, you look just like my cat.” No more fur. The schools, ranging from Bowling Green, to Grayson, to Berea, to Avalton, to Olive Hill, to Henderson, to places that I can’t even remember the names of, all reminded me that although I am tired, and beginning to get caught up in preparations, I can be nothing but joyful…because at least ten times a day, I see right past it. In moments when I still call on children who are too young to answer questions like, “What is your dream?”…When they say, “Alls my dreams is about MONSTERS!” There is nothing I can feel but joy. I forget that I don’t have all my dresses, I forget that I still weigh a few pounds over 100, I forget that last night I couldn’t quite remember every single detail of the 3,000 page health care bill, and I quickly remember that because of what I am doing I am finally prepared. Miss America is not one single bit about me, it’s about them…and in being so busy that I can’t think about myself I have realized that this is the place where it changes…the place where it all comes together. It’s funny how in the midst of my preparations for Miss America, and the self serving and vanity that could easily come along with it, I have in fact moved further and further from it…for I have no more reason to serve myself…and it is the best place to be.
I spoke of this place for the first time in my ‘going away’ speech at Miss Bowling Green this past weekend. Amidst the emotion from my (improvisational) Latin version of Ave Maria in a spotlight of ‘snow’, giving up my last local crown, and the complete exhaustion from being in probably 40 different cities over the past 8 or nine days with 16 hours of sleep max, something new came over me. It totally trumps feelings of doubt, confusion, or lack of sleep that tend to creep up at this point in time…and I can be nothing but joyful. BTW ‘going away’ speech is in quotations because you know that I am NOT going away…it should be called, the ‘i am letting someone else wear the crown and have my title for a year’ speech…or a ‘vacation’ speech.
I found myself almost slung out of a clown car in one of 3 parades(this one in Henderson, the others in Owenton, then Whitesburg Friday), for real…it was spinning so fast there was g force. I am being violently slung against one clown, then the other clown, the back to the other, and so on…I was deliriously tired, but quickly revived. The clowns are fake laughing and acting out almost flying out and being scared, I, like the children getting flu shots this morning, was screaming bloody murder and fearing for my life was ‘real’ scared.
I was named a Kentucky Colonel(again) this week, got another city key(Henderson), got to wear a santa beard(so that I would stop eating at a Christmas Party), did 2 tv spots that I still haven’t seen, schools, parades, drove, drove, drove, and so on. This week brought me from one side of the state to the other, several times, as well as from one side of the spectrum of emotion to the other, from exhaustion and worry, to confidence and faith. ‘It’ is here, finally, the feeling that I thought I would not have time to obtain. And it is nothing but a blessing…as is every day. As I said(or whoever was speaking for me) in my ‘going away’ speech…I wake up every morning and wonder why in the world I am the one who gets to reach out my hand…why in the world I am the one who was chosen to do this work…I may never know the answer to this question, but I continue to be guided by it…not for an answer anymore, but for proof of it. This is it.
PS…I dedicate this ‘blob’ to my friend Gerald Odom, whom I know is going to be the first one to read it, George Timothy Reed(who has made me laugh so hard this week I think I burst a lung), and Ann Blair’s boyfriend Giovanni, because you let us see that video of you acting out Hercules in Greek Sing.
PSS…Look at Kentucky Monthly! It’s out, as are the faces of my mom and sister(featured photos with me), and the quite obvious fact that they are much much prettier than me. I told you.
well sort of…a coal miner’s grand daughter counts. I never know what type of situation I will find myself in by the end of the day, so when I ended up several hundred feet underground at Riverview Coal Mines with a personalized glittered hard hat on, it was no surprise. Mining has been the livelihood of many members of my community and my family for years, and as I always say, you can’t turn your back on the people who made you who you are. So it is one of my many missions, to educate both myself and others on the good that coal mining brings. We always hear the bad, and like anything, there are things that needed to be addressed…and they were, and continue to be, in order to make mining cleaner. Heath, Ricky, my dad, a man named Cornbread, and I were in attendance underground. They gave me my very own personalized Miss Kentucky 2009 hard hat to keep. If Miss America doesn’t work out look for me underground. Although the mines are cleaner, I certainly was not. I looked like I had been down many a chimney, and of course my dad insisted on ‘running’ by Wal Mart. Noone will recognize me surely…pshhh…as soon as we walk in there are two little boys running at me full blast…”Miss Kentucky!!” They saw right past that coal dust and asked me to autograph their dad’s Wal-Mart receipt…this was my favorite autograph situation to date.
This event was among the 6,000 that I had this past week in my hometown. When I go home I am relentless…I have to be, I love to be. I participated in the largest Veteran parade in the state in Madisonville. I got to do an unscheduled autograph signing when someone fell off the top of the fire truck float in front of me and the parade halted momentarily…they were ok.
I did about 20 schools while I was at home. From Pride, to Madisonville, to Hopkinsville, to Earlington, to Dixon, to every other city in the West, then back to Morganfield…My Morganfield. It constantly takes me back to the moment where every single event from my life in that tiny town came together…to the moment where my dream came true, and in turn began a trend in my hometown among the young people to do the same. I went to St. Ann School until the 8th grade, then on to Union County High School(the only high school in the county). During my trip home I visited both my alma maters. At the high school I stood on the stage in the auditorium, holding the same ruby red slippers that I wore nine years ago on that same stage(playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz). Everything comes together in a matter of seconds in moments like that. However, the moment where it really came together was when we got to St. Anns. As I walked into the parish hall, my reception was similar to a surprise party…or new years…or both. They’ve been counting down the days…they’ve been making signs…they’ve been on the brink of bursting at the seams of their uniforms…as have I. I’m not sure that there has ever been more support in one room. Although they are all in their uniforms(with the exception of the ones in the Mallory Ervin Miss Kentucky 2009 T Shirts) they are far from the same. There is an amazing sense of individuality still present at my old school, but a rare form of it, it’s mixed right in there with an underlying equality. Fifteen years ago, as a frizzy headed little shrimp tomboy, I took hold both of these things and ran with them. They are among the many gifts I was given that have powered my passions beyond those white walls. Those same walls now fence in ten of my boy cousins(whom I made come onto the stage with me and reenact the top five crowning moment). I can only do it to my them. The youngest of the 23, Paxton, a 1st grader there, thinks he is also my boyfriend. He wears a king crown at all time because he says that he is now the king of Kentucky…and he is.
The other schools this week were also filled with ‘moments’…a little boy raised his hand with tears in his eyes and said, “Miss Kentucky…when you sang, it sounded so beautiful, it made me cry.” Of course it moved me to tears, but I was quickly brought back to the real world when I was asked the dreaded, “Did you have to dye your hair blonde to win?” question. They keep me on my toes. Other notable events included mock interviews in Nashville(work outs, etc), a lunch at Cracker Barrel where I signed autographs for over an hour, a visit to the Earl C. Clements Job Corps(where I made some pretty awesome new friends who quickly warmed up to me and let me know that they’ve forever ‘got my back’ and that I have vocally made it, as they jumped to their feet in the middle of my song and began yelling ‘you did that!’…in case you didn’t know, that is the highest achievable compliment.) I also visited the WONDERFUL Home of the Innocents in Louisville for a day. You wouldn’t believe the extent of the services and facilities it offers to help better the lives of any child with a little bit of a harder way to go in life…wings for the medically disabled, autism programs, teen pregnancy centers, a place for children to live who are tossed around by the system or neglected in their own homes, among so many others. We should be so proud to have Mr. Gordon Brown and his team of the kindest men and women in the state doing what they do. It is our duty to help those with less or with nothing at all, The Home of the Innocents have made this not only their responsibility, but their joy. I can’t wait to go back.
I’m leaving things out, but my lazy eye has taken over and I am craving chocolate, so I must head to bed. But to you, thank you for reading. Thank you for your messages and encouragement. Thank you for your pride. And thank you for reminding me the reason why I have been put on this earth…every single day.
P.S…I do have three Christmas trees up at the moment…I am completely overwhelmed with ‘reasons for the season’ this year and Christmas is going to be intense…
P.S.S…Alden, I promise I will call you back very soon…
as I found myself in the mountains once again yesterday, I was quickly reminded that contrary to popular belief…my accent is not that strong. So I was in Clay County, home of Richie Farmer, at my first school, Paces Creek Elementary. I enter. “Hey Paces Creek Elementary!!!!”, “HIIII!”, “What is your mascot?!” They all scream in unison, “The BURS!!” I thought they said birds. “Oh, the birds, I’ve never heard of a school with the birds as their mascot, that’s cool.” I am interrupted. “NO! The BURRS!” I still think they’re saying the birds, so I continue, “Oh, well, I heard that but what kind of birds are you…flamingos, peacocks, penguins??” At this point they are frustrated and I am rambling off bird species like a rap song. At the top of their lungs they scream “THE BURSSS!!” Then one little Kindergarten boy in the front row says, “You know like, RRAAAWWWRRR!” “Oh…the BEARS!” Their mascot was the bears.
And then, for the best story ever. There is this red faced little girl(you must look at her in the pictures, she has on a yellow shirt) in the front row nodding her head, answering my questions aloud, and just really feeling my speech. So, you know the drill, question and answer time. Of course I call on her. “What is your question?”…”I like your dress I like your hair I like your face I like your crown…” she says. “Oh well thank you, you are just so nice. You know what boys and girls it really pays to be nice to people like she just was to me…and because I want to show you all that being nice is so important I am going to let Selena(Selana) wear my crown.” She is giddy with hysteria. I give her the microphone to hold while I pin it on her frizzy little head. However, I quickly see that this was a mistake as she boldly puts it up to her mouth and SCREAMS (pointing her little finger right at her little Kindergarten friend in the front row)…”See Paige…I TOLD YOU STOP SAYING CUSS WORDS!!!!” I lost it…completely. Finished off the Clay County school system with Paces Creek Elementary, Clay Co Middle School, Clay Co High School, and Manchester Elementary. The song requests included “Wagon Wheel”…twice…which I sang while they clapped along(way too fast, I was rapping “Wagon Wheel” by the second verse) and the Dora the Explorer theme song(among others). Refused requests included the songs, “I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It” and “Whisky River”. I had a great time in Clay County…in fact, I think I just might be in love with a few of the children in Clay County.
This week included another Nashville trip(mock interview where we now pretend that one fake judge is Rush Limbaugh). It also included a birthday dinner with my friends Joshie, Chuck, Monica, Robin, Gerald, Cheese Dip, and Guacomole. And a work out that did not work out because I can not say guacoNOle. Oh well. Then Jade and I made a mad dash back to Lexington to transform ourselves into a fairy and a cupcake(I should already have turned into one by now, but somehow have not).
So we race into the door and I begin hot gluing my costume onto my body…safety first has always been last in my book…I just don’t have time for that. But my homemade costume was almost better than the real thing. I loved it. I didn’t want to take it off…however…as Jade and I left Sarahbelle’s law school Halloween party the rain quickly did that for me…posterboard is not waterproof…but my house was close. I love Halloween. I kind of feel like Halloween is everyday for me this year though. When you’re 24 and wearing a crown and eyelashes, it counts as Halloween. By the way, my ‘piece of cake’ costume was far from a ‘piece of cake’ to maneuver in social situations…noone could come within 2 feet of me and the only dance I could do and look cool was the electric slide…because it is solo.
Kentucky Monthly asked my mom, sister, and I to be featured in and on their Christmas issue(coming soon). The shoot was at a winery called Elk Creek in Owenton, Ky, and is a hidden treasure in our state. We shot there all day(pictures, not clay pigeons, I have to clear that up because there is a hunting range on the premises). The place was beautiful, my mom and sister were beautiful(you see why I always say that I am so not the pretty one), and they were decorating for CHRISTMAS…which I feel slightly afraid to admit I have already done…to an extreme. I put up my tree, sorry. I know a lot of people aren’t down with putting a Christmas tree up in late October, but I just couldn’t wait. I will wait until next week to show you a picture to be more appropriate.
Also, part two of my Christmas card photoshoot took place today at Corman’s Marketplace(the BEST decorating store I have ever experienced). It was like being in a snowglobe(and I was the chubby little snowman in the middle of it…no maybe a gingerbread man…whatever). I just know that the delightful men who own it really had me shaken up(laughing) as they flitted throughout the store like little elves with glitter from their head to their toes. You must visit this store. However, you will walk out looking like a mermaid. I swear coughed today and I could see a hint of glitter in the air…but maybe that’s from the Christmas celebration going on in my living room…
Went to the UK game as well…with my brother Pikachu, and sister Tinkerbell. It was fun.
And now, as it is 3:00 in the morning, and I am going to get in trouble by both my father and Kim Canter tomorrow for being up this late when I have to wake up at 6 and drive to Louisville, so I must head to bed. However, there is a reason tonight that I am avoiding going to bed moreso than other nights…because I know I won’t be able to sleep. I am headed west tomorrow to do one of the things that I know will be a highlight of my year. I get to go back and speak at St. Ann and Union County High School, my schools. I know that this will be one of those moments where the madness of this job(still the most wonderful job) and the hustle and bustle ceases for a second as I walk into those gyms…to speak to those children…in the places that made me who I am. I can’t wait to feel that.
PS…Happy Halloween and Merry Christmas!! We will be skipping over Thanksgiving this year in the Ervin household so that I don’t look like a big fat turkey at Miss America…kidding…maybe.
PSS…I’m leaving you with a picture…a Halloween themed picture to remind the world that I was so not cool in middle school…