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.