Once Upon A Time...

I know I'm a little behind - things are super busy at IJM. Let's catch up, shall we?

Monday evening brought the ever-exciting IJM orientation. Now if you have never been to this event, there is more energy in this one ballroom than in the entire coliseum when at Miss USA. (And those words are from Lu Sierra herself!). The energy is blowing the roof off and the excitement is overwhelming. It's just plain awesome! Did you catch the famous name I grew out there? Lu Sierra. The world famous LU SIERRA. One day I totally want to grow up and be just like her. She's fabulous! She's the modeling coach for the entire Miss Universe Organization world-wide as well as the modeling coach for IJM. Yea, I know ... Cool!

Anyway, we met the ever amazing IJM International Queens, IJM staff, went over rules, schedules, and of course IJM starts off pageant week with giving away $6,000 simply JUST BECAUSE! Not a bad way to start competition week! With all this excitement, how we all were able to sleep that night still makes me wonder!

Tuesday, July 4. Happy Independence Day! I'm up at 7am. Workshop begins with Lu Sierra and as always - it is just awesome to be in the same room as her. I always feel like a small child when I stand next to her super model stature.

10:30AM. This full day is dedicated to putting my TCM girls through extensive practicing. It's the final polishing touches before competition begins. We go over modeling, interview, tips and secrets, motivations, hotel routes to get to the convention center, which elevators to avoid, pretty much everything most people don't think of.

12PM. Private sessions begin. (Did I mention I have 11 TCM girls competing this week?) This is private time with each girl to go over certain last minute things from clothing, modeling, or just pure motivation and support. I'm used to long days. I'm used to no sleep. I'm used to no food. My body know it has to live off Neuro, Kazoozles, granola bars, and gum. Each girl is doing killer in practice. I'm not that stressed this year simply because my girls worked hard all year so that they were ahead of their practice schedule.

7PM. Finally, private sessions conclude. The junior division has they PJ Party and this is my one opportunity for a nice quiet bath and a moment for my brain to go offline.

8:30PM. Dress checks.

9:30PM. Time to start prepping interview clothes for Wednesday.

11:30PM. Bed.

Seems like a normal day, right? HA! Let's back up a bit. Remember one of my Jr Princesses, Addison Plauche? I've had her since she was a toddler. Precious blonde with blue, blue eyes. We are very alike. How? We are both adopted. More on that later. But let me give a bit of background. Last year Addie was IJM Miss LA Jr Princess and first timer at IJM. Anyones first time at IJM is intimidating. The stage is HUGE - we were at the Sandler Theater in VA Beach. Everything is just massive to a 4-6 year old. During the optional competitions, Addie got very upset before casual wear. She was nervous. She was unsure. She needed just an extra bit of support. Tears fell from her face and I remember holding her close, telling her she could do this because she was a big girl and she worked hard for this moment. Honestly, I do not care about casual wear at a nationals pageant. I see it as their dress rehearsal on stage in hair/makeup and watching their modeling. I tell them if they are going to feel nervous, do it here. If they will make a mistake, do it here. Leave all the "uh-oh" and "opps!" here. Well Addie got on stage, and did her routine. Scared to death though, but she did it. YAY! Well unfortunately the rest of the week she was NOT having it. My poor baby was unsure. I only want to build up these girls, not put them in therapy for the rest of their lives! Her mom, Allison, and I spoke after nationals about her future. We decided Addie would take a year off. She wasn't leaving the planet, just taking a year off from competition. Well one pageant pops up, she enters. She wins. Addie is feeling good. Another pageant comes up, she enters. She wins. Addie is feeling better. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 2017 comes around. LA IJM State approaches and Addie will be giving up her Jr Princess title. She resumes coaching not for competition but for polishing her queen responsibilities. We go over mic handling, how to introduce herself, speaking to the public, and more. I'm pleasantly surprised by her growth and maturity. I'm loving seeing this renewed self confidence in my sweet Addison.

LA IJM State. Addison is impressing everyone there with her stage presence, her eagerness to help others who were timid to get on stage, her excitement to live in that moment. She beamed on stage. She radiated self-confidence. Even the national director made a comment how impressed she was about Addison. Hmmmmm ....

Shortly after that weekend, after much support, it was decided Addison would indeed attend the 2017 International Jr Miss Scholarship Competition in Nashville. Addison wanted to. Addison made the decision she would work for it. So we, her support system, supported her every step of the way. Coaching resumed, appearances were made, volunteerism completed. Addison was a brand new girl.

People don't always see the benefit of pageantry. Well this is one of them - Confidence. Confidence can be taught. Confidence can strengthened. Confidence can be contagious. Girls can be taught that with support and goals, they can achieve anything. It's just called confidence (sprinkled with determination & ambition!). They may have been scared to get on stage in front of people at first, but in the blink of an eye, they will own the stage and it'll be hard to get them off the stage! Confidence.

Present day. Addison did wonderful in group coaching, but she BLEW me away in her private session. She wanted to keep modeling. She wanted to nail her routine. She wanted to practice interview. The once shy, quiet child I kept encouraging to look me in the eyes and speak louder, was carrying on a lovely conversation like a professional! You could see the excitement in her eyes and hear it in her voice that she LOVED doing this. I choked down tears of pride because my baby was growing up.

So the next time you ask us why we do pageants, remember Addison and girls everywhere who were once shy, quiet kids hiding behind their moms legs - and who are now confident, empowered young ladies who climb mountains everyday to conquer the world.