What next?

First off - intros (again). I am Erin Husbands, owner and founder of The Crowning Moment. If you are just joining in, I am on a 19 day straight pageant adventure and these are snapshots of my life as a pageant coach. I just left International Jr Miss in Nashville, and now I am in Boca Raton at USA National Miss with a different group of TCM girls.

I promise I'll bring you the second part to the conclusion of IJM for the older girls, but since today is travel day, I really want to share a few funny things from last week to lighten the mood. I've had a lot of calls & texts that I'm making too many people cry SO since I am a kind Supreme Leader, I shall make you laugh.

Ever see that Disney/Pixar movie, "Up?" You know the one - with Doug, the dog who can talk and when he sees a squirrel he gets distracted and yells, "SQUIRREL!" So Thursday I was attempting to find my way to meet Kelsey Wilkes in order to prep her for interview. The Opryland is basically a city in a glass dome and I was lost. Well I stop to figure out where I am. I hear this squeaky but barking noise and start looking around, trying to figure it out. All of a sudden this furry small creature runs across my foot in the hallway of the hotel rooms and I scream "SQUIRREL!" and was so startled that I attempted to climb the walls like Spiderman. (Newsflash - it isn't possible unless you are Spiderman so I don't recommend you trying it.) I had flashes of movie scenes from "Christmas Vacation" and "Up." I tried helping the squirrel out of the hallway but poor little guy was terrified. Though to be honest, I was still startled and probably more terrified than he! I eventually found a hotel worker and let them handle the daring rescue. (Eventually I found Kelsey and all was right again in the pageant world.)

Next one is about me (Shocker, I know). I was laughing at myself this morning after getting my two hours of nap time before getting up to travel to Boca. Y'all! I looked a hot mess. Death roaming the halls would even be embarrassed to be with me. I laughed because I thought about how cute I was when I arrived two weeks ago at Miss HSA. Then how I still looked presentable when I arrived at IJM. As the days passed at IJM, each day my impeccable presentation slowly declined. That night I stayed up (which was a total of 43 hours straight that I hadn't slept) really did me in! Saturday for finals I was a complete hot mess BUT my TCM girls were perfection! As their coach, I will always sacrifice myself for them and trust me when I say my looks were definitely sacrificed!!!!! However, I did manage to slap makeup on - to which I eventually cried off so I still have yet to know what the point was of even putting it on!

Ok let's get back to the original reason why anyone is interested - the girls. Sadly my preteens and jr teens did not break top 15 at IJM, nor did my Miss. Huge bummer. Huge. What happened? It just wasn't meant for us to go down this path right now. But I stepped back and realized what all TCM girls had accomplished. I was blown away with this:

Karoline Molander - International Casual Wear Jr Princess Queen, $500

Addison Plauche - Jr Princess Top 15 placement

Kailah Fresina - Jr Princess Top 15 and Jr Princess Volunteerism Award, $100

Natalie Reed - 2RU Princess Division Casual Wear & Princess Division Volunteerism Award, $100

Gabriela Gonzales - Princess Division 3rd place talent award, IJM Princess Division Overall First Runner Up, $560

Caitlin Hager - Preteen Division Volunteerism Award, $100

Layna Baker - Jr Teen Casual Wear, 4RU and Jr Teen Volunteerism Award, $100

Lilija Shuger - Jr Teen Talent Award, 1st runner up

Ummmm, yea - That's a lot to be proud of - FOR SURE! My tiniest TCM girl at IJM was KK and she won Casual Wear over six year olds, some 7 year olds! And what I'm most proud of is TCM girls won the Volunteerism award in four out of the six divisions! Yep - I'm beaming!

When the last of the three finals named their top 15 and we were out, I was bummed and we needed a break. So we had ICE CREAM! Wouldn't you know it but TCM girls Addie, Natalie, Hannah, and Gabriela all decided they wanted to play pageant AFTER the pageant was over!?!??! Now if you wanted them to practice they probably would've fought me on it but NOW??? They couldn't get enough of pageants so they decided to start playing pageant. They modeled in the middle of the ice cream sit down area AND then took over the tables to have interview. To wrap it all off, Natalie and Gabriela choreographed a 4 minute opening number, complete with introductions! The moms and I had to go down on the stairs at the Opryland and play music for them to perform it while we videoed. Then they all played "crowning" and we watched their best crowning moment faces, and we laughed! Hilarious!

It made me happy to seem them really love what they do - pageant competitions. The girls are the ones who want to continue competing - it isn't the moms. Moms support, but never push the girls into it. It's a rule. The girls have to approach it all with a meaningful purpose.

Fast forward to later that evening after the great pizza blunder (*cough cough, Amanda Reed*). (Insert smirky face with side stare) One by one I caught up with my preteens and jr teens after their finals, after they had not advanced to the Top 15. Time had passed and so now the emotions I was seeing was after their emotional release (if there was one). The moment I did not hear their names called my brain immediately switched from pageant coach to friend. I had to find the words and actions to best tell them they were awesome and this moment is NOT the end of the world. It's a very hard concept for anyone to grasp until you've lived a long life this way. It wasn't until my last 2 years of competition that I finally understood this. I started realizing that no matter how long I chased the Miss America crown - I knew deep down it was not God's plan, but it did not keep me from trying. I just had a different acceptance about it. I get these "feelings" at every pageant. I "have a feeling" before finals start so I have prepared myself in order to react if the news isn't good for us. I know these girls well enough to already know what they need. I know who needs to laugh to be distracted. I know who needs to cry. I know who needs to be upset for a minute. Of course there are always surprises sometimes, which is natural. This reaction is important for me, as a coach, to read and help her process. This tells me a lot about their maturity level, understanding, adaptability, and whether this pageant lifestyle is for them or not.

That's the hardest part of my job. I will not push a girl into competition. I won't accept it from the parents either. This has to be the girl's choice and they have to be competing for themselves, no one else. After summer nationals, I reflect on each girl at each competition. Are they ready to move to the next level? Do we need to have them try a different system? Do they need a break? Do I have to let them go? Over the years, I have helped some of my TCM girls transition out of pageantry and into another interest/hobby that is better suited for them. Perhaps they were still to shy in competition to really break out of their shell in order to be successful - maybe dance or acting or cheering could be another outlet to help them break out of their shyness? Who knows? Well, that's why we try new things.

What if the girl isn't working hard enough? What if she is just "phoning it in"? Not okay, because I'm busting my tushy to help them and the parents are working hard to pay for it all - you better work 3x as hard!

What if the girl has lost her kind heart along the way, or her focus? Maybe they need a break to renew their soul or get a new perspective on competition. This is the hard part - telling a family they need to sit out for a time. At the moment, to them, it is devastating. To me, it's painful because I'm causing pain to the hearts of my girl BUT I'm doing it for the very best reasons. I promise. A few of my girls have gone through this over the past few years and when they come back into competition, they are renewed. They are a force to reckoned with. They know that time off was the best thing for them.

Those who know me - know that, though this is my full time job, it has never been about the money. I started coaching for the pure passion of what I do and with whom I get to do with for ... the girls. I have provided extra free sessions to a girl who needs that extra attention, even though the budget isn't there. If she works hard and if she needs it - consider it done! No questions asked. When my TCM girls hit the stage or walk into interview, I want them to be super confident and to have all the tools they need to be amazing!

I can't make promises on pageant successes. I cannot see the future (even though several of my girls truly believe I can!). But what I can promise is that you will feel like you can rule the world and I can promise that I will bend over backwards to give you the moon.

Stay tuned for updates on the exciting week here at USA National Miss in beautiful Boca Raton with TCM girls: McKenzie Nassar, Kate Egan, Desi Templet, and Hayden Johnson plus new pageant friends - Marissa Hitt and Daphne Taylor!