The Death of Being Exceptional from a former Miss America Contestant

“I was not born an exceptional person but I made a decision to become exceptional because of the high standards of the Miss America Program.”

Day by day and inch by inch, iconic institutions are “watering down” their standards to the point of the danger of complacency. The Miss America Pageant is the latest target.
I read the talking points on the Miss America press release and I spoke to a board member who serves on the Miss America board along with communicating with former Miss Americas and contestants. I understand this is a hybrid mess of issues that includes the former Miss America Board, #Metoo Movement, sponsors and ABC’s supposed requirements for a national audience. I understand this is a difficult time of rebuilding and re-branding the Miss America Pageant.
So is lowering the standards of competition the answer? Here is my take on how I used the exceptional skills in pageant competition from the Miss America Program to achieve my wildest dreams.
First of all, I am not an exceptional person. I was born into a family whose father did not complete the 10th grade. We lived in an old tenant house and struggled to make ends meet. Our “food stamps” were Daddy growing cabbage in the winter. I was told I looked like a boy with my short hair and over-sized lips. I was diagnosed with Dyslexia and discouraged from attending college. I was fired from my part-time job as a teacher. I have a low IQ and struggled to be accepted to Columbia College in Columbia, SC. I entered college on academic probation; Daddy paid for my college tuition with cucumber rebate money and a government grant. I even worked in the tomato fields to help Daddy send me to college.
Then I was exposed to the Miss America Pageant. Now, listen to this—The Miss America Pageant was everything I knew I could become but I also knew I was not. It was a standard of excellence to be physically fit, have great communication skills, develop my talent and create a sense of style. Whether we want to admit it nor not, this is success in life on steroids. Miss America became a fast-track experience for me to achieve personal excellence from top to bottom.
What is the net-net? For me, I gained confidence to tackle my dreams. I won more than a “rhinestoned” crown. Through my training from the Miss America Program, I had the opportunity to give back, help others achieve their dreams, and pay for my graduate school studies. I was recently inducted into professional Speaker Hall of Fame, I wrote two best-selling books, my comedy is featured on SiriusXM Radio, and I am a professional singer. AND there are lots of MEs out there who have done the same thing and much greater under the influence of the exceptional standards of Miss America Program.
I asked my favorite speaker, Dr. Nido Qubein who transformed High Point University into an amazing experience in higher education, what was his biggest challenge? Nido said, “Being complacent.”
I can only wonder if I would be experiencing the same level of success in life if the new rules of Miss America were in place when I was a contestant; if the pageant system was not as exceptional as it has been in the past? Would I have just settled for mediocre?
As I said, I was not born an exceptional person but I made a decision to become exceptional because of the high standards and rigid competition of the Miss America Program.
So I ask you, why is being exceptional becoming more unacceptable?

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