My entire life has been one lesson after the next and lots of “Oh no, you can’t.” I looked around. I watched, and I learned.
Growing up in the tomato fields on my father’s farm he taught me the value of hard work and honesty. A farmer’s life is difficult for both the farmer and the family, and my mother modeled for us how to use humor to bring levity to a situation, handle harmful emotions, deal with difficult people and find a healthy compromise.
Who knew life lessons would be harvested while working in the tomato fields and would springboard me¬ — a young girl who was bullied for dyslexia and being homely — from the rows of a tomato field, to a Miss America runway, to perform at Radio City Music Hall and beyond? Yes’m, it really happened!
A switch clicked. For every “NO” said to me, I heard “NEXT” and proved each “NO” wrong. I can truly say that I was “driven by purpose”.
I built the mindset to achieve my wildest dreams in the fields, in the wings and on the runways.
Pageant competition set the stage for learning exceptional poise, values, behaviors and communication skills. There, hard work and honesty paid off while I prepared for and competed to win the crown.
And humor, well, that was quite handy to diffuse situations, manage difficult people and handle my own emotions!
It was no small feat to be named Miss South Carolina. To compete on the runway as a candidate for Miss America required an entirely higher caliber than state pageants. There was nothing else in my life that I prepared harder for than that title.
So, how did I do? Well, I did not win Miss America, but I married her boyfriend! To this day, I am certain — the ring lasted longer and is brighter than the crown.
Following my pageant days, I proved everyone wrong that told me “NO.” To that teacher who told me I could never write a book. Two of my four books received awards and best-seller status. For years, my professional career has led me to speak and sing all over the world, including Radio City Music Hall and on SiriusXM, Pandora and other broadcast stations.
Yes, awards were received, but I wasn’t stopping there. While writing the first book, I reflected on my life and my professional and personal accomplishments. Awards and accolades don’t mean anything unless you can use them to help others.
I realized we all need to know what to do
- when dealing with difficult people,
- how to overcome hardships, and
- how to achieve our wildest dreams regardless of swirling negativity.
Inspiration led me to share my motto, “Think ‘NEXT’ when told ‘NO’ because we all should master our runways, and NO ONE should ever let people throw tomatoes at our fields of dreams.”