I said this was going to be different and that I didn’t know why. As I sit here with a belly full of spaghetti, sleepily replaying Saturday evening’s crowning in my head, I now know why it was going to be different. While I may have walked away from the week having not heard my name called for a single thing, my heart was filled with pride and joy as I watched my talented, intelligent, passionate, driven, beautiful best friend garner the title of Miss New Jersey 2014. To be honest, that’s all I needed to hear. We started the journey together, and as crazy as it seems, I think I was happier for her than I would be ever be winning it myself. I sit here with tears in my eyes but can’t help to get emotional every single time I think about it. Cierra and I’s friendship goes way beyond Miss New Jersey week and local pageants. She isn’t just my pageant friend, but my real friend. I’ve watched her dance at football and basketball games, we’ve become each other’s family, we’ve laughed together, cried together, spent countless hours talking about everything and nothing, we’ve exchanged “i miss you” texts if we go more than 2 days without speaking. So you can imagine my joy when I didn’t hear her name Saturday night as the roar of the crowd took over. I will quote Drake in saying “WE MADE IT” because that’s how I felt. For every person who told us we wouldn’t be Miss New Jersey because of our ethnicity/race, for every person who said we’d never be picked because our platforms weren’t relevant, for every boy who stomped on our hearts, every person who commented on our weight or our style, for every person who placed negative stigmas before even speaking to us because we aren’t your typical pageant girls.. in that moment, she defied all of that. I say ‘we’ because she made the statement for herself, for me and for every single woman who has been objectified in one way or another. The disappointment of my own shortcomings during the week dissipated with her win. She has pushed down doors, shattered the mold and is creating a new meaning of what it means to be Miss New Jersey. She called me this morning to talk about her “business plan” and while she couldn’t tell, I was sobbing while my phone was on mute because I was SO DAMN PROUD of her. With that pride, comes a new found hope. Because when that pretty little crown was placed on her head, I thought “If Coco can do it, I can do it.” She was already Miss New Jersey long before she won that title, and will continue to be long after she gives it up. She never ceases to amaze me, but the instant inspiration and motivation I felt is something I hope everyone experienced. By no means is she ‘average,’ but her down-to-earth persona, work ethic and beautiful soul is what I hope everyone gets to experience when they meet her.
I had an absolute blast with my Miss NJ sisters. This was probably my favorite year for so many reasons, but each night I stayed up working out with Brenna & Melissa, talking to Sandra from across the room, or huddling on the bed in the Hospitality Room with 10 other girls laughing about nothing and eating (and also forcing them to watch the hockey game despite their refusal). I really was surrounded by the most wonderful group of women and left feeling empowered. So my thanks goes to all of them for being themselves, my family for being there to watch me every night, my trainer for kicking my butt and rewarding me with chocolate covered pretzels, my director Babe for loving me and telling me I’m pretty 🙂 , my pageant sister Victoria who I got to know so much better and adore, my little stars for being precious human beings (see photo below), George, Fidel, Ari, Dante, Lauren, Joe, Kaity, Ronnie. The list goes on and on. I love every one in my life and I mean that.
Now, I’m sure you’re all probably wondering– what’s next for you, Anna? Well, aside from being the co-founder of the Miss New Jersey 2014 fan club, I am happy to say that my dream of Miss New Jersey isn’t dead. Cierra has already shared so much of her life with me and I hope to someday experience that joy and accomplishment on my own as Miss New Jersey. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, so with the blessing of my family and director Babe, I have decided to complete one last time, God willing.
I leave you with this: “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.”