Pageants and Sports and Journalism… oh my!

I can remember being a sophomore in college, overly obsessed with my favorite Miss America contestants and falling in love with writing. Having enrolled in Writing for the Media during my Spring semester, I was learning the tools and tricks of being a good writer and journalist. My professor was probably one of my favorites, constantly sharing her most memorable experiences as an investigative reporter for the New York Post. The time came for our final project–a Feature story. We had the choice of picking who we wrote about, so long as they were a notable figure and, in her words, “were ACTUALLY interesting.”

My choice was a no-brainer, as I approached my professor after class and enthusiastically said I wanted to write about the current Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte.

“If you can get her to sit down and speak with you, sure.” she said. “Good luck!”

There wasn’t a sense of doubt in her voice, but more-so just a little shocked that a 20-year-old was trying to interview a young woman who had just been on national television and was 2nd Runner Up to Miss America. Casual.

I reached out to the Miss America Organization, who directed me to the Miss New York Business Manager, who then directed me to Kaitlin herself. GULP! I explained what my project/story assignment was and Kaitlin responded to my e-mail with zero hesitation, in less than a day, with a time and place to meet with her. [I died inside.]

Fast forward to that evening, as I patiently sat at the Starbucks in Rockefeller Center–questions, notebook and audio recorder prepared. “Kaitlin Monte” appeared on my Blackberry screen that was on the table and the jitters began. Hello– wake up, this is happening. 

I grabbed my things and met her right outside and we relocated to another table just a few steps away from where I had been preparing for the last 2 hours. She respectfully declined after I offered to pay for her Starbucks order and two hours later, an actual dream was lived out. Can you imagine your first real writing assignment, regardless of whether it was for school or not, being on a person you idolize?

I remember walking to Penn Station (yes I walked all way there because I was in a great mood) so excited to get home and write. I got home a little late, but sat at my dining room table, notes everywhere and earphones plugged as I transcribed the answers she gave to my questions. At 3 a.m., my feature story was complete. I stayed up practically all night writing it, having not even realized the time passing or how tired I was. With minor edits to be made after my professor proofread it, I received an A and I was gleaming from ear to ear.

In that moment, after having been so inspired and dismissive to everything in the world aside from the words I was typing, I realized I wanted to tell people’s stories. I’ve said this time and time again, but I’m TERRIBLE at sports. I can shoot a ball and lift weights and all that jazz, but it was never really my thing. However, I love sports. That makes sense, right? When you grow up with a mother who raved about the Bulls and Michael Jordan, you really just have no choice in the matter.

To be able to tie pageantry into writing, writing into sports, sports into journalism and journalism into life is the goal and the dream. I will forever remember the kindness Kaitlin exuded and how she lived up to every single expectation I had of her, even now. Yesterday afternoon, she spoke at Seton Hall as the Women’s Basketball team launched their anti-bullying campaign. As I nervously greeted her because I’m a child, she gave me the biggest smile and hug. Listening to her speak, my mind went directly back to the Starbucks and I took in every word that she spoke. She also equated kindness to donuts, so #winning. AND SHE TWEETED AT ME #doublewinning

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My doubts about my success have been dwindling lately as I have been getting mixed reviews about Graduate School and the broadcasting industry as a whole. I believe God sends us little reminders here and again, so shoutout to the man upstairs. It’s my dream to be a Sports Journalist, dammit. And I will work like hell to be what I want to be, because I WANT to put in the work and I WANT to be successful. Oh, and thank goodness for the Miss America Organization for not only giving me people to look up to, but being someone who is looked up to. It truly is a HUGE blessing/honor/responsibility that I do not take lightly.

Inspiration can come at the strangest, most unexpected time. Remember to be kind and courageous, and never let anyone or anything taint your dream. When you’re dabbling with doubt, follow your heart. Like Kaitlin said, “You know how you become a big deal? By making choices everyday.”

Make the choice to be better and take every step necessary to be who YOU want to be. Your success is a reflection of how hard you’ve worked; your character is defined by how hard you’re willing to work for what you want. Do you, boo. *insert hair flip emoji*

Xo.

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