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Health and Wellness

Fat. Lazy. Plump. Chubby. Out of Shape.

Those were words that were used to describe me over the course of the last four years, stemming from the fact that being a part of the Miss America Organization requires minimal, but enough time on a stage in heels and a bikini. Not your average day, especially with unforgiving stage lights and hundreds of eyes on you. As many have witnessed, I have struggled for quite some time with my weight– for reasons I very seriously wish I knew. I eat well (minus Pizza Fridays) and attempt to exercise regularly. Unfortunately, my college life got the best of me as I was interning, working, studying, dancing insane amount of hours and being a 20-something year old college student (Sleeping wasn’t a part of that list, if you didn’t notice). For some, the fast-paced lifestyle leaves them running on adrenaline and coffee, which too was the case for me. However, maintaining a weight of 145 and lower was and is impossible for me unless I’m working out 5-6 days a week and time sometimes isn’t on my side. It’s just how my body is. I’m trying to change that, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I’m addressing this topic because I was sincerely mortified and heartbroken last week during Miss New Jersey. One of the producers asked the little stars what you have to do to be in a pageant, and my Little Star Lexi shot her hand up, was called on, and politely responded “Be Skinny.” DEAR LORD, WHAT IS GOING ON?! That’s all that ran through my head. I literally went up to her and hugged her because I felt like I was setting an absolutely terrible example in that regard. The fact that an 11-year-old identified my struggles and success with my body image and weight was heartbreaking. After I picked up my stomach and heart from the floor, I told her that no matter how she looked, she would be a wonderful titleholder and set a great example as she already does for her younger sisters and girls in her community. I then explained to her that being healthy is the number one priority… that exercising and eating well is what the Lifestyle and Fitness Award stands for.

Many have commented and complimented me on my hard work and how it was evident when I stepped out on stage. For that, I extend my sincerest thanks. Because to be honest, I busted my behind to get back into shape over the course of six months. It’s not an easy task, I don’t care what anyone says. But it’s part of the job and the competition and I understand that. I catch myself saying that I wish I was thinner and I stop myself in disgust because being 140 pounds at 23 years of age is NORMAL. As I’m saying these horrid things, my trainer is ready to beat me with a kettle-bell so I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. My ‘transformation’ if you’d like to refer to it as such, came from a number of motivators- both positive and negative. For one, I didn’t want to be referred to as any of the things I listed at the beginning of this post. Secondly, I’m not getting any younger and buying clothes as an unemployed college graduate isn’t in the cards. But most importantly, I wanted to feel good about myself. I control one outcome (sorta) regardless of placement or preliminaries awards, and that’s how hard I want to work. I channeled my energy into being a better Anna and essentially to shut everyone up who called me fat.

By no means should you ever be complacent with your position in life. If you want to be healthier, make better food choices. If you want to fit into your jeans better, do a couple extra squats. If you’re happy with how you are, be happy. At the end of the day, I want to be an example of health and wellness and not ‘the skinniest girl in the room.’

Muscles are beautiful, weights are your friend, running is liberating.

If they tell you can’t do something, that means you have to.

Haters gon’ hate, just keep believing in yourself.

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Post-Pageant Phenomenon

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.

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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.

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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.”

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Survive and thrive

The day is finally here. There is certainly a whirlwind of emotion, but excitement and anticipation trump. I have found myself in this position not once, twice or even three times, but FOUR! My fourth year competing for Miss New Jersey. Each year I find myself learning more and more about myself and the world around me– a beauty far beyond measurable means. This unique experience is one that has been had by a diverse, intelligent, beautiful, over-achieving group of women who stop at nothing to ensure their goals and dreams are within arms-reach. I can only hope that those around me feel as empowered as I do when I’m around them. To think that I’m surrounded by future doctors, lawyers, performers, teachers and reporters is such a remarkable thing. At the end of the day, that’s the point of it all. You push yourself to astounding limits, working tirelessly in the gym, standing through tough mock interviews, walking fiercely in a swimsuit and embracing poise and elegance– all while maintaining admirable composure and speaking eloquently and proficiently. I am here, in this position, for the fourth time. But this time, it’s different. For reasons I can’t put my thumb on quite yet, but will certainly be able to report back to you Sunday evening while I’m eating pizza and wishing I was back at The Forum with my sisters (I’m not even there yet and I miss it– how is that possible?)

Empowerment. That’s what I wanted to get at. You may have your own opinions about pageantry and some may even consider it outdated, but I think it’s very much relevant. Where else do you see the best of the best competing for the chance of a lifetime, all the while having already accomplished more than imaginable at such a young age. I have touched on this over and over again– as a role model, as a titleholder, as a graduate, a sister, a daughter, a niece– I work to make my life and the people around me better. That’s the point of it all, too. The size of my dress, the weight on the scale is essentially irrelevant in retrospect to what it means to be a ‘Phenomenal Woman.’

Here’s to what will be yet another eventful, emotional rollercoaster of a week. Thank you to every single person who has made this possible; who stuck by me when I was at my lowest points and my highest points; to my mother who has been my guiding light in this sometimes cold and dark world; my brother who pushed me to do ‘just one more pullup’ before going to sleep; to Ari who put up with my bantering about my hips, my wardrobe and everything before, after and in between; my family who will probably be the loudest in the crowd (it comes with the territory, I apologize); to a wonderful director who pushed me and kindly always ended her emails with ‘hope you’re working hard in the gym;’ to George who probably wants to beat me for the amount of alterations I made him do all of 3 days before leaving for good ol’ OC; to Kate for dealing with my random, tearful phone calls because she is the no-judgement zone (and being a great friend and travel buddy); to Joe for his out-of-left-field question of the days and endlessssss support; to my AMAZING trainer for his patience and kindness during endless workouts; and to YOU. If you are reading this, you mean something, because nine times out of ten I’m bantering about life and you’re still here reading my blog. I commend you for sticking by me & I appreciate you. All of you. (And if you want to continue to follow the crazy and busy life I live, please follow me on Instagram: @annan3gron and Twitter: @Anna_Negron. Selfies included.)

My emotions are mixed: juggling the excitement, anxiousness, nervousness, happiness and stress can be exhausting, but all of that comes with a bright and shining smile as I embark on the best five days. I’m here, in the moment. I’m present, with a level head, a happy heart and an awakened soul. And I’m proud to say, with true conviction, that I’m Ready.

Maya Angelou put it best.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

Here we go. Catch ya on the flipside, Jersey.

Cherish the present

There has been so much going on, that once again, I’ve found it somewhat difficult to sit down and write. Just simply write. I have a found love of expressing myself with words and I think that my future book with represent that thoroughly, but at this age I think it’s pivotal to share my thoughts.

I’ve been struggling for a few weeks to find ‘my place.’ Not because things have been astray or because I’m miserable, but I think we sometimes find ourselves to be stuck in a rut with no wiggle room. As a college graduate, watching my close friends at their commencement this past Monday brought mixed emotions as I thought “WHAT NOW?!” The idea of growing up creeps me out. I’m not kidding. If I could have stayed 21 forever, I would. Unfortunately, the world and life doesn’t work that way. We are constantly overwhelmed with thoughts of what’s next, what our purpose is, will we find our soulmates, will we have children, where our careers will take us. We are always in such a rush to grow up, and the second we start to reach that point, we wish we were still the innocent 8-year-olds running around with our younger siblings, climbing trees and jumping off swings in the background while your mom watches from the kitchen window. I’m sure you can all share in those same sentiments to a certain extent, because my fondest childhood memories are exactly what I just described. The first time I learned how to ride my bike without training wheels, my very first dance recital, auditioning for my voice coach, singing in front of an audience for the first time… all of that brought me here. To this moment. And while I certainly couldn’t tell you that I would be this ‘accomplished’ when I was 11, I’m proud. I’m proud of how my mother raised me, proud of the trials and tribulations that have presented themselves in my life, proud of the choices and decisions I’ve made, because I’m here. I’m alive & despite the fear of never being enough or not doing everything I want to do, the concept of time is a mere illusion in retrospect. We create our days, we molds our minutes, hours, weeks, months, year. Cherish every second and never regret a single thing, because you are alive and breathing. And that’s something to be proud of in and of itself.

You are never too young or old to ‘chase butterflies’ & ‘catch lighting bugs.’ I mean that literally and figuratively. Leave your fears behind and focus on the present. No dream is ever too far out of reach, no goal is ever unattainable so long as you simply BELIEVE.

Believe in yourself, in your family, in your passion, ambitions, inclinations and choices. Being strong comes from within first.

And seriously… PUT THE PHONES DOWN. Engage in conversation, say hello to a stranger, laugh.

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xo.