I wanted to share this story with you all so I could share the impact that this job has on the girl who serves as Miss Tennessee Volunteer and so that others can understand why this position is so vital for our states' children. I hope you enjoy hearing about Matthew as much as I loved visiting with him!
All my love,
The third week of June has always held a special place in my heart and has had a reserved spot on my calendar for six years now—and will continue to hold that spot, because this program is what molded me into the woman I am today.
Reflecting on this year, it’s kind of funny how everything comes full circle. This year, I had the chance to represent our state at the Miss America pageant—I mean COMPETITION…sorry – in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I could not have planned for this to happen, but When I arrived at my hotel, the song “Goin’ To Jackson” by Johnny Cash was Playing over the speakers outside of the lobby. I kept thinking “YES I’m ready let’s GO.”
To tell you a little bit about my journey that led me here, I want to explain what the last few years have been like.
I began competing for the title of Miss Tennessee six years ago, as a seventeen-year-old high school senior. I never could have imagined that one day, I would obtain two prestigious state titles in one year! I had never competed in a pageant before and had no idea what I was getting myself into… but after my first competition, I was bitten by the pageant bug and fell head over heels in love with this amazing program.
I competed in 6 preliminary competitions until I won my first title of Miss Memphis, when I had just turned 18 and was a freshman at the University of Mississippi.
My first year at Miss Tennessee, I didn’t even crack the top 15—it was a huge learning curve and I had a lot to understand before I could handle the job that this title requires! The next year, I won a preliminary title in Johnson City, more than 8 hours from my hometown in Memphis.
My mom and I didn’t even know where Johnson City was when we found out about the pageant—but we found out there was a $5,000 Scholarship involved and a massive prize package, so off to Johnson City we went! That year I learned so much about what it was like to travel from one end of Tennessee to the other, what kind of planning and commitment that takes, and learned so much about what the job entails and how much preparation is involved with a responsibility like this.
That year I placed 2ndrunner up to Miss Tennessee, and was even able to go to the Miss America pageant to cheer for Hannah Robison as she placed in the top 7 and represented our state that year. The following year I held another title in the Johnson City area, returned to Miss Tennessee, and placed 3rdrunner up. I was devastated that year – I felt like I’d gone backwards—I thought I’d still worked hard, what had I done wrong? I took some time to reflect and make a decision, and decided that I wanted this job. And I my desire to achieve my dreams was stronger than my fear of failure. So that year, I won the title of Miss Scenic City and represented the Chattanooga area at Miss Tennessee. That year I was able to graduate from College debt free, because of the more than $49,000 in scholarship I’ve earned thus far from participating in Tennessee’s program. That summer, I came back to Jackson and placed 1strunner up. As a new graduate, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, and I’d known that I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree, but I didn’t think I’d be pursuing it immediately – but thanks to the $10,000 I won that year, I was able to go on to my Master’s degree that fall. I made my decision, took the GRE, called UT Chattanooga’s admission office, found an apartment, and moved two weeks later after making that decision, all the way to Chattanooga – 5 hours from my family – and began in the Master’s of Business program as well as the data analytics certification program. I knew about five people when I moved to Chattanooga and it was, by far, one of the biggest risks I have ever taken. So while I’d made the decision and applied to UTC’s graduate program…I was really going on a whim, in some sense. I remember getting the email that I had been accepted as I was at a stoplight before getting on the interstate to drive to my new home—talk about a leap of faith, haha! That year I grew more than I knew possible. I earned the title of Miss Chattanooga and worked day and night to understand and execute the job of Miss TN (Volunteer) on a local level, so that I could know day to day, what it takes and know that when I entered the state competition, that I was ready and I could handle it. I visited our local CMN Hospital of Erlanger Children’s ever other week, I interned with our local Alzheimer’s Association office, I worked part time and went to class, and I prepared every single day so that I could be ready for this job. This past summer, I was so excited that work finally paid off and I was chosen to be Miss Tennessee. Now a lot has happened between last June and now, but I am so thrilled to be back in Jackson with the same people I began this journey with, and with more pride and faith in this program than ever.
Jackson, Tennessee has truly felt like home to me this year. I have felt so embraced by the community here, by the people I see when I’m out running an errand, or when I’ve been appearing in an official capacity, it’s always felt like coming home. I am a proud West Tennessean, but grew up about an hour down the road in Memphis—and I love my hometown, but I have been so overwhelmed by the compassion and kindness I’ve been shown in this City.
I don’t know of any other city that could have embraced this program quite like Jackson has. The volunteers give up their vacation time to help run the dressing room, or zip us into our gowns, or to make sure we’re safe and taken care of… I have truly felt so embraced over the last 6 years and so welcomed every time I came to Jackson. Pageant week was and will always be something I’ve looked forward to, because I knew I could always find a friend or familiar face no matter where I went or what I was doing in Jackson.
To those of you that sponsor and support our program, I want to thank you for all you do—you all know that you change the lives of one young woman who is chosen to wear this *FABULOUS AND NEW!* crown this year—but you change the lives of each of the young women sitting in here today. More than that, you enable them to change the lives of communities in our state—you enable them to better their own lives… but to better the lives of the people they live with and work with and go to school with…by believing in the education and mobilization of young women-- you are believing in their future and in our state’s future. By touching just one life through your support of this program, you are impacting hundreds, if not thousands, more. I can attest to that in my own life, after this last year on my statewide school tour where I spoke about “RESPECT” as the Governor’s Character Education Spokesperson. By believing in me and supporting my year of service… This year you allowed me to speak to more than SEVENTY thousand children across our great state. (70,381 to be exact!!)
This year, I travelled more than 80,000 miles to speak to students all across our state about the Character trait of respect, and why that’s important in their own personal lives and relationships. We talk about the importance of respecting our friends—to stand up for our friends and to treat them the way that we want to be treated, to be respectful to our families, even when that’s hard, and to respect ourselves by making good choices. I talk to them about the decisions they make day to day, and how they are the only people that truly live with the consequences of their actions—and that they are the only ones who can decide what choices they will make for themselves.
I remember one time, I had a little girl yell out, after we’d talked about outcomes of actions, at the top of her lungs, “YOU MEAN LIKE KARMA?!!!” it’s REALLY amazing what they pick up at such a young age???
I’ve had some hilarious experiences this year when I speak at our schools – I usually speak about respecting our Friends, Our families, and then ourselves. Every now and again I have a student ask “But what about respecting God and Jesus?” which is the cutest thing EVER.
But I have also had countless experiences that remind me why this position matters so much, and why this program matters so much. Not just to me or the volunteers you see here today, or even just to the women competing, but to the thousands and thousands of people that are impacted by this position every single year.
In Claiborne County, I had one little boy, at my very last presentation of the day—I think it was a six school presentation schedule on that particular day—who sat off to the side in his teacher’s lap during the presentation. And I noticed him off to the side, he didn’t raise his hand when I asked for volunteers, and didn’t raise his hand again when I asked if anyone had questions…
but at the end, as the classes were dismissing he came down to the front and sat on the edge of the bleachers.
So I looked at him and gestured for him to come over, and a couple classmates said “no, Matthew, don’t bother Miss Tennessee!” but I asked little Matthew to come over to me. I crouched down on the ground so I could look him in the eye and asked
“Matthew, did you have any questions for me?” He shook his head no, so I asked again “are you sure? Nothing at all?” he shook his head no again and said “I just wanna go home.” So I said “I’m sorry buddy, do you not feel well? Can I help you find your teacher to tell her?” and he looked up at me and grinned – and said
“No …I wanna go home with YOU!”
and before I knew it, he had put his arms around my neck and jumped into my lap and had his head nuzzled under my chin. I didn’t expect that reaction, so I was a tad thrown off balance, but I picked up Matthew and walked over to the bleachers and he stayed in my lap for a little while, and told me about his classes and how he liked to play soccer and that he loves dogs that are as big as he is….
Eventually Matthew’s class was dismissed, so I held his hand and walked him over to his teacher where they were lining up. Matthew squeezed my hand and said “So you’re gonna come back soon, right?”
At this point I want to adopt this little blonde angel so I choked back the tears I felt coming on and answered him, “No sweetie, but I promise you I’m gonna send you a great Miss Tennessee to come visit you next year. And you’re gonna love her! And I promise she will come back to give you hugs and listen to you, I promise.” Matthew nodded and gave me one last hug before running off with his class.
I took a deep breath to keep the tears from escaping, and sat down on the bleachers before it was time to go.
One of the teachers came up to me with tears in her eyes and told me that Matthew was a special needs student who was also a foster child.
He really did want to go home with me. He had gotten in the habit of asking teacher at the school to take him home…until one finally did.
She is now his adoptive mother and Matthew is in a stable, loving home environment.
But that those few minutes of listening and hugs and a very important promise … that meant more to him than she could explain.
And I say all that to say, to whoever is crowned next, whichever one of you sitting in this room that I have the honor to crown…I need you to help me keep that promise.
Because there are thousands of children out there just like Matthew that need you to believe in them.
That need you to hug them and stay later than you expected and longer than you probably wanted—but Miss Tennessee Volunteer – whoever you are—they need you. They might not have anyone at home that is telling them they matter. And that they love them very much. And that they believe in their dreams. I need you to tell them those things and to truly, TRULY believe in them! Because I’ve promised lots of little ones like Matthew that you’re coming.
They’re counting on you. And you have this amazing opportunity to let little boys and girls all across our state know that they can do anything they set their minds to, if they work hard and believe in themselves…because you believe in them.
By believing in me and providing so many opportunities, this program has helped me to develop a vision far beyond what I thought I could achieve. This program has helped me realize what I want to do with my life. That I want to pursue a career in lobbying for healthcare initiatives and educational standards.
You have helped me realized my passions and my purpose by allowing me to excel in this program and the opportunities it has given me!
This year has not only given me the tools to realize my dreams and aspirations, but opened my eyes to the “why” behind it and given me a passion to fuel those dreams and aspirations. You’ve given me the tools to believe in myself, so that I can encourage our children to believe in their dreams too.
By believing in this program, you all are choosing to believe in the young women sitting at your tables today. You are choosing to believe in the communities they impact through their service. You are choosing to believe in the children of Tennessee and in our state’s future. This program is truly the first time I believe in myself and realized what I was capable of achieving, and I do not know where my life would be without this program. Thank you for helping me believe in myself and my dreams.
But I also want to say Thank you so much for being a part of helping not just me to achieve my dreams, but supporting each and every girl in here to achieve hers, as well.
It feels so good to be back home!
A lot of people have asked me "why" I decided to join the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Program and to not continue the use of my Miss Tennessee America title. I had the chance to share a large portion of that "why" behind my decision at the parents' luncheon last week at the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Pageant and I want to share that in a more public setting on this post with you all.
I decided that the time was appropriate as to not take away attention from the girl that would be crowned Miss Tennessee Volunteer and so that I could adequately put my thoughts together and reflect on what I wanted to share publicly with my personal struggles due to decisions made by MAO leadership without thought or regard for me personally.
I cannot tell you why they chose to blatantly ignore me or why they have not communicated with me since February. I cannot tell you why I felt so disregarded and discarded by the organization I used to admire for so long.
But I can tell you how I was treated by MAO leadership.
I can tell you who has supported me.
I can only tell you what my experience has been and what lead to my decision.
Hopefully, by sharing this, I can lead others to making the right decision for their own journeys as well.
All my love,
I came to this program unsure of who I was and not entirely certain of my life’s direction. This program has helped me find purpose and passion and motivation and so much more. I was 17 when I started competing… I never knew that this program could do so much more than just help me polish my speaking and performing skills. I can honestly say that I do NOT know where my life would be without this program. I do not know that I would have had the opportunities that I have been given, that I would be as motivated and focused as I am, or that I would feel so welcomed and loved and really, just right at home.
One of the "Why's" - My Family
I wouldn’t have been able to survive this year without my amazing family. You have gone above and beyond for me, far beyond what I ever could have asked of you. I never could have imagined that I would face this kind of adversity this year—or that I would have a family that would rise to meet the challenge and be there to catch me when I felt like I was falling. You have helped me guide the most incredibly challenging year of my life-- you have supported me when I needed a shoulder to cry on or a hug or even helping me find and pay for an attorney! I am so grateful God gave me such an incredible family that loves me unconditionally and has supported me each and every day since embarking on this brave, new journey all the way until its completion. I love you all so much!
But one of the main reasons for "why"....
This (Miss Tennessee Volunteer) organization has truly become a part of my family. I see so many familiar faces today when I look out at all of you, and I know that I wouldn’t be able to stand up here today and speak without your support of this program. I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the more than 70,000 children I spoke to this year. I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the more than 80,000 miles I drove or the experiences I’ve had that have truly changed my life forever.
To the parents (Of Miss Tennessee Volunteer Contestants) sitting here today, to the girls competing this week sitting here…I want to be completely honest with you about this year. I owe that to the girls sitting here today to know what kind of a year you’re walking into, and who you will be walking into it with. I owe it to the families I see sitting here today, so that you know how to support your daughter, if she is chosen tomorrow night or if she continues to chase this dream like I did until she gets it. I want you to know just what it is you’re about to experience.
I love this job and I love this organization—more than I can ever possibly begin to describe! I love this job so much I gave every fiber of my being to chasing the opportunity to have this job and I poured every ounce of myself into this year of service. And I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I love this job so much and worked so hard that it LITERALLY almost killed me. But I never could have made it through this year without the support of so many people sitting with me here today. So many state titleholders experienced the exact same thing that I did this past year, but none of them had an organization to turn to that defied the odds, that was the only state out of 51 entities that stood strong and said NO and chose to persevere for the sake of giving women the chance to pursue their dreams and giving them the tools to do it.
Allison, Amy & Mrs. Jane, I will never be able to fully or adequately express how much I love you all. Your family has taken me under their wings like another daughter or a little sister. You have loved me and been there for me during the most difficult time that I’ve faced in my 23 years and I will be forever grateful for you all and will ALWAYS think of you as a part of my family!
I Don’t think many people know just how supportive you all have been. We have laughed through the fun times and cried through the turbulent times, but you have never once wavered in your loyalty and support. That is something I will always be grateful for and will never be able to repay your kindness and generosity to my family and I. To give you a few examples to illustrate just how incredible these people are, I want to share with you a glimpse into this last year. This year has without a doubt been the most difficult year of my life. You could not have explained to me how much adversity I would face this year, I wouldn’t have believed you! But the love and unwavering support of the people sitting at this table with me…. I have never met a more fiercely loyal or unconditionally loving group. I never knew that when I competed in my first pageant, that this journey would lead me to find family and friends that I never knew I would have. When it comes to the values my family raised me with, I’ve always been taught about loyalty and honesty. And that you stay loyal to the people that you love and are loyal to you. And that you never turn your back on family
This is my family.
And I want to share with you some really important ways that they have been there for me this past year.
In August of last year, just four days before I left for Miss America, I lost my one of my closest friends to a heroin overdose. Even more tragic, my best friend, Katerina was the person that found him. When I got the news of my dear friend's passing, I was in the dance studio with Allison and Mrs. Jane working on talent, and I collapsed into a pile hearing about the news. They picked me up off the ground and carried me when I could barely hold myself up—they wiped my tears and held me through the grief and sorrow like my own mother would. They listened when I tried to make sense through the grief and loss and supported me like I was one of their own.
Later on that day, we had an evening gown fitting and a mock interview. They protected my privacy (during this instance and beyond) and helped me stay calm and collected through the afternoon and into the evening, and were there to hug me and hold me when I started uncontrollably sobbing after the day was over. They helped me process the grief while keeping my whole life together and simultaneously prepare for this much anticipated competition that I’d been preparing for, for six years. They met my confusion and sadness and frustration with patience, understanding and compassion. They helped me work through the incredibly upsetting time and have for months following my friend's death to make sense of it all, so that I could find peace with my emotions and work through the feelings I experienced.
At the Miss America National Competition in Atlantic City, I became incredibly sick and lost my voice. I had two award interviews in addition to my private interview along with being a singer for my talent-- so, I really need my voice. I went to the nurse and the hostesses and asked if I could go to a doctor. I felt horrible and I needed to get better. For three days they said "no", and gave me vitamins or Tylenol. I finally felt so sick by the third day I told them that I needed to go to the doctor immediately, or I would be booking my flight home. They finally took me to the doctor, where I had to receive a steroid shot and take a steroid pill pack because the illness had progressed to a point where aggressive medication was necessary to put me back at peak performance. This many stimulants put my heart at risk, and could have potentially contributed to issues I later experienced.
In addition to feeling like my health was an after thought at the national competition, I don't know that I ever had a fair shot at said competition. Gretchen Carlson was in my private interview with the judges, and told all of the state titleholders on Sunday in the dressing room before we went onstage that she was in all of our interviews. (A practice that I am not accustomed to. I have never had a state board member outside of the judges' chair in a private interview during my 6 years of competing.)
It's sad to say that I don't know that I ever will know if I had a fair shot, based on the treatment by MAO leadership.
When Miss America sent a letter threatening to take my title back in January of 2019, I was on the phone with Allison Demarcus as we read the news. The panic and shock I felt were met with the level headedness and calm, collected response from Allison that I never could have put together in that moment. I couldn’t even think straight and was trying to figure out what’s next and Allison calmly and collectedly told me to talk to my family, and how to go about making the right decision to retain the title I had worked so hard to obtain for so long. I went to my parents and they helped me find the best legal team available to protect my interests and the achievements I had worked so hard to obtain! From January to May, there were many unpleasant surprises and challenges that came our way. Throughout it all, Allison, Amy and Mrs. Jane always kept my best interests at the forefront of their minds. They always put my interests and my future at the front of their decisions.
This year, from the constant stress and anxiety I experienced, I knew that my body was taking the hardest toll of all. I had ignored my own body’s needs, until friends and family were repeatedly bringing my health to my attention.
Allison helped me find a doctor to evaluate the problems and pain I was experiencing.
I will never forget the day when the doctor looked me in the eye and said that I was at such risk that they wanted to consider hospitalizing me immediately. The problem had grown to the point where they said I would have a heart attack before I turned 24… that I could potentially become diabetic before the fall, or even experience kidney failure… or worse, lose my life. At that point, the doctor explained that my heart had been put under so much stress that it was not strong enough to pump blood to my hands or feet and often my blood volume was dangerously low, and could ultimately have permanent damage if we didn’t take immediate action. They said my health was so fragile that they wanted me to refrain from flying or stressful activities because it could push my body over the edge if I continued.
I had to stop my entire life and put this job that I love so much on hold because the issue had grown so serious. I had to put myself and my health before the job, which was incredibly difficult to decide, because I did and do, love this job SO much.
No young woman, or anyone really, should be under that kind of pressure or be pushed to a limit like I was.
But in the turbulence, the crazy… in the eye of the storm, I found a support system that I never knew existed. Not only did my family rally around me in ways I never could have asked them to, but Allison, Amy and Mrs. Jane came to my rescue in an unfathomably heroic way. Anything at all I needed, they were there to help.
Now, I am healthy and back at a stable point thanks to the incredible care team that was there for me and from the support of family and friends. I finally feel like myself again!
So to the girls deciding to compete in MAO or in Miss Tennessee Volunteer,
I can't tell you what is "right" for you to decide.
But here is what I can tell you-
(1) I have not heard from the Miss America Organization / its national leadership in any official form since February 19th.
(2) They (MAO) have not voiced concern for my well being, health, or how this stressful situation has impacted me, personally.
(3) The Miss Tennessee Volunteer Organization has always chosen to put me at the forefront of their decision making process and to use what is in my best interest as their guide for what to decide.
(4) the Miss Tennessee Volunteer organization has always had a vested interest in my health and well being and they have gone above and beyond to look out for my best interests at all times.
The Miss America Organization made me feel silenced and like I did not have a voice. They attempted to take away all outlets for me to share my opinion and made me feel disregarded and ignored. I did not feel my interests were taken into account in any of the decisions they made during my time with them as a state titleholder or at the National Competition.
The Miss Tennessee Volunteer Organization chose to ask me what I wanted and helped to guide me through this difficult journey so that I could achieve my goals and so that I could walk away from this year with my head held high and be proud of the legacy I left behind.
I can't tell you what to decide or what the best decision for you may be.
But I do encourage you, don't trust what people say.
Trust what they do.
I am so honored, humbled and elated to have been crowned the first Miss Tennessee Volunteer! I have to say a LOT of thank yous to so many wonderful people for helping to make this possible!
First of all, I want to say a tremendous thank you to everyone for joining us at the coronation and for sending so much love on such a special day! I feel so loved and welcomed, and I am beyond honored to be the very first Miss Tennessee Volunteer!
The past few months have been filled with joy as I’ve traveled as the Governor’s Official Spokesperson for Character Education across Tennessee. The children I have spoken to in the schools and the precious patients in our CMN hospitals, have forever changed my life for the better.
Some of you may not know this, but I have spent the last six years of my life, from ages 17 to 23, in pursuit of this dream. That’s basically my entire adult life so far! I competed here in Jackson every third week of June for four years in a row until I was fortunate enough to win the Miss Tennessee America crown. I worked year round annually raising moneyfor Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and for my personal cause, the Alzheimer’s Association, because four of my family members have passed away from the fatal disease with no cure. Those years of effort, hard work and the integrity of our state organization are among the reasons the position meant so much to me.
I’d also like to thank Mr. Tom Hensley, Mr. Jimmy Exum, Ms. Jane Alderson, Mrs. Allison DeMarcus, Mrs. Amy Otto and the dozens of other volunteers who have stretched themselves beyond reason these last few weeks to build this program from scratch.
I will never be able to express how grateful I am for the countless hours you have dedicated to helping me be my best self this year and to prepare me for each and every moment of this journey—thank you for always believing in me and giving so much of your own time and effort because you support and believe in what this program does for young women like myself…I truly wouldn’t be the woman I am today without you all! I am so grateful to have leaders with such integrity forging this new path.
This executive leadership has always preached to the contestants about the importance of loyalty and love and commitment and family. Well Mr. Hensley and Mr. Exum, I was listening!
You see, those values are the exact ones my family believes in, and my parents have raised my sister, Christal, and me to believe in their importance! So I want to take a moment and thank my mom and dad and Christal for their unconditional support over the last six years, but especially over the last few months when I needed them the most. I love you guys and I hope that my decisions this year have reflected everything that you have taught me, and that I have made you proud. I love you from the bottom of my heart!
So I’ve warned everyone that after June, they will have a very hard time getting rid of me?! Someday, this unbelievably fabulous crown I’ve just received may lose some of its sparkle. It may tarnish and my banner may yellow, but my friendships and respect for the people here today will always remain true.
I hope you will join me in a couple of short weeks back in Jackson— June 19 through the 22nd—as I cherish the opportunity to crown my successor the next Miss Tennessee Volunteer 2019. Between now and that time, I promise to continue working hard to build this program and to represent you in the way that you deserve.
Thank you all so much for being a part of this journey!
All my love,
Christine Electra Williamson
Miss Tennessee Volunteer
“To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.”
- William Faulkner
Even more important than graduating and going through the ceremonial process, I fulfilled a family dream by graduating from Ole Miss.
My dad always wanted to attend the University of Mississippi... but couldn’t afford to. He was the first member of his family to go to college.
He paid his way through school entirely on his own and graduated from the University of Memphis.
He didn’t attend his own college graduation, because he needed to work and he needed the money more than he wanted to attend the ceremony.
My dad pushed his dreams aside for the time being so that he could work to create opportunities for his future family to achieve anything they wanted by laying the groundwork for endless possibilities.
I’ll never forget the day I graduated from this beloved University.
I’ll never be able to describe what it meant to look at my family, my grandmother, my parents, my sister, my cousins, my friends, my family.... to know that I was fulfilling a dream that my father wanted me to have the chance to achieve, and gave me that possibility through his sacrifice and hard work.
I'll close this post out with one of my favorite quotes about the University of Mississippi from Frank Everett Jr.;
The University is buildings, trees, and people. Ole Miss is mood, emotion, and personality. One is physical, and the other is spiritual. One is tangible, and the other intangible.There is a valid distinction between The University and Ole Miss even though the separate threads are closely interwoven.
The University is respected, but Ole Miss is loved. The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.
All my love,
I've finally been able to catch up on sleep and start the unpacking process back home-- I wanted to sit down and write out an extended version of my thoughts and thank you's to the immeasurable amount of people who played a role in helping me pursue my dreams and achieve my goals.
My grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was just 8 years old and my mom and I cared for him 3-4 days a week for 11 years. He had a dog named Curly that he loved dearly — he couldn’t have Curly in his memory care unit so we kept him and took him to see grandpa on each visit. I’ll never forget the day grandpa passed away... I was driving to say goodbye because the time had come and I was speeding down the highway to make it in time. But I didn’t. Mom and Curly were there. Curly crawled up in my grandpa’s lap and snuggled up to him, and grandpa drew his last breath. I didn’t say goodbye, because that’s just what Alzheimer’s disease does. It rips away memories and so much more from the lives it touches.
My mission has been and will always continue to be finding a cure for this awful disease and to fight to protect the people who are left in the wake of the disease usually struggling with health or medical bills of their own, sometimes even struggling to put food on the table due to Alzheimer’s related care costs.
So While I’m heading home from Atlantic City, you can find me in Chattanooga doing my job and “ walking the walk” with all 5 beagles back in Tennessee. And I’m pretty excited to do just that, because I’m just getting started.
I am overjoyed to have been so loved and supported the entire time I was in AC! I am so unbelievably grateful to have had support from my state, my alma mater school, my graduate school, my home town, my sorority sisters, my friends, my family, and so many more who made this an adventure of a lifetime and made me so proud to represent the state of Tennessee and the 16 million Americans caregiving for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
My work has only just begun and in no way will be slowed or diminished or otherwise— Alzheimers is the MOST EXPENSIVE disease in our nation and it is my DUTY to continue advocating and fighting for a cure.
I am so honored to come home as a state ambassador for CMN hospitals and to love on all of the precious children across my state that need hugs and hands to hold during their chemo and other live saving treatments. I’m so lucky to be coming home to work for the Governor visiting the children in Tennessee’s schools and to speak about the character trait of respect and how that manifests to any and all ages.
What an incredible year I am about to embark on!!
Tennessee, I am THRILLED to come home to you and to serve you this year.
Let’s do this!
I put together a Miss Tennessee 2018 Recap for Friends and Family Unable to Attend the pageant or that want to watch competition videos from various segments and appearances during the week!
All my love,
I don't even know where to start --
I am so humbled and honored to have the opportunity of a lifetime to serve
for the next 365 days as Miss Tennessee, and to continue making an impact well beyond those days.
I wanted to sit down and organize my thoughts and thank you to everyone who made this possible, encouraged me, or was a part of this five year journey.
It has truly been about the journey more than the destination, and I can't wait to see what this new adventure holds!
David Camp -- we did it!! The hours upon hours at Panera, in my living room, and over the phone preparing for interview paid off! thank you so, so much for selflessly giving your time and talents to help me present my best self to the judges in the interview room. Love ya so much!
Jonah & Grace - the two best friends I could ever ask for- what on EARTH would I do without you guys?? We have laughed, we have cried, we have celebrated, we have been through so much that life has thrown at us and I am so grateful I have been given two of the most incredible and supportive friends anyone could ask for! I am so thrilled to have you both my side for the crazy ride leading up to this moment and for all the adventures we have yet to find!
Uncle Rocky & Uncle Tony,
I am so lucky to have you both as family - and to have two uncles that would move heaven and earth to be in Jackson and celebrate this special, once in a lifetime moment! I will never forget Friday night of my talent performance-- I was SO nervous and I was so scared that I would mess up and full on shaking by the time I came off stage-- it was completely silent in the crowd when I finished for about five seconds, until I saw Uncle Rocky Jump up and start cheering -- he was the only person in the audience I could see through the stage lights and I LOVE that moment in time!
There's a lot of work to be done ahead, but I'm excited to be well on my way and to have the opportunity to represent Tennessee at Miss America.
I'm so excited to have the chance to make a positive impact on my state and on the lives of thousands of children that I'll have the chance to visit this year.
I am so incredibly humbled and honored to have been chosen to represent our state, and to travel 80,000 amazing miles this year, and for the 365 days I have as Miss Tennessee to leave my mark on our state and in the legacy of Miss Tennessee.
I promise to make every single day count.
All my love & gratitude,
Following the completion of Top 12's individual performances in Talent,
The Top 10 will be announced as they each come out to compete in the evening gown competition.
Following the Evening Gown Competition, all of the contestants in the Top 10 will parade onstage and the Top 5 will be called from the line up.
Finally, The Top 5 will compete in a final onstage question competition that counts for 20% of their score.
The judges then make their decision, and from there, the scores are tabulated, and the runners up and the new Miss Tennessee are announced!
"Pageant hangover" is real y'all.
This time change "springing forward" (I would love to know who invented that and how we can get rid of it?!?) and going back to Eastern time in my corner of the state has my internal body clock all kinds of confused.
It's been one glittery ride so far and I can't wait to see what sparkly things lie ahead.
Thanks for sticking it out with me and making it through these rhinestoned adventures.
All my love,
(okay so i'm not "totally done", i had to pop a few more pictures in this post from the craziness and jam packed fabulous happenings of workshop weekend!)
In case you couldn't tell based on the title of this blog post, This week is Children's Hospital Week!
I'm so excited that MAO is participating in the 2nd annual Children's Hospital Week to raise awareness for Children's hospitals in local communities and to fundraise for said hospitals.
if you know me, you know CMNH is one of my first loves. The kids in these hospitals and their families are such resilient, incredible people and it's an honor to even be a small part of their lives.
To raise awareness for this week, CMNH is asking everyone to take a photo with a bandaid on, with the name of someone that means a lot to you or someone you know who was treated at a CMN hospital on the bandaid, and post that to social media!
If you want to watch the Facebook live I filmed with Erlanger Children's (my local CMN hospital) click this link here!
Thanks for keeping up with this rhinestone studded adventure, y'all.
All my love,
Today's the day!
March 2nd is Read Across America Day in honor of Dr. Seuss's Birthday!
State titleholders across the nation partner with CITGO to promote literacy initiatives in their home states for the entire "Read Across America Week"!
Additionally, local titleholders across America partner with this initiative during Read Across America Day by going into schools and reading our favorite Dr. Seuss Novels to children to encourage a lifelong love of reading and learning.
I had the pleasure of reading at several different schools in the Hamilton County / Chattanooga area today, and every single class was even more precious than the one before it, (but they were all so adorable how do you compare??)
I hope you all celebrated by reading your favorite novels, books, and poems and encouraged the children around you to do the same!
How cute are these KINDERGARTNERS i got to read with??
Thanks for catching up on my rhinestone studded adventures, y'all!
All my love,