Life In the Heels of Miss Idaho

Holding the title of Miss Idaho has been one of my fondest memories and has helped shape me into the person who I amCrowning Moment this very moment. I can’t possibly sum it up in even 500 words or less (it consisted of 365 of the busiest but also some of the most unbelievable days of my life!) Therefore I have completely separated my previous blog posts from my blog A Woman of Few Words But Great Action and put them in here.

One of my favorite parts of being Miss Idaho was being out and active in the community, giving a face to the organization. Often times, people don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. A majority that people see is what goes on while onstage; the evening gown, swimsuit, talent….etc. But it was important to me that people saw that the Miss America Organization emphasizes service and making a difference in the community. After all service is one of the fourpoints of the crown along with style, success, and scholarship. Therefore, to wear “the crown” holds much more meaning than simply wearing a sparkly tiara on one’s head.

I’ll never forget one of the last appearances that I had, because it made me realize why holding the title of Miss Idaho held so much value to me and why it is such a huge job. I had met a little girl at a barn dance for the 100th anniversary of 4H. Through out the evening she kept asking me one of the most commonly asked questions with 8-year-old girls and the crown….”can I try on your crown?” You can read more about the details in my last reflection as Miss Idaho. At the end of the evening, I met her behind the barn and talked to her about what the 4 points of the crown stood for and how in order to wear the crown you have to be kind and genuine to everyone around you, even if they drive you absolutely crazy.  I also told her that you have to study hard in school and make education a priority. Not only that but it’s important to always try your hardest and remember why your goals are important to you. Last I told her that in order to wear the crown, you have to love and respect the wonderful person that you are and never put yourself or others down. I asked her if she could do that and she nodded with her hands clasped underneath her smiling face. I placed the crown on her and asked her how it felt. She responded by saying “magical” and asked me if I felt magical every time I wore the crown. That was when I realized that this little girl had just summed up my experience as Miss Idaho better than I could! Because every moment of my year, every person that I met, and every memory that was made had compiled together to make it the most magical experience. I can’t sum it up any better than that, but if you want more details about some of the experiences I had and some of the incredible people I met, I’ve attached links below to go along with the storyline of my 6 years competing in the Miss America Organization.

Let the madness begin

I didn’t grow up competing in pageants, I was no “Honey Boo Boo Child”. Instead I grew up being raised by two outdoor enthusiasts who loved traveling and exposing my sister and I to as many different walks of life as possible. The perfect day for me was waking up, going for a bike ride with my mom and dad, enjoying a picnic, and just taking my sweet time. I will admit, I have always loved dresses though.

My mom said she used to have to reason with me when it was freezing outside and all I wanted to do was wear a little dress. Stubborn child! Then there were other days where she couldn’t even get me to take the time to get full clothed before I would run out the door and hop on my bike to ride around. I always have loved living an active lifestyle, and over the years I’ve gained a little more patience than I had when I was younger!

Fast forward to when I was 16 and I was asked to be a fill in for the Miss Idaho Outstanding Teen Organization, an affiliate with the Miss America Scholarship Organization. A contestant had dropped out at the last-minute and my best friend’s mom at the time was the director of Miss Idaho, so she asked if I would take the contestant’s place. Keep in mind, I had no experience what so ever and my attempt to walk in heels made me look like a duck waddling through the middle of the road.

My first year I needed a little hair tutorial….5 years later I had the crazy big lion hair down like a pro!

She told me it would be a great opportunity to perform in front of others, promoted being active in the community, and it was a great way to pay for college since the Miss America Organization is the number one provider of scholarship for women in the world. Having been a Girl Scout since I was 6 and playing piano since I was 8, I figured it would be a fun challenge to take on and try something new! I figured I would walk out of it having made a few new friends and a great experience to look back on.

I remember waiting on stage as they announced the 4th runner-up, 3rd runner-up, 2nd runner-up, and 1st runner-up and didn’t hear my name called. I was a little disappointed because I had thought it would have been an absolute thrill to place. But imagine my surprise when they announced that Miss Idaho Outstanding Teen 2006 on her way to the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant, was me! I was so surprised that I didn’t even realize I had won until the girl next to me started jumping up and down and screaming “you won, it’s you, YOU WON!”

That summer I trained to compete at Miss America Outstanding Teen in Orlando, Florida. The 9 days of competition seemed as if they were the most packed full days of my life. We had appearances and rehearsals all day with a few nights of preliminary competitions where we are all in 3 different groups and perform in one area of competition each evening. I didn’t place in the top 10, but I didn’t walk away with an intense desire to continue competing after I had met someone who had a very powerful impact on this decision.

We all road in buses to transport us back and forth from our hotel to appearances around the area. One day, a woman was sitting in the back of the bus that no one was talking to. I went back to sit next to her and asked her what her name was and if she was nervous for this week, because I was nervous beyond words! She told me her name was Jennifer and she was from Oklahoma. Then she kind of laughed and said she was mostly blessed and thankful for the opportunity that she had to be there that day. After we talked a little longer, I went back and sat next to my friend who looked at me like I was this crazy person and asked if I knew who that was. I told her that her name was Jennifer and she seemed really nice. To that my friend responded “No, that’s not just Jennifer. That’s Jennifer Berry, Miss America.” I was absolutely shocked and left mesmerized by this woman who was so genuine and kind to me even without her crown on. I realized then that I wanted to one day win Miss Idaho and have the opportunity to make it to Miss America.

In order to first qualify for Miss Idaho, one has to win a local title first. My first year it took me three locals before Interview attire for Miss AmericaI won the title of Miss Southeast Idaho and was on my way to Miss Idaho! To compete in any pageant affiliated with the Miss America Organization, there are different phases of competition that each woman must compete in.

First, each woman enters into a private 10 minute interview with a panel of 5 judges. This part of the competition is worth 25% of the contestant’s overall score. She can be asked absolutely anything and does not know the questions that will be presented to her upon entering that room. Questions from current events and her opinion on political/controversial issues to questions about herself or ones that you may hear in a job interview, since being Miss Idaho or Miss America is a full-time job.

She may also be asked about either the national Miss America platform (which is the Children’s Miracle Network) or about her personal platform. Her platform is an issue or organization that she feels strongly about and will go out and represent in the community. An example of this would be breast cancer awareness and prevention, the Boys & Girls Club, or the platform that I represented was “Building the 3C’s Through Girl Scouts- Courage, Character, and Confidence” where I talked to girls and volunteers about being involved and staying involved in Girl Scouts as well as expanding my self-esteem workshops “Free To Be Me“.  She will also be asked a question on stage that is worth 5% of the final score.

The rest of the competition is presented onstage in front of the same panel of judges and an open audience. Each contestant will compete in Lifestyle & Fitness in Swimsuit where she is judged based on her health and fitness as well as her confidence. This is worth 15% of the final score.

Talent is the next phase of competition where each woman has 90 seconds to showcase her talent. Contestants choose everything from dancing and singing to playing an instrument or jump roping, ventriloquism, painting, and everything in between. This is worth 35% of the score.

The last phase of competition is evening gown where basically you have to walk in heels and a beautiful dress and remember to walk, breath, and smile at the same time. If only it were that easy though! But that is the moment where you get to soak every moment in and exude grace and confidence. This is worth 20% of the final score.

To compete in Miss Idaho, you must be a full-time student so at the time I was balancing two jobs, being a full-time student, and training for Miss Idaho. I always remind myself of how busy I was then whenever I even think of complaining now about my busy schedule! That year at Miss Idaho I played Billy Joel’s Suite, Op. 8 “Star-Crossed” on the piano and competed with the intentions of doing my very best, but once again to walk away with a great experience. I ended up making it into the top 10 my first year and placed 2nd runner-up to Elise Davis.

I decided to give it a go again, and this time I was in it to win it as I competed in another local and won Miss Treasure Valley. I poured everything I had when it came to competing in Miss Idaho that year and decided to switch my talent to a rendition of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, a piece that I had dreamt of playing since I was 8-years-old. I made it into the top 5 again that year and won the Community Service Scholarship but instead of placing higher, I placed 4th runner-up. I was absolutely heartbroken and didn’t even want to think about competing again until I had an appearance as Miss Treasure Valley at the Summer Special Olympics. I remember I was getting ready to perform for the athletes and play the piano. I had forgotten my talent at one of my competitions before (something that in all my years of competing in piano competitions I had never done so it made me question my confidence for a few years while I overcame that mishap) so I was nervous that evening. One of the athletes was telling me not to worry, that he knew I was going to do great! I sat down to play, and before I was even done playing, the same boy who had come up to me before to tell me not worry had stood up with his friends and started clapping and cheering. He ran over to me and gave me the biggest hug with a smile on his face that I will never forget. He told me “When you played, that made my heart so happy.” At that moment I realized that at the end of the day, it’s not about whether you’ve won the crown or not. But rather, it’s about the lives who you are able to make a difference in and who in turn have an even bigger impact than you can imagine on your own life. I told myself then that as long as I stayed true to who I was and genuine in my actions through competing, I would continue competing for Miss Idaho.

I was up and running one more time as I competed and won Miss Meridian and once again poured everything I had into training for Miss Idaho. This time I even added background music to playing “Rhapsody In Blue” so it sounded like an orchestra was playing with me. I had done this for entertainment purposes (since dancers, singers, and most other instrumentalists have background music for this purpose as well) but had no idea how much more difficult it would be to play with! Not only did I have to memorize my own piano playing, but I had to memorize the cuts with the orchestra, the pauses and parts where I came in and had my own solos, and if I messed up the orchestra kept playing so I would have to figure out where to come back in. I had bitten off a lot to chew with that piece but performing it has been one of my biggest accomplishments to this day. That year I won the Community Service Scholarship as well (which was always such an honor to me because community service has always played such an important role in my life and I value the opportunity to make a difference) and made it into the top 5. It was myself and my good friend Kylie who were the last two standing. I knew either of us would be wonderful representatives of Idaho and that I had done absolutely everything I could so I couldn’t have any regrets. When they announced who had won Miss Idaho, I felt my heart sink as my name was announced as 1st runner-up. That was a very bittersweet experience, because I was so proud of Kylie but felt like I had nothing left to give to compete for Miss Idaho.

At that point, I truly could not imagine competing again. I had a little over a year left before I would graduate from college at that point and figured I would focus on that and furthering my career. But I’m not one to give up on my goals easily, and after I went to watch Kylie compete at Miss America that year I got the itch again and decided my new motto would be 4th time is the charm.  That year I competed as Miss Tri-Counties (which ironically was the first local I ever competed in and would come to be the last local I competed in). I ended up winning the Community Service Scholarship for the 3rd straight time which I was so humbled to receive and also ended up winning preliminary and finalist Lifestyle & Fitness in Swimsuit award which was incredibly rewarding after I had worked so hard by doing hot yoga, weight training, and extensive cardio! I made it to the final two once more, and this time I felt like it was a complete out-of-body experience. Even watching the video clips now I still feel like I wasn’t even there as they called my name as Miss Idaho 2011, one of the happiest moments of my lifetime because I had worked so hard for that moment and had stayed true to who I was throughout the entire experience.

I was in for the journey of a lifetime as I started off my year as Miss Idaho. It all began with speaking at the “Crossing of America” tour, a 12,500 mile tour over the course of 105 days to commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11th.

I went to many local pageants to crown the new title holders and wish them luck as they prepared to compete for the next Miss Idaho Pageant and was able to ride in a variety of parades in the community. Because I believe in living an active lifestyle, I continued running in local races in the community to show that Miss Idaho was more than just wearing a pretty crown but was also active and involved in the community.

Later that summer, I traveled to perform at Miss Washington and enjoy being able to watch my Sweetheart sister Brittney Henry win the title of Miss Washington which meant we would be competing at Miss America together! I was also able to be featured in Boise Double Take, a book that took images, people, and places from decades ago and compared what they were like then to now. I had my picture in front of the Boise Capital next to a picture of Miss Idaho 1962 Irene Ammons sitting on a rock in front of the State Capitol.

I was able to travel up to McCall numerous times that summer to present my self-esteem workshops at Silver Sage Girl Scout Camp Pittenger and also was able to celebrate my 22nd birthday at the Special Olympics giving out awards and speaking during the final ceremony. I told them about how I didn’t give up on my dream to become Miss Idaho and shared my story about the young man who I had met a couple of years ago who made me realize why being involved in the Miss America Organization was so important in the first place. At the dance that evening, another one of the athletes came up to me and told me he enjoyed hearing me speak and share my story about why I was competing. He then said the nicest thing to me which I kept with me through the rest of my year. He told me that he thought if they could inspire me to win Miss Idaho, then they could inspire me to be Miss America. I tell people if Girl Scouts wasn’t my platform, I would have absolutely had it been the Special Olympics because I think so highly of the organization and the people who are involved in it.

I was fortunate to be able to work with Frank Muir and the Idaho Potato Commission during my year as Miss Idaho. We were able to do several appearances together and I had a blast working with the Idaho Shippers and Growers and learning more about Idaho’s agriculture. That year, the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise was changed to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and I was able to christen the “Miss Idaho” Potato Truck which they named after the Miss Idaho Organization! The truck toured across the country with meals on wheels with a giant potato on top of it to educate people on the importance of incorporating potatoes into their diets. I was able to speak at a variety of their functions and was even able to meet fitness guru Denise Austin who works with the Idaho Potato Commission as well.

I also was able to throw out the first pitch at the Boise Hawks game and enjoy getting my face painted several times at various carnival events. Along with this, I visited various Veteran’s Homes in Idaho playing piano and visiting with the residents. I also visited the Adventure Center and was able to revisit with some of the athletes from the Special Olympics.

One of my former judges was a local firefighter, so I was able to “Crown up to fill the boot” to stand out in the middle of traffic to raise money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy.

At the end of the summer, I flew down to Orlando to watch our Miss Idaho Outstanding Teen, Melanie, make our state incredibly proud as she represented us at the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant. It was incredible to be back where it all began for me and was fortunate to share the same experience with 9 other former Miss American Outstanding Teen contestants who had also won their state titles that year and were going to be competing at Miss America with me that year.

Another one of my sponsors that year was Axiom Gym. I had a great partnership with them while being able to promote the importance of an active lifestyle and taking care of your body. I went to various appearances with them including a morning cycle class(while cycling in my crown!), running in the “Dirty Dash” with them (a 10k run through muddy obstacle courses!), and a variety of other appearances out in the community.

One of my favorite and most memorable appearances was at a local school carnival where I met a few young girls who completely made my evening. They were so sweet and had absolutely flipped my day around after I had a stressful and overwhelming experience. We all got “bff” painted on our faces and enjoyed the festivities from the carnival.

I also enjoyed a variety of appearances at our Mountain Home Air Force Base. One of which was being able to watch the Thunderbirds and their airshow. It was unbelievable!

I presented one of my self-esteem workshops at the Pocatello’s Women’s Correctional Center for the Girl Scout’s “Girls Beyond Bars” program. This was a very powerful appearance for me and I felt very grateful for the opportunity to have been there that day.

I had many opportunities as Miss Idaho to engage in public speaking to a variety of audiences. From speaking at elementary schools, conventions, clubs and organizations, and everything in between. One public speaking event that stood out to me was when I spoke about “Living the Dream” through the empowerment of girls and women at the Soroptimist International of Rocky Mountain Region meeting. I talked about what it meant to live the dream, how it seems as if “the dream” is something that is perfection. There are no worries, no fears and everything fits into place. But that isn’t the dream, nor is it even close to reality. The dream is rather a stage where we do have worries, we do have challenges. But we find the strength and the courage to overcome those challenges to reach our full potential and in the process find ourselves making a difference not only in our life, but in the lives of others. This was a lesson that I learned through competing and found it empowering to be able to share it with others.

With my platform being Girl Scouts, I had many opportunities to reach out to all ages of Girl Scouts (5-18 years old) as well as a variety of volunteers. I also had my own Visions Girl Scout Troop which is a program designed for 4th and 5th grade girls who may not be able to afford Girl Scouts, are unable to stay after school for meetings, and who otherwise may not have the resources and flexibility to attend Girl Scout meetings and events. So instead we meet once every week during their lunch time and they get to enjoy the benefits of a being a Girl Scout.

One of the highlights of my year was being able to travel to the Sun Valley Jazz Festival with the best chaperone in the world, Mamma De! I was able to see the honoring of the “lady of jazz”, meet the directors, as well as Barbara Hazzard whose husband had started the Sun Valley Jazz Festival but had passed away in 2004, but not before telling her to “keep the Jamboree going- people need to hear America’s music!” After a wonderful, and most memorable weekend in Sun Valley for the festival, I can definitely see why that would be his wish.

I was able to emcee a portion of the festival, take Peabody dance lessons and experience a variety of jazz dances, meet people from all over the world, be serenaded to, was able to ice skate on at an outdoor rink under the beautiful fall colored leaves (that’s been on my bucket list for years!) meet the official crown sponsor Lee Read of Miss Idaho, and had my 2nd marriage proposal during my title as Miss Idaho! The absolute highlight though was being able to play “Rhapsody in Blue” during the opening ceremonies. That had been something that I dreamt of and looked forward to since I first started competing for the title of Miss Idaho.

When I came back, I was able to speak to Hillside Junior High, my alma mater, about the importance of staying focused, setting goals, and how drugs can have a negative impact on our ability accomplish these dreams. I also was more involved with the Children’s Miracle Network and our Children’s Miracle Network Champion of the Year, 5-year-old Gracy who was diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White syndrome. I also had an interview with a virtual online video magazine to discuss my experience as Miss Idaho and future plans.

As I said, I had many opportunities to engage in public speaking and presenting “Free To Be Me” self-esteem workshops. One of my favorite places to present these workshops was at various Boys and Girls Clubs  around Idaho.

Being a Boise State fan and student, I had many appearances with Boise State at the football games, various functions promoting self-esteem and healthy lifestyles in children, and other events throughout the year. There’s nothing like being able to proudly represent your school while traveling across the state!

Another highlight from my year was working with the Ryan J. Poe Foundation. Greg Poe was one of the top 5 world pilots and a motivational speaker who spoke about Elevating Life, living up to our fullest potential and not letting anything get in the way of our dreams. Unfortunately he passed away Spring of 2011 but the people who are a part of his foundation are still striving to keep his dreams alive. I felt so blessed to be able to enjoy flying up in his MX2, just like the kids who he would take up for writing inspiring essays about dreams. Did I mention that not only were John and I doing loops and rolls, but I was actually flying it. Let me repeat, I WAS FLYING THE MX2 AND MAKING IT DO LOOPS AND ROLLS!

Girl Scouts celebrated their 100th year Anniversary during my year of service which made for quite the experience! I was able to travel to the 52nd National Girl Scout Convention in Houston, Texas to celebrate “The Year of the Girl” and the 3.2 million current Girl
Scouts and 50,000,000 million former Girl Scouts that have made up this wonderful organization. I had a blast meeting girls from all over the world who are in Girl Scouts and Girl Guides. While down there I was able to also listen to Katie Couric speak about her experience as a Girl Scout as well as a woman who was mentored by Mother Theresa, Robin Roberts from ESPN and Good Morning America, and Vernice
Armour, the first African American female combat pilot and pro-football player as well as enjoy Sara Bareilles live.

I was also able to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts through numerous activities including birthday parites, a flash mob at Meridian City Hall, running all over Northern Idaho to various locations to celebrate, and being able to speak in front of several service units about the benefits of being involved in Girl Scouts and how far we have come as an organization.

The holidays are typically a busy time for everyone, but the holidays for Miss Idaho are even busier than ever. I loved this though because one of the biggest reasons my schedule busy was because I was out in the community helping others and meeting many different people in hopes of making not just their holidays better, but hopefully having an impact on their life as well. As cliché as that sounds, I always hope that with every appearance I made I would reach out to at least one person and have a positive influence on their life whether by giving them a positive outlook on life or bringing a smile and laughter their way.

Of course the holidays brought fun activities such as parades, handing out candy, and enjoying the festivities around the area. But because of my love for music and sharing my passion with others, it also meant I was at many locations playing holiday and classical music including many traditions of mine that I’ve carried on over the years by playing piano at the Veteran’s Home and Festival of Trees. I also was able to attend the Festival of Trees Gala, be a model for the St. Alphonsus Benefit Fashion Show, and be a judge of the christmas trees for the Festival of Trees. If you can’t tell, the Festival of Trees festivities are one of my absolute favorite traditions during the holidays.

I also was involved in many charity benefits including Toys for Tots with the Ada County Paramedics and Girl Scouts, an event sponsored by the Soroptomist and the Boys and Girls Club, the Children’s Miracle Network, be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army, and Meals on Wheels.

Around this same time was when I was able to participate with the Idaho Potato Commission during their sponsorship of the Great Idaho Potato Bowl. I was able to christen the new giant potato truck that traveled around the nation, be out in the middle of the field for the coin toss, and was able to mingle amongst the Utah State’s Aggies and Ohio University ‘s Bobcats.

What made this holiday season even more packed with activity was the fact that I was also in the midst of my final month of training for the biggest competition of my life and one of the best memories I will have, Miss America.

Looking back, I don’t know how I stayed in one piece and remained sane after the typical day of training for Miss America as well as making appearances during this time! But I can honestly say that looking back I have no regrets and feel as if I brought everything that I could when I represented my state on the Miss America stage at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. I was the best me that I could be and I couldn’t have felt more blessed and proud to be representing Idaho.

I’m incredibly thankful that I kept my Miss Idaho Facebook and Twitter up to date through out my year because otherwise my experience during Miss America would have been a complete whirlwind with simply pictures and random souvenirs I’d picked up (including a napkin that I’d picked up during one of our breakfasts that read “keep calm and carry on” with a picture of a crown below it). Instead, every time I read back on my blog entries and journals the memories become much more vivid. I did take a couple tangible memories with me as well from that week. One was a necklace that was given to every contestant from the reigning Miss America, Teresa Scanlan that had a rhinestone placed on it from her crown. The other was the “Fourpoints Award” that was given to the contestant that best embodied what it meant to “wear” the four points of the crown- service, style, success, and scholarship. I was beyond humbled to be the one selected out of 53 contestants who all each incredible representatives of the fourpoints of the crown and it is an award that I will forever be honored and gracious to have received.

After Miss America came the big question, now what? As a title holder, many women will say “Follow me on my journey to Miss America!” But what if you don’t win Miss America? Are you done, is your job fulfilled? Absolutely not. I was crowned in June which meant that I was still Miss Idaho until the following June and a new Miss Idaho was to be crowned. That meant I was simply in the midst of my journey as Miss Idaho and my next five months ahead of me were going to be just as busy if not busier than the months leading up to Miss America.

When I came back I was right back doing what I loved the most about being Miss Idaho, being out in the community and helping bring smiles and laughter with each place I went to. Volunteering with Boise State, visiting elementary schools and surprising students to join them for lunch or wish them a happy birthday, presenting self-esteem workshops, and I also had many interviews to reminisce about my experience at Miss America. During one of my interviews I even was able to meet one of the members of the Harlem Globetrotters and was given tickets to their performance in Boise which I enjoyed with my sister.

I gave a unique speech when I went to visit with Centennial Job Corp. I am often asked to give speeches and discuss the importance of never giving up on your goals and what it takes to accomplish your dreams. But this time I spoke about the part of goal setting that nobody ever really wants to discuss. What happens when you don’t accomplish your goals and how to overcome adversity along the way. One of my favorite quotes is “The joy is in the journey, not the destination”. I used this to talk about how it isn’t the accomplishment of the goal that is important, but
rather how you grow along the way and the people who you meet during the journey.

The other thing that I absolutely love about being out in the community, especially around children, is that I’m always learning from the people I meet. During one of my workshops with a group of 5-year-old Daisy Girl Scouts, I developed the “pancake theory“. We were talking about how important it is to treat people with respect and what it means to give a genuine compliment and how this can completely change someone’s day. One girl then told me “Giving someone a compliment is like flipping a pancake. The pancake may be all gooey and not look so good on one side but when you flip it then it looks all golden and delicious. When someone is having a bad day and you tell them something nice then you just flipped their pancake!” I now use that theory in my workshop among many other clever ones I’ve learned through the children I’ve worked with.

I also spent Valentine’s Day at the Veteran’s home and surprised my 3rd grade teacher’s class which made a very memorable Valentine’s Day full of not just one sweetheart but several!

That next month I jumped into freezing cold water during the Special Olympic’s Penguin Plunge with my crown on and one of the Special Olympics athletes to benefit the Special Olympics. I think I was numb for the rest of the day but it is something I would absolutely do again.  I also had my picture hung up in the Idaho History Museum! I didn’t think I would ever see that happen in my lifetime but I was honored to be a part of the 100th Anniversary Girl Scout display. That was the same month as National Pancake Day at IHOP where I helped with various activities and interviews to help promote the Children’s Miracle Network.

Just as any child growing up, I was a HUGE Dr. Seuss fan. My favorite book is Oh, the Places You’ll Go and I was absolutely delighted to be able to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ 108th birthday and read some of my favorite books through out the day to local elementary schools.

I also decided it was time for a little change in pace which you may or may not be noticing at this point. I had been blonde my whole life and I decided it was time to cross something off of my bucketlist…it was time to try being a brunette! It was a difficult decision for me because I didn’t want people to be confused when I made appearances and I also didn’t want to send the wrong message that I was trying to change myself because I wasn’t confident in my own skin. I feel as if hair color is one of those things that doesn’t define you but it allowed for me to express myself. I simply felt as if I needed a temporary change and I had always wanted to try being a brunette and see how it felt. It was an interesting experience as well, most people thought I looked more my age and I was taken more seriously. I felt like that needed a little explanation so there wasn’t any confusion with the future pictures if you’re wondering “Who is that brunette girl and why is she wearing Miss Idaho’s crown and sash?” Don’t worry, I didn’t pon off my crown to help pay for college and no one stole it from me, both the blondie and brunette are me!

I only had a few more months left as Miss Idaho and I used Oprah Winfrey’s words of wisdom to help me absorb every last day “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” This was the official month of Girl Scout’s 100th Anniversary so I was very active with working in the community to help celebrate a very meaningful day.

That month I was busy crowning the last of the local title holders before Miss Idaho Orientation and making as many visits to elementary schools as possible! At this point I was preparing to emcee the Miss Idaho Outstanding Teen pageant and for the orientation for all the new contestants preparing for Miss Idaho that year. I was beyond thrilled to be asked to emcee MIOT as this was the door that opened up the path to where I was at that moment. I had the best co-emcee, Dani who was almost a former Miss Idaho Outstanding Teen and is one of the funniest ladies I know. It was difficult to see my “little sister” Melanie give up her title as Miss Idaho Outstanding Teen but I was very excited for Ashley to compete at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.

Another highlight was when I was asked to the Military Ball by ROTC Army Cadet Brad Fussner. He had asked me a couple of months back through a YouTube video if I would go with him, and we had the best time! I learned about how you should tap your spoon on the table to clap, there are certain rules that must not be broken or else you are required to drink out of a boot that is filled with “sweat, gravel, oil, and many other ingredients”. I was definitely on my best behavior that evening!

Among my speaking engagements I had several highlights. But one that I distinctly remembered feeling giddy and in disbelief that I was actually there was at my alma mater Capital High School’s Honor Society Induction. I had graduated 4 years ago at that points and it felt unreal to be up on that stage again but this time inspiring the students that sat exactly where I had years ago. I was also able to spend a day, or should I say be blown away in the “Windy City” of Rupert as I visited with surrounding elementary schools, the Soroptimist, the Violet Richardson Award Recipient (an award I had been given in high school and a women who I was incredibly impressed by), and was able to have a very surreal moment as I spoke at the Mt. Harrison alternative school.

I continued to stay physically active in the community as well as I participated in “Beat Coach Pete” with my girlfriends. And we beat him! I also visited a local elementary school that my friend taught at to talk about the importance of staying active, fueling our bodies with the proper nutrients, and treating ourselves and others with respect. I had another unique speaking engagementwhen I was asked to speak at the “HAM Radio Convention” later that month. I had no idea what a “HAM” was until I did a little research and later found out that frustrated commercial operators gave them this name because of their radio interference, however, amateur radio is now a great source of spreading community service across the nation, helping friend communicate long distance, and is a common shared hobby for others. I also found out later, as in when I got to the appearance, that not only was I speaking, but I was speaking as a keynote speaker at the head of the room. I was in disbelief with how well my speech ended up going and how I found a way to tie the four points of the crown (service, style, success, and scholarship) to their five components with their motto “Always Be Prepared- Advocacy, Education, Technology, Membership, and Public Service.”

The end of the month of April initiated my North Idaho Tour as I toured all across North Idaho (Idaho is spread out to the point where many people believe that North Idaho should be completely separated from the rest of Idaho with their own government and state). Miss Idaho hadn’t spent time up there in years and I had made it my goal to travel all over the state and reach out to as many people as possible. And that was exactly what I did as I worked with Girl Scouts, surrounding elementary/junior high/high schools, the Nez Perce, journalism classes, and even spoke to a Sorority at University of Idaho (Boise State’s rival school!) which went incredibly well. I was also asked to prom by one of the high school students in one of the journalism classes. He pulled out the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and everything! Unfortunately it was the same week as Miss Idaho though. That week itself was even busier than my week spent at Miss America which I could hardly believe to be possible.

When I came back I had one day to unpack and prepare to head over with “Spuddy” to Sun Valley for the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietics Conference where I represented the Idaho Potato Commission with my very good friend and Miss Idaho contestant Deidre. Sun Valley has always been a place that is a breath of fresh air for me so after a busy week a visit up there was exactly what I needed. We even participated in a fun run around the town and enjoyed meeting dietitians and other organizations during the conference.

After a few days I was back in Boise working more with Girl Scouts, the Children’s Miracle Network, and also the Miss Idaho Little Sisters breakfast and orientation. This is a mentoring program where each girl is paired up with a “little sister” during the week of Miss Idaho and at the breakfast the little sisters found out who her big sister would be! I love the program and have done my best in stay in touch with all four of my Miss Idaho Little Sisters. We write letters, go out to ice cream and dinners, I even went to the Jonas Brothers concert with one of them!

I had my last race as Miss Idaho during the Famous Idaho Potato Run with the Idaho Potato Commission. I didn’t run with my crown on, but I did have a shirt made that said “Miss Idaho Genevieve Nutting, You better believe I’m a hot potato!” I had an absolute blast running the 10k and even beat my boyfriend, Luke, which I was incredibly proud of! Okay, it was only by a few seconds he continues to point out but none the less, I came in first!

I also volunteered with 4H to help celebrate their 100th Anniversary through a very entertaining barn dance. That was the appearance where I met the sweet girl who asked me if I felt magical every time I wore the crown. I couldn’t believe that my time was quickly coming to an end as Miss Idaho.

My last week as Miss Idaho was also the same week that I started summer school and was moving back to downtown Boise. Needless to say, it was an incredibly emotional week and made it difficult to say goodbye to an adventure that had been so wonderful as I was reminded how stressful school was going to be! I had one more speech to give which was at the Miss Idaho contestant brunch the day the new Miss Idaho would be crowned. It was by far the most difficult speech I had ever written and took me weeks to figure out exactly what to say.

I talked about what it felt like to set a goal, a goal that meant the absolute world to you. You first imagine what it would feel like to accomplish that goal after all the hard work and dedication you put into it. For me, I imagined what it would sound like as I heard my name announced as Miss Idaho and on her way to the Miss America Pageant! I imagined what it would feel like to have that beautiful crown placed upon my head, what it would feel like to walk across the Miss America stage representing my state. What it would feel like to have a little girl mistakenly call you “Miss America” and tell you that you’re her role model. But what you don’t imagine is what it will feel like the last time you introduce yourself as Miss Idaho. The last time you walk into a room as Miss Idaho and have little girls think you are a princess. What it will feel like the last time you place that beautiful crown on your head. How does one possibly say good-bye to all of that?

I decided that you don’t say good-bye, instead you reflect upon that year and all the wonderful people you met and the extraordinary moments that made your year as sensational as it was and you pass along that joy to someone else. So that was exactly what I did. I reflected back on my favorite moments and stories from my year as Miss Idaho. I explained exactly what the job of Miss Idaho entailed and gave words of advice and encouragement to not just the future Miss Idaho, but to each of the women in that room. I then thanked everyone who had helped me along the way and who had made the last 5 years as meaningful as they were and had helped me get to where I stood at that moment. I ended it with a question my mother had asked me when I was competing “What do you want your legacy to be?” I asked each person in that room and encouraged them to find out how they wanted to leave their mark and then decide what they wanted their legacy to be. For my legacy I was inspired through the words of Maya Angelou

“People may forget what you say, and they may forget what you do, but they will never forget the way that you made them feel.”

During that year I traveled over 22,000 miles as Miss Idaho and presented my self-esteem workshops to over 2,000 children.  I ate at countless Subways and went through several cans of tuna and packages of carrots! I can’t even begin to count how many people I met or how many different places I visited. But I hope that with each appearance I made I left people feeling better than they were before I walked into that room, because that is exactly how Miss Idaho should leave people feeling.

Whitney Wood was crowned Miss Idaho that evening and ironically she was my 1st runner-up the year I was crowned! She has done a wonderful job representing our state and promoting her platform “Handbags of Hope” and I can hardly wait to see her compete at Miss America in January.

It’s difficult to close the chapter on something that you enjoyed so much in life. Something that brought an immense amount of happiness and many blissful moments to your world. But at the same time, there come many points in our life where it is time to turn to the next chapter so we may grow with each opportunity and experience. And so far, this chapter has definitely been one for the books and can hardly wait to see what happens next.

Much love and hugs

(Forever Miss Idaho 2011)

Genevieve

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