One week ago I woke up in a sleepy, overjoyed state praying the past twelve hours hadn’t in fact been a dream of mine. As I glanced over to the other bed beside me in the Comfort Suites Hotel in Oshkosh, I saw the Miss Wisconsin sash adorned with crystals and the crown sitting beside my evening gown; and I teared up yet again. For eight years this dream of serving the state had evolved and finally, my hard work and dedication had paid off.
Let’s rewind for a second and expand on my feelings during that crowning moment because I felt all of them, let me tell ya…
In the weeks leading up to Miss Wisconsin this year, I took a different approach than last year. In 2017, I focused whole-heartedly on preparing for state with a very fixated, ‘all or nothing’ state of mind. While I reached success in placing higher than I had before that point in time, finishing as 1st Runner-Up, I knew I needed to shift my mentality this year. In my mind, the age extension granting me one more opportunity to compete was an unforeseen chance to have fun and trust in God’s timing. It took a great deal of mental and emotional strength as well as positive affirmation from friends and family to ensure I was in the right mindset after repressing this dream all last summer. Nonetheless, I knew I had nothing to lose going into the week. Either my ultimate desire to represent Wisconsin would happen or I would find comfort in knowing I gave it every ounce of blood (literally cut my knee and toes frequently practicing talent, the struggle is real), sweat and tears I possessed and would have no regrets moving on with the next chapter of my life.
In the weeks leading up to Miss Wisconsin 2018, I chose to not over prepare for interview, I focused on exercising and my talent more than I had in the past, and I spent more quality time with family and friends in an effort to relax and soak up the moment. Mentally, I honed in on helping myself realize that what was meant to be would unfold and I needed to come to terms with whatever that outcome turned out to be. Miss Wisconsin week arrived…I was calm, anxious, and eager. Yes, it is possible to feel all those emotions simultaneously. I took rehearsals, events, and phases of competition one at a time, attempting to clear my mind and lead with my heart each step of the way.
Then Saturday evening arrived and the show began. I upped my sass and ‘strutted my stuff’ during swimsuit after being called into the Top 11, knowing it was the last time I would (most likely) walk in a swimsuit on stage. Talent didn’t go as I had planned. All week the stage floor had been extremely slippery, so I used adhesive spray or “butt glue” to make my one turning shoe sticky. However, that night when my music began and I started to turn, I felt just how stagnant the floor had become over the course of the week. I went to do my first fouetté turns and struggled to spin, instantly becoming anxious for my big turning sequence. As I went to prep, I felt my foot remain in the same place and attempted to push through my momentum; but two turns into the five total rotations, I stumbled and came out of them. At that point, my body took over, my emotional response kicked in, and I did improve choreography to transition into my next move. I walked off stage emotionless as I put my hand up to the other candidates back stage and expressed that I needed a moment. Typically, I step onto side stage and release a flurry of joy; but that didn’t occur. I actually had a moment where I thought to myself, “Well, I just fell out of Top 5. If that’s how it’s going to end, that’s how it’s going to end.” I share this insight with you because I think it’s important to be candid and to realize that no one is perfect. We are human, we make mistakes, we are our own harshest critics and many times, we are much too hard on ourselves. I was disheartened knowing my talent needed to be ‘perfect’ due to the caliber of talents on finals night. Yet, when forever Miss Wisconsin’s arrived back stage during intermission prior to being announced on stage, I was reaffirmed that my talent looked great. “Tia, I’ve never seen you dance like that before! It was amazing!” expressed Miss Wisconsin 2015, Rosalie Smith. P.S. Thanks for the positive vibes girl! And in that moment I found comfort as I agreed to put talent behind me and focus on evening gown.
Being called last into the Top 5 provided me with a brief moment of time to catch my breath and relax prior to answering my question about immigration. What you did not see upon finishing my answer, was my pride stance falling into the arms of my dear friends, Miss Badgerland, Susan Fochs and Miss Milwaukee, Haley Schonter backstage as I cried in their arms with happiness and a great deal of relief. A short while later it was time for crowning (the original motive for this post) as all of the 27 members of the Miss Wisconsin Class of 2018 took the stage and the Top 5 of us were called forward. (In the best David Weincek voice you have) Fourth Runner-Up…Miss West Allis, Gina Miliacca…(phew, keep breathing and smiling)…Third Runner-Up…Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest, Madeline Kumm! Second Runner-Up is…Miss South Central…Elise O’Connell!
“Oh my goodness! What?” In all honesty those were my thoughts in that moment. Here I was again, in the final two with one of my best friends. And your First Runner-Up…is Miss S…
The moment I heard that “s” sound, my heart raced, jaw dropped, and my knees gave out. It’s a good thing my evening gown was jersey because I fell right to the stage, hitting the floor with my hand to brace myself. And thank goodness I shared that moment with Jess because my girl (bless her heart in that tight, fit and flare gown) dropped with me and literally held me upright. In that moment, being succumb with so many emotions and shock my mind blanked. I remember saying “Oh my God!” over and over repeatedly and McKenna saying, “I need to to sit still, I’m going to put the crown on you,” before instructing me that she was going to grab my hand and walk me forward. And I took to the runway as I had watched five women before me do during their crowning moments as I immediately bent down to hug my mom, sister, dad, and brothers who rushed to the stage to embrace me.
With a full heart, I’m so thankful for this opportunity to share my platform on a state level, for the journey that led me to this moment, and for the chance to represent Wisconsin at the Miss America competition in September. So blessed, so appreciative, so eager for the countless memories I have yet to create this year!