When a moment of positive inspiration motivates us to do something we never thought we could do, it is a beautiful thing. Though there may be periods of rest and pause or seasons of fear and doubt, God can still use us–as imperfect as we are–and our work to inspire others.
Three years ago, my sister-in-law–photographer and model–Stacey Smith, inspired me when she pushed through her fear and pursued an opportunity to represent Greenville, South Carolina in the Miss SC USA pageant. While this was her first pageant, she still managed to make the top 15 and use the platform she gained to give her testimony and serve as a mentor for young girls. I’ve always wanted to share her story but never thought it was the right time…until now.
What inspired you to compete in the pageant?
I was inspired by many things. Growing up, I always loved seeing the beautiful women walking gracefully in their gowns and their amazing bodies in swimsuit. The other part was what they got to do with their platform. They were given a voice and were able to speak for causes and bring smiles to people all over the world. I wanted to have that chance too.
So, you got inspired from all those years watching pageants. Why do you think you found them so inspiring?
It was so inspiring to me because it gave me hope that an average girl could have the chance to meet royalty and people of power and have the opportunity to speak with them and be a voice for people who would otherwise never have that ear.
Why was 2012 the year to finally do it? Was there a moment that made you say, “I really think I can do this now”?
2012 was the year I finally competed because it was the last year I could possibly do it. I didn’t want to look back and regret never trying.
What was the most challenging part of your experience?
The most challenging part of my experience was getting not only in shape, but swimsuit competition ready. I lost a total of 27lbs and dropped 2 dress sizes.
Were there any times when you felt fear as you were competing or preparing for the pageant? If so, how did you overcome it?
I was constantly in fear that I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t skinny enough, the list goes on and on. But I was constantly reminded by God that He was going to be right beside me the whole time and to be myself.
Did your experience impact your faith in any way?
The biggest lesson I learned from the experience was to keep God first. I went in with the heart that I was doing this for God, to be a light in the world. In the midst of it all I got caught up in the idea of winning for the crown and the possible fame. I’ll never forget being in the shower one morning and God saying to me “What if I told you to walk away from this today?” I said “No!” To this day I’ll always wonder if I stayed focused on the ultimate goal what the turnout could have been. As a result, in everything I do now, I constantly check myself to see if I’m off course in working for Christ.
What other lessons did you learn from your experience that you still carry with you today?
So many things! I got healthy! So many people think it is just about gowns and swimsuits but these women train like athletes. I never took my diet seriously, but now I can’t look at food the same. That will undoubtedly change my life for the better. I gained a new self-confidence. I take more pride in my appearance now and even learned that I was wearing my clothes much larger than I needed to. I learned how to style my own hair and makeup for stage which has helped me in my career of modeling now. I learned how to solicit sponsorship to the point that if I ever wanted to run for a political office I have the training now. Finally I learned that anything is possible. I always wanted to compete but never had the money to do so. I took a chance relying on friends, family, and my community. I never expected everyone to rally behind me and I never would have imagined raising the money that I did. It gave me faith in people and faith in myself.
This is Day 29 of the series, 31 Days of Inspired Living. In this series, I’ll write about what I think it looks like to find the inspiration that makes us better. I’ll also offer some encouragement for your journey. In case you missed a day, you can find previous posts in the series here.