I competed in beauty pageants from the age of 17 until I finally won Miss Texas USA in 2003 at the age of 21. Those years were some of the best times of my life filled with fun, fashion, fitness and amazing memories. I had no idea everything I would experience competing in beauty pageants or that I would have any success doing so. Besides all of the invaluable fashion and beauty secrets I learned for doing my hair and make-up and looking my best, I developed a foundation for working out and strength training that has helped me still love fitness today. Now that I am in my 30s and a wife and mother, I can look back at all my pageant and modeling experience with a big smile and a thankful heart! I can see the good fruits of my pageant days. Whatever your opinion may be about beauty pageants, I can tell you I learned some of the most valuable life lessons I have ever learned as a woman that continue to help me live a fulfilled life today.
Here are few I want to share with you:
HAVE A SERVANT’S HEART. If you read nothing else on this list, may this one life lesson I learned peak your interest in praying for God to renovate your heart if needed. Having a heart that desires to love and serve others doesn’t really sound like it goes hand-in-hand with being a beauty queen, but it absolutely does. I have always told other girls vying for the Miss Texas USA crown, “There’s a difference between WINNING Miss Texas USA and BEING Miss Texas USA.” Winning to me is the moment that it’s truly about you and celebrating you and being excited for you! But the rest of the year is mostly about using your crown to bring joy, excitement, inspiration, help, encouragement and whatever else “duty” calls for at the moment. When you look at it that way, the year becomes all the more exciting! I knew it was important to want to serve others when I won. It was such a fundamental reason why I wanted to win Miss Texas USA, but it hasn’t been until I look back on all those years that I realize the importance of having a heart that models our precious Lord; one full of humility, serving and loving others. Knowing the importance of this heart attitude is great, but it has taken me so much time to work through and grow in the area of selfishness.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
~Galatians 5:13 NLT
BE UNIQUELY YOU. When I finally won Miss Texas USA after competing five times, I still wasn’t sure if I was “enough” to be the prestigious beauty queen. Thankfully, God was in control and was orchestrating one of the most life-changing moments of my life just a month after winning. I entered into a relationship with Jesus that year. Oh Sweet Jesus, I needed to just surrender. All my looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for validation in too many faces, and finally I got “saved” as some would call it. That one decision changed my life! No, I didn’t change overnight. No, I didn’t just instantly become this secure, confident awesomely, bold young woman…BUT I started walking into better choices slowly and surely. I started taking notice of all the goodness that was in me, and not just an inventory of all the “crap” I had done. I was tapping the surface of what it really means to love and accept myself as I am, yet still growing more and more like Christ. It’s been a journey that I am still on, but the year I won was the start of seeing who God made me to be and the vision He has for my life.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.~2 Corinthians 3:18 NASB
BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU PLACE YOUR VALUE AND YOUR WORTH. Oh goodness! I spent over 10 years modeling and focusing on my appearance. The importance of my physical appearance so outweighed the importance of the “heart” work I needed Jesus to continue in me. I still love make-up, working out, beautiful clothes and jewelry…all things girl and glamorous. BUT…it wasn’t until I had my daughter Sophia that my little world started to crumble as I put weight on, got stretch marks and the modeling gigs were more and more scarce. It took a little while, and the weight came off, but after some time my perspective changed. My eyes opened, and I was tired of stressing out about what size I was wearing, and if I looked pretty or not based on someone else’s perspective! I had already won Miss Texas USA, yet I was still questioning if I was pretty enough, still? Seriously?!! Sometimes I just want to smack some sense into myself! We are so hard on ourselves as women, and I realized the extra pressure of staying “skinny” was stealing my joy. I also realized I was no longer finding enjoyment or passion in modeling, and I certainly was done putting my value and my worth solely into this one area. I had to make a decision that it was time to move on mentally as well, which has been the toughest part. I’ve had to renew my mind in the area of where my worth and value are really set. What does God say about my beauty? What does He say about my physical appearance? It was time to put the real work into making my heart beautiful too, and that’s been the journey I’m on.
For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. ~1 Samuel 16:7 AMP
EXERCISE. Yep, I put this on the list. I hope you know the importance of exercising, and please know I am coming from a place of love when I say this to you! Exercising is like a magic pill. It is so good for you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I’m not saying you have to exercise every day for an hour, but get out and take a walk for 20 minutes, stretch, or do something at home. I was blessed to have a trainer the entire year I was Miss Texas USA, and he was amazing! He taught me so much about working out, and he taught me the importance of making fitness a part of your life forever! I love working out now. Of course, I go through phases when I avoid the gym or even dread going, but I know they won’t last. I know the longer I am away, the harder it will be to get back into a routine so I go. I go even if it’s 30 minutes. I go even if I only get to hit a few machines and stretch because something happens to me the minute I walk out. I have a sense of accomplishment. I feel like I can say, CHECK! I love that feeling, and I am sure a lot of you do too. You may be missing it, but you can get back to working out at any time!! You will be amazed at all the other areas fitness positively affects your life!
You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athlete’s race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.
I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. ~1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG
DON’T GIVE UP – PERSISTENCE MAKES WINNERS. It’s cheesy to say “winners” right? I know, but still if you will stick with a good thing for some time, you will get a good result!! Don’t give up!! God has been putting the scripture Galatians 6:9 in front of me for months now! It reads, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” It took me 5 years to win Miss Texas USA! I went back to the same pageant 4 years in a row and didn’t win! That’s just torture for someone with no vision, no persistence, and no Jesus to back you up. Thankfully I had all of that and a bag of chips! I learned that when God tells you to do something, you can do it. Going through that experience helped me look back and see that I stuck to a goal, a vision, a purpose and a plan. It’s given me confidence, hope and trust in God. It’s been a reminder to me that being diligent with a goal, dream, plan or even a relationship could result in something even more amazing than we could have ever imagined!
“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” ~ Philippians 2:13NIV
SAVOR THE MOMENTS. In this life we get no “take backs or do-overs.”
We must learn to enjoy the moments. I experienced the importance of this truth while competing to win Miss Texas USA, but I still have to remind myself of this daily. I know it sounds so cliché, “live in the moment,” but that’s why we must not just say these as “sayings”, but actually live them out mindfully each day. The minute I open my eyes in the morning I start thanking God for whatever comes to mind. I start praying I’ll have a good day, patience with the kids, get my stuff done…you know the drill. I learned to do this some time ago because I have chronic hives and I usually start itching when I wake up. My hives were at an all-time crazy, itchy peak during the year I was Miss Texas USA. I think it was a combination of anxiety, a weakened immune system and the pressure I put on myself to be at my best. I remember certain events (appearances is what we call them) when I would be meeting new people and expected to look like a dashing beauty, but my skin was covered in red itchy blotches. At the annual Miss Texas Teen Pageant where Miss Texas USA makes her debut, my hives were so bad I remember crying on the floor in my hotel room asking God to please take them away. My friend and my make-up artist airbrushed each visible one with make up just to help me feel better. I’ll never forget that day. I’ve learned that we have to see the fun in the everyday things, appreciate even the annoyances because they can bring about good or a lesson to be learned. We have to live in the moment, because if not, worry, dread, anxiety, impatience, fear and just lack of thankfulness will let moments meant to be savored pass you right on by!
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. ~Matthew 6:34 MSG
So the next time you catch a beauty pageant on television please know that the ladies you are watching are picking up some mega life lessons and dealing with their own issues just like the rest of us. God can use every experience to teach us about Him, be more like Him, learn His ways for living and to reveal our unique purpose in this life. No more beauty pageants for me, but I’m thankful God made me a beauty queen and taught me that a worldly crown is just an accessory. Now I know He has made you and me the true crown of all His creation. How cool is that ladies?!?
~ Stephanie Wanic
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Stephanie has a heart to pray, encourage, inspire and beautify women through the transformational truths God has taught her and by the power of His Word.