This past weekend, I went to Texas to visit family and to cheer on my sister and brother-in-law in a charity dance competition benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters. Ironically, both my sister and I competed in charity ballroom dance competitions this year. Being polar opposites, I loved and relished every moment of being on stage, performing, and wearing tons of makeup and an outrageous sparkly costume whereas my sister was slightly mortified and had to be talked into it. That being said, I didn’t even place in my competition and my sister and brother-in-law won the whole thing. #polaropposites I thought I would embarrass us both by posting both our videos today.
Since many of my readers won’t be able to come to the pageant this weekend, but have been a huge part of my Miss Tennessee USA experience, I thought I would post my program book farewell letter and a photo scrapbook here for all to see! (It’s reaaaaaal long) What a year it’s been – enjoy!
For the past 10 years, competing at Miss USA has been my ultimate goal so to say that this past year has been a dream come true is a complete and total understatement. I have gotten emotional many times throughout this year thinking about how much God blessed me by allowing me to win this title. Having prior experience from competing at Miss Teen USA, I knew that this year would fly by and my aim was to savor each moment as Miss Tennessee USA. While I did that, this year has still flown by too quickly and I’m sad to leave the title behind that brought me some of the greatest moments of my life, introduced me to some of the most influential and wonderful people, and helped me grow exponentially as a woman. This year wouldn’t have been what it was without an entire team of people behind me. After competing at Miss USA, I can confidently say that Kim Greenwood has put together the best group of people in the entire nation to help and prepare her winners to be the best that they can be.
Firstly, I have to thank Kim Greenwood. How can I adequately thank you in a paragraph!? Not only do I admire you as a savvy business power-woman, but as a friend, mother, and wife. Your unwavering dedication to every. single. thing. you do has been so inspirational to me and there are things I learned from you that you don’t even realize you taught me. Friend, mentor, teacher, boss – these are just some of the roles you have played in my life this past year and I will never forget them. (And don’t think you won’t continue to play those roles for many years to come!) The impact you have had not only on my life, but on the lives of every woman who comes through your organization, is indescribable, invaluable, and profound. Tennessee is really your kingdom! Love you to the moon and back!
Steven – Thank you for killing my inner Marsha Brady and turning me into Miss Tennessee USA. I would have never had the tools to win the crown if it weren’t for your expertise, creativity, and guidance. The hours of time, thousands of dollars, and knowledge you’ve given spent on me is something that I will never be able to repay you for. (Unless I become a millionaire in which case I’ll be taking you on a luxury vacation to Paris and to monthly dinners at the Cat Bird Seat!) You have been one of the most influential people in my life and I love you like family aka a really handsome older brother.
Mom, Dad, Jamie, and Eric – thank you for being behind me for all of these years of competition emotionally and financially. You probably think I’m crazy… and you’re probably right, but thanks for loving me unconditionally anyway! You guys give the best pep talks – Kimi G should consider bringing you on as professional motivators.
Matt, even though you think that paying money to willingly enter something where people will be judging you is a little bit nutty, thank you for supporting me unselfishly and believing in me whole-heartedly since the moment I met you. To Katy and the rest of the Ridenour family, coming to Vegas to support me as one of your own meant the world to me and is something I’ll never forget! Thanks for not encouraging Matt to break up with me, because if I was you all, I might have… haha
Taryn – I was actually a fan of yours before we even met and who would’ve thought that 7 years later I would be an even bigger fan?! I’ve said this before, but I truly think God had a special plan when he placed you as my roommate at this pivotal time in my life. I could cry thinking about all of the ways that you’ve been there and supported me this past year. I will always cherish the Miss USA devotionals you made me – and I’m never throwing them away. Sorry I’m not sorry!
Nichole – your belief in me was one of the main reasons I even entered Miss Tennessee USA for what would have been the last time. I can’t thank you enough for the mock interviews, advice, encouragement, and for opening up your entire closet to me on countless occasions! You have one of the kindest hearts of anyone I know!
Jessica – Reliving the past 5 years of friendship is pretty surreal and as I write this our friendship is coming full circle! From being fellow competitors, to supporting each other at Miss USA and throughout our quarter life crisis’s, I couldn’t think of anyone who could have handled all of that with such a sense of humor and with such authenticity. I have thanked Jesus numerous times that you won Miss Tennessee USA because if that wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have gone to Vegas to cheer you on… and I wouldn’t have got that heat rash from being at the pool… which means I wouldn’t have spent so many hours in rehearsal screaming for you… which means that I wouldn’t have gotten the urge to compete again, so I really owe you one! In addition to everything else, thank you so much for all of the completely honest advice you gave me throughout this year, I couldn’t have lucked out more being crowned by one of my best friends in the world!
The Reynolds, McLelands, Wedertzs, and Schreiners – you all have been with me since the very beginning – knowing me as an awkward tween to coming and supporting me at every pageant I’ve ever been in! You are my sisters and family and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you and I wouldn’t want to celebrate the highs and mourn the lows of life with anyone else.
Ray Sells, Firstly, thank you for being on the smartest judging panel ever! Ha! Secondly, thank you so much for for investing in me in so many ways this year. Your friendship and advice have been one of the most valuable things I’ve gained during my year as Miss Tennessee USA. Lastly, my offer to lend you a cup of sugar still stands.
Alison, who would have ever thought that a girl from Massachusetts and girl from Wyoming would hit it off best friend style at Miss Teen USA 2005!? Your friendship and advice has been such an important part of my life not only this year, but for the past 8. You and Sal have been so generous to me and have shown me some of the most unbelievable hospitality! I’m not even kidding when I say that a huge part of the reason I wanted to win Miss USA was to be in the same city as you! Thanks for all of your love and support!
Sarah and Nick – um MAJOR bragging rights for me that I had friends come all the way from AUSTRALIA to cheer me on at Miss USA!!!! I will never forget that you did that and no matter how many miles you are from me you will always remain two of the best friends anyone could ever have! Here’s to Willow being Miss Australia 2034!
Dr. Wells and team – A few things I never knew until I met you all: 1.) That a dentist could be so hip and trendy 2.) That going to the dentist doesn’t have to be painful and can in fact be quite a luxurious experience! (Massage chair and gourmet coffee anyone?!) 3.) That someone so renowned in their field could also be so down to Earth and compassionate. Your professionalism and generosity to the Miss Tennessee USA program is unparalleled and not to brag, but all of the other states wish their teeth looked like mine!
Gordon, Have two people ever laughed more during a hair appointment? Doubt it! Thank you so much giving me your time and talents this year, I love my hair!
Josh, A more fun trainer doesn’t exist and I am so blessed that I have been able to call you my trainer for the past 5 years! Thank you to you and Results for letting me come to as many classes as I wanted and for investing in my health and success.
Kristy and Joel, As I was prepping for the Miss Tennessee USA pageant, one of the things I was most excited for if I won was to work with you two! You are truly the dream team and I love you as a photographer and makeup artist of course, but also as friends. I am so inspired by both of your creativity and I can’t wait to shoot again!
Danielle Doyle and Paula Shugart, Neither of you will probably read this, but I want to publicly recognize the both of you as some of the most inspirational women I have ever met. It was a privilege to cross paths with both of you throughout this year and I admire you so much for your intelligence, your ability to balance, and your ability to lead.
Niki Johnson, Thank you for giving me the most beautiful skin I’ve ever had! Just because I won’t be Miss Tennessee USA anymore doesn’t mean you won’t be seeing me for visits! Love ya!
Catherine, Wow C. Nail, from meeting you when we competed together in 2009 to you helping me with my paperwork before Miss Tennessee last year to being the first person to see me after Miss USA, you have been a huge part of every step of my journey. I don’t think either of us will forget our post Miss USA chat in my hotel room! Ha! Betty did the best job raising you and I am so blessed to call you a dear friend!
Deborahs, A Bridal Path, Anne’s Bridal, and Joanns, thank you so much for your incredible generosity to this program. I felt so beautiful at Miss USA thanks to your gifts.
Former Miss Tennessee USAs: Ashley Durham, Allison DeMarcus, Amy Neely, Casey Porter, Amy Colley Tyson, Tucker Perry, and Kristen Motil, thank you so much for your words of support and encouragement this year. You are the reason that the title of Miss Tennessee USA carries so much prestige.
Clay Spann and Joey, thank you from the bottom of my heart for spending your time and talents on me. You both have hearts of gold and I am so lucky to have worked with you!
DeLaney, what would I have done without you at Miss USA?! You went out of your way to make sure I looked my best and had everything I needed. You are so talented and have the most beautiful heart. Looooove you!
The Heimerdinger foundation and Healing NET Foundation: Thank you so much for granting me the privilege of working with you this year. I so respect the vision of what each of you are doing and I look forward to many more years of service with your organizations.
Josh, Alexis, Lauren, and The Standard, your support to me this year has been above and beyond! From bragging about me to everyone you know to letting me have my send off party at the most beautiful historic home in downtown Nashville, to coming to Vegas to support me I really can’t thank you enough! Love y’all like family!
Kent, You are so much more than a walking coach. You work so hard to bring out each girls individual best and you have no idea how much I appreciate the time you invested in me, tough love, and amazing conversation. It will be so weird to see you from now on wearing more than a swim suit… haha
The Carters, you two are a match made in glamour shot heaven! I had so much fun shooting with you and I absolutely loved my photos! Thanks again!
Cameron Powell, I am so glad I reached out to you this year to have you shoot what are some of my favorite photos. You are such a dear friend and creative genius, I am so thankful to have met and worked with you!
Andrew, you are one of the most generous people I have ever met. My year as Miss Tennessee USA wouldn’t have been the same without that trip to Memphis and being able to fly to Biloxi because of you. You are an amazing friend and I look forward to many more fun times!
Dale, I mean… I was star struck by you when you spoke to us all at Miss Teen USA 2005, if you would have told me then that you would become such a great friend I would have been beside myself! Actually, I still am! I am so blessed that I can call you any time for motivation and advice with a little humor thrown in. You are one in a million!
Gerald, there is no one, and I mean no one, who has ever helped me more with interview than you. You have such a unique gift for highlighting what is special about someone and I love you to pieces.
Emily, One of the things I hoped for when I won Miss Tennessee USA was to have an awesome sister queen to share my year with and to say that you are outstanding would be an understatement. You continue to amaze me not only with your beauty, but with your heart for others, work ethic, and intelligence. This is only the beginning for you and the sky is the limit for what you are capable of accomplishing! Love you sister!
Miss Charlotte, my mom always wanted me to take an etiquette class and she got her wish this year! Somehow you make something that seems stuffy so much fun – I really want to eat more of your cooking too! Thank you for making sure I know to properly mind my p’s and q’s!
Cooper, Without your support last fall, I might not have ever entered Miss Tennessee USA and you have supported me ever since that moment. You have become such a great and loyal friend, I am so thankful for you!
Brittany, Paromita, Julia, and Madison, how many times do 6 women of varying ages get thrown together and get along so well? I admire each and every one of you in different ways and my year wouldn’t have been the same without my Greenwood sisters. Love you!
To everyone who came to Vegas to cheer me on, came to my send off party, or who sent encouragement my way this year, I will never forget how loved and supported I felt. I would never be the person I am if it weren’t for all of the truly incredible people in my life. Love you all!
To all of the contestants competing this year, If you walk away this weekend without the crown, know this: I was told that I could never win Miss Tennessee USA, but I knew that I could. If that’s your dream, keep working and if that’s your destiny, God will orchestrate it at just the right time… and if it’s not, know that you were here for some reason. Whether that be to build your own confidence, make a special relationship, or to better someone else’s life, trust that.
Finally, to my successor, congratulations! You are about to embark on what will probably be the best and most challenging year of your life. Please recognize that having this title as a huge gift and treat it as such on behalf of yourself, this organization, and every girl that has competed in this pageant. This year is mostly what you make of it. My advice? Don’t waste one single day, figure out what you want to do with the title and go after it! Listen to everyone’s advice (there will be a lot!), but filter it based on who you are and what you represent. Know exactly who you are and be so confident in that that no one can knock you down, no matter what they say! Welcome to one of the most prestigious and legendary groups of women in the country, The Miss Tennessee USA sisterhood!
(Putting this letter together with all of the photos have further made me realize how much this organization has completely changed my life. I’m forever grateful for this year and so happy for the next set of ladies who get to experience this crazy ride!)