It has been over a year since my last blog. After my blog “Live!” I attacked life with more tenacity than ever. I was awarded the title of Miss Slovakia USA Multiverse and traveled to the Dominican Republic in November to compete on the international stage. We had many fun adventures during pageant week. We swam with the dolphins, went zip lining, toured and learned the history of beautiful Santa Domingo, and helped at Fundacion Niños de Cristo orphanage, which was one of the most rewarding experiences of the entire week. This week was one of the best experiences in my life and the place of one of my proudest moments to date. A moment where I demonstrated courage within me that I never knew I had.
In Martin Rooney’s book Train to Win, he talks about Core Values. Core Values, as he states are “the set of guidelines or principles that you use to govern your every action” or, as a presenter had posed to him, “values that you feel so strongly about that you are willing to die for them!” That is an intense statement. What do I feel that strongly about? To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what my answer was. That is, until I was forced with a moral dilemma.
This dilemma came on the night of preliminaries at the pageant. For those unfamiliar with the world of pageantry, preliminaries consisted of a private interview with the judges. During this interview we are expected to dress as if we are meeting with an ambassador and showcase our business savvy, brains and professionalism. Hours before the event we were told that there was a change in the dress code and we would be required to wear our bikinis in the private interview. This change to the competition made most of the girls very uncomfortable and threw us for a loop to say the least. I instantly protested. We were in bikinis all week and will be in a bikini the following night for the swimsuit portion of the competition. This was our one shot to show that we are more than just pretty faces. In addition to these being a private interview for the judges, we had been filming a reality television show surrounding the pageant, thus making our private interview, not so private. My protest was ignored the ruling on the new amended dress code was final. We went to our rooms and began preparing for our interviews.
I was very conflicted about this issue. A business interview in a bikini just didn’t sit right with me. I felt like I should not adhere to the new rule, but I didn’t want to lose either, especially on international television. As I curled my hair I thought long and hard about my course of action. I had been a martial arts instructor for years so I thought about my students. If they had asked me for advice what would I tell them? I would say, “Follow Your Moral Compass”. That was all I needed to say to myself! I knew what I would do. I put on my bikini….followed by my business suit over top! I resolved I was going to follow my moral compass and wear my business attire despite the change in the rules. Making this decision I also had to accept the consequence that I may end up losing the competition. I decided I would rather lose the competition than be disappointed in myself.
As I told several women about my decision on our way to the judging area I was surprised to find that many of them agreed with me! Not only did they agree, but many decided to stand with me on this and also keep their business attire on as well! It was empowering! That’s what pageants are all about, empowering women. We arrived at the judging area and picked our order to present to the judges. I wanted to go as soon as possible so I could start mentally focusing for the next day of competition. I was able to interview near the beginning of contestants. The judges came out, explained the rules, instructed us to wear our bikinis and called in the first contestant. To my surprise, contestant number one stripped down to her bikini and went into the interview. The following contestants followed suit and interviewed in bikini. So much for unity and girl power!
It was my turn, my moment of truth; I took a deep breath and walked inside the judging area to face the judges. As I began to introduce myself to the judges, and present my ideals, cameras and eyes on me, I was stopped by one of the judges, telling me that I had forgotten something. I responded with, “No ma’am, I am wearing my bikini, but you will not be seeing it tonight. I accept the consequences of my actions, but I need to follow my moral compass.” The following portion of the interview consisted of them questioning my choice to not wear my bikini. I respectfully debated as politely and confidently as I could, finished my interview, thanked the judges and left the judging area. Upon exiting, I was faced with the camera and other contestants asking how it went and if I was happy with my choice. I was elated actually! I stood by my guns and followed my heart! The judges came out several minutes later to reiterate the rules of this portion of the competition and to warn us that anyone not wearing a bikini would be given a zero for the body category. This did not change the joy in my heart! Losing in a competition, but winning in life is ok in my book! I was on fire! The cameras came back to ask me what I thought. I said I was proud of myself, I am a strong woman “capable of opening my own doors and I don’t need a pageant to open doors for me. I’m not a princess, I don’t need saved. I’m a queen I’ve got this handled!” (I stole that line from an ecard, but it was so fitting in that moment) I followed it up my flexing my bicep for the Dominican camera crew and saying, “Muy Fuerte!” The camera crew howled with laughter and high fived me, the girls behind me screamed with joy and I had known that day that no matter what happens I am strong and not willing to compromise two of my values, self-respect and courage, thus becoming two Core Values that day. With the exception of one other contestant, every other woman competed in her bikini. One woman had even confided in me that she felt horrible for compromising herself and respected my choice. I went to bed feeling exhilarated and full of pride.
So what happened? What was the end result? I placed fifth internationally! Not last at all! I rocked my bikini at the appropriate time and apparently what points I had lost in the body portion of the private interview I made up in confidence and poise. I was truly empowered that week. I stood up for myself in a way I never foresaw and was grateful to the pageant for giving me that opportunity to grow as a person. Experience is about self-discovery and what I learned that week was priceless. Life, like the pageant, will present many challenges. These challenges may be physical, mental, spiritual, social or emotional. How you react to them is up to you. Will you stick to your values no matter what the consequence or will you cower and follow the crowd because it’s easier? My advice: “Follow Your Moral Compass”
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” -C. S. Lewis