Using Losing Pageants to Help You Win!
“Everybody thinks that Miss Americas have always won. Boy are they wrong! I went in every year for five years – and lost. I finally won my first local pageant after four years.” – Cheryl Prewitt, Miss America 1980
Many Pageant Winners Lost for Years Before Winning…
The importance of never giving up is underscored by the fact that, of the last twenty-five Miss Americas, eighteen suffered losses prior to victory. Several competed for half a decade before winning. If you’ve lost and the crown appears forever out of reach, be encouraged … the road to the throne is usually paved with losses.
Cheryl Prewitt’s road to the national runway took half a decade. “Everybody thinks that Miss Americas have always won,” she says, chuckling. “Boy are they wrong! I went in every year for five years – and lost. I finally won my first local pageant after four years.”
Finally, in her fifth year, her elusive dream became reality when she was crowned Miss Mississippi and Miss America 1980:
“I worked five years for the dream that God put in my heart. I could have given up after that many years because it was beginning to be embarrassing, but I decided to stick it out. And it paid off.”
Although grueling, Cheryl’s years of “failure” transformed her into a champion. “I can honestly say that I learned more about myself and I improved more the years that I lost, rather than the year that I won,” she says, “because losing is a learning process. The only time I actually improve is when I’m following myself, when I’m going against the grain, which is what losing is. That’s what takes me from the rough stone to a polished diamond.”
It doesn’t Matter How Many Years You Have Failed to Win the Crown
Similarly, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, Miss America 1988, lost for six years before finally winning the triple crown. She narrowly lost at Miss Michigan several times, failed to make the top ten at Miss Ohio, and then suffered through a dry spell when she couldn’t win a local title. She nearly quit.
But after she opened a fortune cookie that predicted, “Your dreams will come true next year,” her father and fiancé encouraged her to give it one more try. She took their advice, won her coveted national title . . . and became one of the all-time greats in pageantry.
Throughout Kaye Lani’s six years of losing she continued to reenter and improve, re-enter and improve, trusting that God has purposes for every experience…even failures:
“I really think God had a reason for having me keep working at my goal. After six-and-a-half years I would have a message to give to others. My message was that with determination and hard work I was able to achieve goals and go much farther than I could have possibly imagined…”
The Power of a Stubborn Refusal to Give Up
Another inspirational success story is Dr. Debbye Turner, whose arduous road to the 1990 Miss America crown would have exhausted a lesser competitor. Like Kaye Lani and Cheryl, she attributes her success to a stubborn refusal to give up:
“In my own life, determination and hard work and tenacity have been the keys to success. It took me seven years and eleven tries in two states to get here … and I’m so glad I didn’t stop trying! What is important is that with each failure we learn what else it takes to succeed and that we never give up.”
The Years of Losing Help Prepare You to Serve as a Successful National Titleholder
In fact, failure is often a catalyst for success, inspiring the perseverance and steady improvement that transform a contestant into a champion. Debra Maffett is a perfect example. Her five years of losing actually equipped her to serve as a national titleholder. She says:
“As I look back on it, the whole experience was a growth process. I shouldn’t have won before because mentally I wasn’t ready, my talent wasn’t ready, and I wasn’t ready for the [national] stage. And I don’t think I could have handled the job. I was just a slow starter. But, by the time I won, I was ready. I was capable of handling the job and of doing a good job with it. So, it’s fortunate I didn’t win before.”
As these outstanding women prove, winners are often the individuals whose roads to the crown are the most difficult. Their failures shape them for victory and their perseverance literally carves a pathway to the throne. As Dr. Debbye Turner advises, no matter what setbacks you must overcome in pursuit of the crown:
“Do exactly what it is that you dream of doing because I am living proof that dreams really come true.”
Those inspiring words should be engraved on every entry form in the pageant world, for it is the singular quality that distinguishes winners from losers in pageants … and life. Never give up. And never lose sight of your dream.