To Today’s 14 Year-Old Girls

59820_1435338121097_4359605_n  45986_152673184748678_2873100_n  60123_128888000493590_6637758_n

Wow, times sure have changed. That’s me in the pictures above. I was a 14 year-old high school freshman just five years ago. Skinny, awkward, innocent, and desperate for social acceptance just about sums up who I was. I had no idea where I was going, but it seemed like the overwhelming roller coaster we call “growing up” started off on a rough path. Of course, I’m only 19 now, so I definitely still have a lot to learn (I will never deny that).  However, over the short amount of time since I was 14 years old, the standards have evolved dramatically among young girls and it has bothered me enough that I feel the need to address it.  Of course, every generation goes through a state of change that the previous generation may disapprove of.. (Has your grandma ever told you that your brand new outfit is ridiculous? So has mine.. P.S. Hey Grams, if you’re reading this, you’re still the bomb). Since 2010, I’ve learned a thing or two about being a teenage girl. Now as a young adult reflecting on the new wave of young people, I’m going to take everything I’ve experienced on my own journey through the early teenage years and be 100% real with you. Yes, this will be a long message, I might offend you, and it’s okay if you may not even relate to this at all. This will be directed as a letter to my younger self and to all of the young girls of today, but as always, feel free to adjust this message to apply to your own life if you’d like. Boy or girl, young or old, LGBTQ or straight, or whatever your personal circumstance may be… This message of strength, courage, and promotion of individuality comes straight from the heart toward anyone who needs a little bit of tough love:

Dear beautiful girl,

When I was your age, I cut my own bangs and chose the colors of the rubber bands on my braces. I called up my best friends on my flip phone and our moms had to confirm our plans. I spent way too much time on my Nintendo DS playing with my NintenDogs (may they forever rest in peace) that sometimes I forgot to do my math homework before I went to bed at 8:30pm. When I was your age, I just entered the world of high school and struggled to find confidence. I shopped in the graphic tee sections of Aeropostale and Hollister and got so excited when I was finally big enough to fit into my very own pair of American Eagle jeans. When I was your age, I thought I knew everything there was to know about fashion and makeup from what Miley Cyrus was sporting on the cover of Seventeen. My mom taught me how to apply eyeliner and I bought my makeup from the dollar store (still do actually…a broke college girl does what she’s gotta do). When I was your age, there was no Snapchat or Vine or “Don’t Judge Me Challenge.” When I was your age, I had never been to my boyfriend’s house because the only time we saw each other was during the school day. When I was your age, I was lost and vulnerable and I had a lot to learn about life. To you, beautiful girl, this may seem like the lifestyle of a child now. Little do you know, this was the normal life of ME, a 14 year-old just five years ago.

Times have changed (as they should!) but there are a few things to keep in mind as you enter this new stage in your life, as you grow from a beautiful girl to a beautiful young woman…

To 14 year-old me and to YOU, the young girls of today:

I hope you don’t spend an hour doing your hair and makeup in the morning, because there is so much beauty to be seen without it.

I hope you forgive your best friend, because she’s going to be the one hugging you goodbye when you both leave for college.

I hope you don’t post about your lame boyfriend on Facebook, because you’ll look back and cringe in a few years, I guarantee it. He doesn’t count as a real boyfriend until you’re at least 16 anyway.

I hope you never hold back from standing up for what you believe in.

I hope you write in a diary instead of all over the internet, because when you dig that baby up a few years later, you’ll have some noteworthy moments to look back on.

I hope you don’t look to the influence of society for guidance.

I hope you turn down the invitation to the drinking party this weekend that everyone is talking about, because I promise it really won’t be as exciting as the seniors say it will be.

I hope you don’t tell your boyfriend of two weeks that you “love him,” because chances are, there will be one hell of a guy waiting for you a few years down the road who will show you what love really means.

I hope you apologize for that horrible comment you said to your parents, because they love you more than you know right now.

I hope you look in the mirror every day and see something that is amazing and worthy of greatness.

I hope, when you experience your first heartbreak, instead of absolutely hating that boy and speaking negatively of him for the rest of eternity, that you thank him for teaching you something. If you liked him enough to date him, say “thank you” for the things that he did for you while you two were together. Tell that boy who broke your heart that he was a great stepping stone toward your future life partner.

I hope you do your homework and take pride in your intelligence.

I hope you make the choice to surround yourself with people who will encourage, motivate, and lift you up instead of trying to fit in with the “popular kids.”

I hope you don’t spend hours scrolling through social media idolizing celebrities who will never be able to relate to you.

I hope you always choose your words carefully, especially when speaking to other girls. I know it’s easy to get jealous, but don’t you dare put down another female for being thin or thick or tall or short or whatever; we all know how hard it is to be a girl so instead of putting other girls down, I hope you choose to rise up and join the army of estrogen. How bad ass does that sound?

I hope you delete that sassy status on Facebook about how “you’re hot stuff and nobody can mess with you,” because you will be more respected for being humble than trying to be invincible.

I hope you visit your grandparents, not because your mom and dad forced you or because you want to take a selfie with Grandma for some likes on Instagram, but because they have incredibly vivid and beautiful souls and they usually offer the best advice.

I hope you never let a boy call you “sexy,” and if he does, tell him to take a hike. There are so many other words to describe the incredible qualities that make up YOU.

I hope you are kind to everyone you meet, because the way you act and portray yourself today will carry over to how people perceive you from now on.

I hope you embrace your passions and keep them close to your heart, because they’ll be the perfect outlet for stress and they might make a good career one day.

I hope you don’t try to act older than you are, there’s plenty of time for that when you’re actually old.

I hope you know that no matter how much your boyfriend says he “loves you,” no boy will ever love you more than your daddy does. If your dad isn’t around, that’s okay too. The big man upstairs loves you just the same.

I hope you never give in to pressure from anyone, because it’ll feel a lot better to be proud of saying no than to regret saying yes.

I hope you choose not to share your innocent body and mind with a boy who won’t care about you five years from now.

I hope you don’t spend your money on things that don’t matter. Spend that hard-earned cash from your first job on life experiences, because pictures from a zipline adventure will look a lot cooler on your Snapchat story than a mocha frappuccino.

I hope you understand that life doesn’t suck if you focus on the things that are truly important to you.

Dear beautiful girl, I believe in you. Time has changed since I was your age and standards shift for every new generation, but there are some things you must always remember, regardless of how old you are. Never look to others for acceptance because what’s important is that you accept yourself. Do what makes you happy…but if those things are illegal or harmful, it’s time to do what will make you successful. Be humble, be intelligent, be kind…because people will respect you for it and good karma might be a real thing. Remember where you come from, thank the people who serve you in any way, write down your goals, and take one step every day toward achieving them.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

Love, Jessica

A 19 year-old young adult who is learning to be independent, courageous, and passionate…who used to be just like you.

934814_953301298019192_4152054168142406186_n  11406810_1125426237473363_1705913924818956637_n  11076286_1079394758743178_8060480912104776609_n

Advertisements

An Open Letter From A Retail Employee to Black Friday Shoppers

Dear Black Friday shoppers,

There are very few things that I hate more than this made-up holiday.  Working in a mall on the busiest shopping day of the year is like voluntarily admitting yourself to Hell.  From someone who has worked in the retail industry for nearly three years, I have just a few things to say to all of you Black Friday shoppers this year.  Along with my ranting, I will also include some helpful words of advice that will benefit you on your wild overnight excursion.  Don’t get offended, this is just a personal outlet so I don’t take out my frustrations physically..  If you do get offended, you’re probably one of the people that have done these things..jus’ sayin. You put this all upon yourself.

First and foremost, if, for one second, you think you will be getting outstanding customer service while shopping on Black Friday, ohhh do I have news for you.  The last thing retail employees are focused on is being your personal shopping assistant for the entire time you’re in the store.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other customers we also have to assist.  Don’t you dare get your panties in a bundle if I only have a minute or two to help you find something that your picky 12 year-old niece would like. Word of advice: check out stores online FIRST to find items you will be looking for.  Print a picture, take a screenshot, make a list, do whatever you have to do. You can get into the store, we can point you in the right direction, and you can be on your merry way.

Secondly, if you arrive at a store and notice that the checkout line is a mile long, YOU HAVE NO ROOM TO COMPLAIN. Listen here princess, if you feel the need to roll your eyes at the long lines on the busiest shopping day of the year, you shouldn’t go Black Friday shopping. Period. Word of advice: bring some crossword puzzles or Sudoku to help you keep your cool, take items off hangers to make things move quickly, and make sure you have your coupons out and ready by the time you reach the register.

Now, don’t even try to convince us to give you more discounts because your coupon is expired or “but the sign said..” or whatever the excuse is. For one, we as sales associates don’t make the prices.  Besides, it’s Black Friday for Pete’s sake..you’re getting a million percent off anyway. Word of adviceask an associate about the specific sales and deals as soon as you get into the store in order to avoid conflict at the register.  The signs in the windows are often slightly deceiving since it’s hard to read the fine print (that’s the way the marketing world works). Save yourself the time, and save us the frustration of explaining return policies.

Black Friday is already a very stressful event for both retail employees and customers.  It’s our job to be polite to you. We don’t have a choice, but you do!  It makes for a much better experience for everyone involved if we all keep our dignity and treat each other with respect (this includes fellow shoppers..I don’t want to clean up blood off the floor after an all-out brawl between an old lady and a 40-something soccer mom over the last purple hoodie in stock).

Leave your small children and crappy attitude at home and let’s keep this year’s Black Friday death toll count at zero.

Sincerely,

Jessica and millions of fellow sales associates

Lingo, Terms, and Slang Only Pageant Girls Understand

Everyone has that certain circle of friends that seems to speak their own language.  Whether it’s your work buddies, teammates, or sorority sisters, it’s comforting to know that you can turn to a few people who know exactly what you’re talking about when you’re together.  Having been participating in pageants for nearly two years, I learned some lingo along the way that I often have to define when I talk about pageants to people who aren’t involved.  I compiled a list of a few terms only pageant girls understand in hopes of clearing up many of the awkward conversations I’ve had with non-pageant people…because butt glue is not as weird as it sounds. Or maybe it is..

Miss Congeniality:  No, we’re not talking about the classic pageant flick starring Sandra Bullock (although this is a personal favorite).  Miss Congeniality is a term that most people think of negatively due to the reference to this movie.  However, most people don’t know that the “Miss Congeniality” award is nearly as honorable as being named the winner.  This award is decided upon by fellow contestants and is given to the girl that they believe is the most genuine, outgoing, friendly and helpful.

Sandra-Bullock-Would-Love-To-Hurt-Michael-Caine-In-Miss-Congeniality

Sticky boobs:  This is a very unique kind of bra that has no straps or back clasp, but an adhesive layer on the inside that sticks right to the skin.  Yes, there is a style of bra like this, but I may also be talking about duct tape..  Defying all laws of physics, sticky boobs are great because they can be worn with everything including backless gowns, swimsuits, interview dresses, and so much more.  They’re virtually invisible but offer incredible support.  Basically a God-send.

System:  Most people that I talk to that haven’t been involved in pageants have no idea that there is a difference between Miss USA and Miss America.  These are two different pageant systems and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different systems worldwide.  Each system has different rules, areas of competition, and judging.  Sure, pageant girls can do different systems if they choose, but every girl usually has one system she loves the most.

Platform:  A platform is something every pageant girl has, but no two are exactly identical.  A platform is any issue the girl feels passionate about and wishes to educate the community on.  She often dedicates a lot of time, service, and fundraising dollars to her platform.  They can be anything from “Autism Awareness” to “Eat Healthy, Fuel Your Body” to “Keeping the Arts in Elementary Schools.”  Every pageant girl has a heart for service and her platform allows her to spread her personal message.

LauraKaeppelerMAO

Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler

Walking pattern:  When you’re on stage, it’s easy to get lost in the bright lights and hype of the crowd and forget where exactly you’re supposed to be walking.  If you watch closely at a pageant, every contestant walks the same way, turns the same way and poses in the same spot.  This is all thanks to walking patterns and handy dandy “x” tape marks.  Walking patterns ensure that each contestant can strut their stuff on stage in exactly the right spots and can be seen by the audience and judges.

Prelims:  Many people don’t know that every large pageant has preliminary competitions.  Scores from prelims carry over to the final night and determine who the semifinalists will be.  Prelims usually include an award for swimsuit and an award for talent, but awards can vary depending on the pageant system.  Just because a contestant wins a prelim award doesn’t necessarily mean she will be a semifinalist, but there is a good chance she impressed the judges enough to place well.

article.242000.large

Miss Tennessee, Miss Alabama, and Miss Maryland at the 2013 Miss America Pageant

Johnathan Kaynes:  The Cadillac of pageant shoes, Johnathan Kaynes are particularly popular in the Miss America Organization pageant system.  These heels are versatile and can be worn with swimsuit, evening gown, and for any other formal occasion.  If you don’t have a pair of heels by Johnathan Kayne, you need some.

Bad judge:  DUN DUN DUNNNN.  Contrary to the term, the “bad judge” is probably the best judge.  Contestants immediately know who this judge is based on the first impression, usually in the private interview.  The “bad judge” asks the toughest questions, has the scariest facial expressions and is reeeeeally good at being intimidating.  Okay, okay..the “bad judge” isn’t all bad, they push us to our limits and see how good we really are.

A/B stones:  These aren’t just any old rocks you find laying around.  A/B stones are those fancy rhinestones that give off a rainbow shine.  They are most commonly found on evening gowns and pageant jewelry and match EVERYTHING.

CARRIE_AB2

Titleholder:  A titleholder is a girl that currently wears the crown.  She won the pageant she is representing on her sash and is usually preparing to compete for a state or national pageant very soon.  She “holds the title” for one year and this is when she is able to promote her platform even further and positively represent a local community or state.

Butt glue:  The mother of all pageant necessities.  Butt glue is a spray or roll-on adhesive that is applied directly to the skin underneath swimsuit bottoms.  Otherwise known as Elmer’s Spray Adhesive or WD-40, butt glue is phenomenal because it allows the contestant to walk freely onstage without worrying about her swimsuit riding up.  However, butt glue is only great until you have to take OFF the swimsuit for the next wardrobe change…I swear butt glue can take skin off with it.  The old term is still true: “beauty is pain.”

abc_gma_pageant_130111_wg

Miss America contestants apply “butt glue” before the Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimwear competition.

20 Thoughts Every College Student Has

1.  Why am I even here?1.

2.  No, I’m not crying.  It’s just allergies.  I’m allergic to Chemistry.2.

3.  If the kid in the front row reminds the professor about that assignment I forgot to do.. I swear..3.

4.  When is winter break?4.

5.  My homework isn’t done, but I definitely am.5.

6.  I’m so jealous of my dog right now.6.

7.  If I wake up early tomorrow, I can probably finish this.b1c017b071625a0e206114b5362d40fb6a851ed450bad90bde99aba3cadd2fcf8.  How do I know if I’ll actually use this textbook that cost me all of my summer paychecks?8.

9.  I remember when I couldn’t wait to grow up. Aww, so young and naïve.9.

10.  Seriously though, my dog stays at home and sleeps all day and nobody judges him for it.10.

11.  I’m broke, single, and on the verge of a mental breakdown but at least I still have my personality.11.

12.  Group projects make me hate everyone.12.

13.  *Walking to class* I should just turn back now.13.

14.  All the hot people probably hang out at the rec center.  I don’t go to the rec center.14.

15.  Waking up for an 8:00am class is the worst thing that can happen to a person.15.

16.  Honestly, my dog is probably sleeping right now. Asshole.16

17.  How many more freebie absences do I have?17.

18.  I can barely survive a 50 minute class; how the hell did I make it through 7 hours of high school?!18

19.  I wanna go home.19

20.  Where is my mom when I need her?202

It All Started With An Opportunity

Pageantcollage1

As a young girl, I had always idolized the women on the TV parading on stage in sashes and swimsuits once a year.  I had no idea that a few short years later, I would come to know the incredible organization behind the Miss America pageant.

During my senior year of high school, I was approached by a woman in my community regarding a scholarship opportunity.  As a broke 17 year-old about to embark on her first year of college, I was looking for any way to pay my way through the financial debt.  Little did I know, I was about to get myself into much more than just a scholarship opportunity.

This scholarship opportunity turned out to be a local Miss America affiliated pageant.  I began diving into research to find out what I could do to make the most of this experience.  I borrowed an evening gown from a friend, dug out my old prom shoes and jewelry, bought a “Michelle Obama” interview dress and some nude heels, found my favorite swimsuit, and began choreographing a dance for the talent portion of competition.  I had everything I needed to look good, but there is definitely much more to it than appearance.

I was informed that I had to raise $100 for Children’s Miracle Network, the Miss America national platform, and I was able to have my own personal platform in addition.  Many people are unaware that the Miss America Organization is more than just a bunch of beautiful women walking around in high heels and sparkly dresses.  These are women of substance, women who aim to make a difference in their communities through service and advocacy.  I decided that my platform would be dedicated to my grandpa, who had passed away of liver cancer just a year previous.  This meant that I would be an advocate for liver disease and cancer awareness, an issue close to my heart.  I would make my platform known to the public and do my absolute best to represent the cause.

I spent the next month researching my platform and practicing my interviewing skills for my 10 minute private interview with the judges.  Learning everything there is to know about government policies, current events, controversial social issues, and pop culture is NOT an easy task.  The public only sees the onstage question part of competition, which is a way for the judges to see how well the contestant can think and deliver under pressure; believe it or not, it’s only worth 5% of the contestant’s total score.  Most people don’t know about the private interview with the judges, which accounts for 25% of the total score.  This is where the judges get to know the contestant on a more personal basis, and is easily considered the most important part of a pageant.  I dedicated nearly all of my preparation time to this part of the competition and I was beginning to realize how greatly the Miss America Organization was impacting me.

Soon enough, pageant day arrived and I was full of excitement and a little bit of anxiety, as I had no idea what to expect.  I was immediately greeted at the door by a couple of other contestants and my idea of what pageant girls were supposed to be like was completely contradicted.  While I was backstage getting ready for rehearsals and preparing for my interview, I met some incredible young women who remain dear friends to this day.  They asked me some practice questions and gave me a pep talk before I walked into my interview, which didn’t go as planned.  The intimidation factor and nerves got the best of me and I had a difficult time answering questions to the best of my ability, but the same girls were excitedly waiting for me as soon as I stepped out of my interview.  It was at this point that I was beginning to understand the sisterhood that is the backbone of the Miss America Organization.  No matter how you do in the actual competition, you are able to walk away with some unbelievable friends (who also understand the struggles of butt glue stuck to an evening gown, but I’ll save that for another day).

A few months later, a couple of the girls I competed with at my first pageant asked if I would like to attend the state pageant with them, where all of the local pageant winners would compete.  I was interested to see what this pageant would be like, so I went with them and I fell in love.  All of the women on stage displayed such poise, elegance, and charm.  I knew that I had to continue in this organization to have that same opportunity.  I wanted to be able to wear that sash and crown and represent my community by being a role model.  I wanted to serve as an ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network and advocate for my personal platform.  I wanted to better myself, earn scholarships, and learn new things about this organization.

One year passed, I took valuable lessons from my very first local pageant and the state pageant experience with me and decided to dive head in to another year of pageantry.  This time, I decided to raise more money for Children’s Miracle Network in order to be eligible for more pageants, as well as choose a completely new personal platform (one that didn’t make me tear up about my grandpa in my interview).  I bought a new evening gown, choreographed a new talent piece, and immersed myself in the organization.  At my first pageant that year, I did not win, but I did walk away with some amazing new friends, a great experience, and even some scholarships for placing as a non-finalist talent and non-finalist interview winner.  This only fueled my fire to continue to do better throughout the year!  The following pageants were all open, which means any woman who lives, works or goes to school in my state is eligible for competition.  This tends to be difficult, as former experienced titleholders have the opportunity to come back and compete again, and there are usually more contestants. However, I saw it as a chance to improve myself on a more challenging playing field.  I did not win any of the four pageants that I was in that year, but I had grown immensely compared to my very first pageant the previous year and I am now a changed person thanks to my experiences during the short time that I have been involved in the Miss America Organization.

This is only a very small representation of how the MAO has impacted me thus far, but I wish every person would understand the amazing qualities behind the sparkly crown, sash, and televised pageant.  The Miss America Organization is one that is truly remarkable because of the sisterhood, scholarship opportunities, and the chance to grow in so many ways, regardless of if you win a title or not.. and I firmly believe that is one of the most amazing aspects of the program.  Just by signing up and participating, you learn some incredible lessons about life, the importance of community service, and creating lifelong friendships.  I encourage every young woman, age 13-24, to get involved and I can assure you that you will come out changed in ways that you probably never imagined possible.  I look forward to continuing my involvement and bettering myself in hopes of holding a title this year, but even if I don’t capture the crown, I am guaranteed a life changing experience.

The Stripper Debate

As college students, many of us understand the struggle of managing a full time credit load, a job (or five), a social life, and maybe finding time to catch the latest episode of The Bachelor.  The stress of being a college student weighs heavily on millions of twenty-somethings and if you say you aren’t stressed, stop lying to yourself.

With the stress comes the venting sessions, which may include one or all of the following:

  • food binges ranging between 2,000 and 10,000 calories. No shame whatsoever.
  • crying spells
  • sudden urges to consume various alcoholic beverages
  • procrastination among social media and/or other pointless activities that sound a lot better than writing a thesis on the critical analysis of cell division
  • hibernation
  • consideration of other occupations that would be significantly easier than completing 5 more semesters of classes you probably can’t afford..

..Which brings me to my next point.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent my valuable study time researching careers that I could pursue instead of being an emotionally, financially, and mentally unstable college student.  I continuously ask myself if it’s really going to be worth it to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of paper that may or may not land me a job that can pay off my student loans and set me up for a happy and fulfilling lifestyle.  So, through my research, I have concluded that being a stripper would be a financially healthier alternative to being a college student.  OKAY MOM I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING…

“Your body is a temple!”

“Didn’t I raise you to have any morals?!”

“You will make so much more money when you get a degree!”

With those reactions expressed, I will now present the reasoning for my thoughts:

Yes, my body is my temple and I agree that I should treat it as such.  I understand that taking care of my body and remembering the morals I was raised upon will allow me to build a good reputation for myself, which would completely go against everything that the career of “exotic dancing” entails.  However, in college, the lack of sleep, consumption of truckloads of trans fats, mental fatigue, and the occasional evening out partying doesn’t seem very “temple-like” to me either.  Therefore, neither stripping nor being a college student keeps the body in its sacred temple.  Besides, morals won’t pay tuition, will they?

Now onto the argument of “making more money with a degree.”  It was difficult to find average salaries of strippers because the job tends to depend on location, but I did find this interesting article on The Huffington Post about how dancers in the New York night club, Scores, can earn up to $180,000 per year.  HOLD UP..WHAT?!  Strippers can make more than corporate moguls and a college degree isn’t even required? So.. zero student loan debt and the opportunity to retire before the age of 30? Sign me up.

College causes a lot of stress that makes us do some pretty bad things to ourselves, mentally, emotionally, physically and financially.  Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in our train of thought (and in the pile of homework I should probably be doing right now) and consider what we can do to start living life and making money without going through all of the struggles of college.  Granted, a college degree looks better on a resume, but if you haven’t considered being a stripper, stop lying to yourself.