“IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!” I couldn’t believe I let those words shoot right out of my mouth, even though I sincerely felt that way! That is how I expressed my opinion when I was asked the second question in the judge interview for the title of Miss South Carolina. “Since you are a business major, what do you think of the decision Coke made to change their recipe for Coke?” I will never forget saying those 7 words and what followed! Laughter. Every judge sitting at that table started laughing!!! I was mortified! In my mind I thought, “Well, I blew it!” I prayed and recovered and tried to laugh with them while explaining my answer. But my thoughts kept going back to the fact that I used the slang word, “AIN’T”!!! I just knew they were thinking, “You country hick!” I left the interview thinking that I had blown it by pretty much just being myself and thinking that I wasn’t “polished” enough. I prayed all week and took comfort in the fact that at least they laughed and were very warm after that answer. And the rest of the interview went well, including the fact that I could talk relatively intelligently about Wimbledon. I knew Boris Becker had won, even though I had never played tennis and had no idea what “love” meant in tennis. The rest of the week I decided I just had to redeem myself on stage. I never told anyone, not even my parents, how I felt about the interview. I was too embarrassed!
The Unseen is very important in the Miss America Pageant System. On the local, state, and national level the initial judge interview of each contestant is not seen by the audience, only by the judges. When I competed in the Miss South Carolina pageant and the Miss America Pageant, the audience never got to see the judge interview of the contestants. Being able to speak and interact with people is a HUGE part of the job. The first time I was ever in front of the judges was for the judge interview. Today things have changed a bit from when I was in the pageant. If you make it to the finals (the top 5), they have an on stage question that the girls answer in front of the audience and it is used to help the judges make the final selection. Regardless, the judge interview, in my experience, is where a “first and lasting impression is made!” After I won the state title, I met with the judges to be critiqued and prepare for the Miss America Pageant. I was told that usually after each interview was completed most judges have a short discussion after a girl leaves the room. If she impresses them, they usually make some comment such as, “Boy, I hope she’s got talent and looks fit in a swim suit, because she was impressive in the interview.” Judge interview can create an initial thirst for judges to want to see more of “you!” Most people, if they haven’t ever competed in pageants, don’t realize how judge interviews can weigh very heavily on all other scores. It is human nature, if your first interaction with someone is impressive, to be more apt to be liked or they at least look forward to seeing you (being anticipated and remembered) when it comes time for the other areas of competition. I do believe if you bomb the interview, can’t speak intelligently and clearly communicate your views and charm the judges, regardless of whether the judges agree with your convictions or not, then you don’t have a chance. I will go ahead and say it, “It is my strong conviction that you can’t win with only the interview, but you can LOSE IT ALL in the interview.” That is my personal opinion and experience. The morning after I was crowned, Donna Axum who, by the way, was a former Miss America, totally shocked me by telling me that my honesty and REALNESS with my answer about Coke, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, was so refreshing that it in fact “won the interview for me!” To say the least, I was so surprised that the very thing I thought I had done wrong, was the one thing I did VERY RIGHT!
Some very important lessons here that I would like to emphasize. I’d like to pose a question to you, the reader, and, of course, I continually ask it of myself (especially as a Christian). What is the first impression that YOU/I give someone? Even more, do they thirst for what I have? Jesus! Would people walk away and want more of you/me?? Of course there is a very fine line for me. If you have been following my journaling, I am a recovering “people pleaser”. I have to separate the two. First and foremost, I have to be a “God Pleaser”. Maybe a better way to put the “first impression” emphasis is to pose the question, “Do others see Jesus in me?” which translated means, do they feel, see and experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? All the fruits of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23. We all should ask ourselves these questions often, very often. I want to honestly say here that I have been working on this very thing. There have been times I have been so busy, so self-centered, so stressed that NO, NO, NO, other people did not see Jesus in me and experience the fruit of the spirit in me. It has been a conscious effort on my part to go back to what I learned early on in life through the Miss America Pageant System. “FIRST IMPRESSIONS” are so important. Today, in the “Back 9,” I ask myself, when I meet someone for the first time, “Do I leave them better than I found them?”, even if that only means giving them a smile or a positive word. Do I leave them with wanting more of, not necessarily me, but Jesus in me???” I am a WORK IN PROGRESS. It is very refining but one way I want to FINISH STRONG in the “BACK 9” of my life. A few things to consider that have helped me!
1. Daily read through the fruits of the Spirit. Even memorize them and “hide them in your heart” that you might not sin against HIM!
2. Ask yourself, did I leave that person better than I found them? My personal challenge has been to find a way to bring smiles to people’s faces. Honestly, this simple challenge has BROUGHT ME more JOY than I feel I have brought to others.
3. Look at all people, even people you don’t like and understand. They are people who hurt and I have no idea what their life and experiences are that have shaped them. Reminding myself constantly, God loves them just as much as me. (So glad God doesn’t play favorites!!)
4. Ask God to continually place love in your heart for all people, not just friends. Realizing this kind of love is a significant part of the call of Christians as stated in Matthew 5:46, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? and if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Simply stated, we are to love the unlovable, not just the people who love us or who are easy to love. We are even called to, “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you” as stated in Matthew 5:43.
Remember as Christians we are to be LIGHT in a VERY DARK WORLD. Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your LIGHT shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”