It has been a few years, nine years to be exact, that I have entered a public competition. My glory days of pageantry have been turned into the training days for aspiring queens and taking the position of teacher rather than student. It is a rewarding shift in position indeed and that gave me all the more reason to believe that I was way too ‘old’ to put myself out their competitively again. If not old, past my season. Needless to say, when one of my girlfriends sent me #TheFaceofCaveShepherd enter form, I was naturally hesitant. I must admit that I maintained a keen interest in the competition but somehow it would always come and go without my notice. This year however, that notice came early.

I gave in to the intrigue and decided to enter, only after I threw out the idea to my mentors. And so the process began and boy, did it wake up my senses. Here’s a list of four personal Fun facts I encountered during the competition:

Fun fact #1: I am competitive. Yup! Really!

The point of entering any competition is because YOU WANT TO WIN! Winning can be one of the most addictive feelings a person can experience and I know how good it feels. Competitions bring out my strategic, charming, ‘I will impress the socks off of you’ side during its exciting and rather nerve racking process. Yes! As long as it is a competition, no matter how big or small, it carries a level of angst to it. When I compete (or when I do anything), everything must be in order, researched, planned and prepared for and ready to be rolled out at the drop of a hat. I will do what it takes to be at my best on show. No matter how crazy things get, I must maintain a calm and collected demeanor, simply because ‘I got this handled!’ or so I tell myself. However, by the time we had reached the last round, the fashion show, I had relinquished the tight reigns of competition mode and made the decision to go out there and have ‘way too much fun!’. When next would I get an opportunity like this to strut my stuff? Secretly, I’ve always wanted to be a Top Model like in ANTM! Love that show and it taught me so much about print/catwalk modelling. I may not fit that industry but it is always so much fun to walk the runway!

Fun fact #2: Being the oldest competitor made me feel insecure.

Age is a beautiful thing. The number suggests the combined years of wisdom and knowledge needed to effectively navigate the world around us. At the same time, that number can also mean the reason for disqualification or acceptance in many spheres. As young as the number 26 is, trust and believe that it seemed to turn on its head and read a lot like a 62 when compared to the obvious youth of my fellow competitors. In both the males and females, I was a whopping 6-10 years older. I battled instant feelings of ‘Oh my gosh… I’m too old for this! What the hell am I doing? I must look like that wanna-be-young-again-chick who needs to get herself a real job and leave this for the young ones to beef out.’ Oh yea… it was that bad in my head. My insecurity often made me feel out of place, sometimes question my own level of maturity and hope that my age would be what sets me apart. I know I hadn’t misread the entry form age category of 18-35 (rather wide I know) but when it came to Top 10, I wondered if I had over-reached and was hoping to attain something other than the win. Validation perhaps? Self-actualization? Or to say ‘I still got it!’? Either way, it gave me pause. I had to be sure that I was still maintaining who I was despite how ‘old’ I felt, simply because I have never felt ‘old’ before lol. When I wanted to withdraw from my competitors, I sat amongst them, made conversation, answered questions, lent a hand and gave them compliments or suggestions. I am not one to shy away or be distant in the midst of people and the more I engaged, the more the age barrier in mind seemed to fade… a little! Heck, they all thought I was 21 anyway. And one girl, still called me old (as a term of endearment I suppose lol). Regardless of age, it is good to know that I have the ability to genuinely interact with any age, younger or older. They were all lovely competitors.

Back in the day, I was a two-time teenage pageant queen and model when I had the body for most things. At 26, my frame resembles that of a blossoming woman, no longer than of a teenager. Oh, did I mention that the other young ladies were trim teenagers! I remember going to our fitting two days before the fashion show and finding out that we would have to model a swimsuit. My stomach sank! And not flat enough to wear a swimsuit! I was so naïve to think that swimwear would not be an option. I dreaded the thought of modelling a swimsuit in public and got super bashful! I immediately expressed my shock and concern. The stylist heard me out and simply said, “Trust me, I got you!”, and so we went on the hunt for my swimsuit. Can I tell you that I thought about not going through with the competition in that moment? I was not prepared for this! I was caught off-guard and feeling completely vulnerable about my body until she gave me option to choose what I felt comfortable in. That was a tremendous help and even more so that the stylist understood my body concerns. Within moments I had chosen a piece that was so perfect for my body that I wish I bought it! Monokinis are life! It even came with a shrug that added more coverage and sass! It is one thing to get comfortable with your body at your own pace behind the closed doors of your bedroom but it is a whole other story to suck it up (or suck it in) and werk it down a runaway like nobody’s business! But I did! I felt comfortable enough to take this opportunity and be confident in my own skin in PUBLIC! It was exhilarating and validating. My first walk down the catwalk was in swimwear and I SLAYED! It was like a bit of my glory days again and I LOVED IT!

Fun fact #3: Not winning taught me the value of having a clear vision of what my personal goal was.

Imagine giving it your all and knowing that you did your very best while you await the results. Maybe you’ve won, maybe you haven’t. If you win ‘YES!’, but if you didn’t, what does that mean? As I tell my trainees many times during their preparation for competition, ‘You must always prepare yourself for the possibility of not winning.’ One’s response to an unfavourable result says a whole lot about who they are on the inside. So I did what I had taught in those quick moments before the result were announced, prepare myself for every possible reality. Sure enough, I was not called as the winner. That was a bummer but it must mean something. My heart sank alittle but it didn’t stay there too long as I joined with all the patrons to clap on the winners. These things happen. We don’t always win but my mind raced to find the significance of this entire process and to not win in the end. The answer didn’t come until about an hour later, after I was saying my goodbyes and heading home after the show. Four very influential ladies I had the pleasure to meet, saw my value and made it clear of their intention to connect with me in the future. That response jogged my memory of the message I had sent to my Youth leader explaining what my real intentions were for entering this competition. The point was to win, but my goal was to win favour. Putting myself into a different sphere to meet and connect with more affluent people was one of my goals, if not the main one. It was more than just a competition for me but a chance to step into new expanding circles. Dare I say, that was accomplished!

Fun fact #4: I can still take it all in stride.

Win or lose, I’ve learned to learn from it all. Thank God for the tougher times in my life when ‘down’ was such a reality that all my eyes could focus on was ‘up’. In those moments I understood that life is more about how you move on and move forward. I’m glad I put myself out there again and went along for the ride. There is no telling where it will lead and even if it never lead past those final results, it was not in vain. Now I refocus and look ahead to my next ‘stride’ into wherever! Not losing momentum but gaining it! #JCMD


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