Six months after losing my father to a drunk driving crash in which he was the drunk driver, I found myself sharing his story in front of an audience of high school students the day before their prom.
Over the next ten years, I traveled the country speaking to students in the hopes that they would learn from his life and not make the same mistakes that he made.
My heart bled each time I shared my story. I learned an important lesson, though. Sometimes God comforts us so that we can then go and comfort other people. And sometimes it is through comforting other people that God brings ultimate healing to our hearts.
I first began sharing my stories with middle and high school students when I was 17 years old. My father had just died in a drunk driving crash in which he was the drunk driver.
For ten years I traveled the United States and internationally sharing the story of his addiction and the pain that it caused him and everyone around him in the hopes that it would keep young people from making the same choices that he made.
I now share my heart with audiences of all ages. I give people the tools they need to turn their tragedies into triumphs and to live a life of significance and purpose no matter the cards they’ve been dealt.
Has-Been Beauty Queen
When judges used to ask why I wanted to be Miss America, I would say, “Because I was conceived in Atlantic City during a Miss America Pageant week.”
I grew up listening to my mother and grandmother tell stories about their end-of-summer vacations with my great-grandmother in Atlantic City. Attending the crowning of the new Miss America was always part of their experience.
So, of course, when the first granddaughter was born, they just knew she was destined to become Miss America. My mom’s cousin even wrote a poem about me that ended, “Lord, bless her and keep her as she grows on her way because she might be Miss America someday.”
Well, God had other plans, for which I am grateful. I never brought home the Miss America crown, but in addition to completely paying for my college education, the Miss America Pageant gave me a voice to promote a cause that I felt deeply about it. It empowered me to find strength in my feminity and gave me skills that still serve me well today.
I now share the lessons I learned to help other young women find their strength and purpose, not in a crown, but through the experience of competing in pageantry.