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Don’t let someone who doesn’t share your vision for your future have the final say.   When you are pursuing a dream and a goal, you will be presented with so many different opinions about how to get there, your head will swim.

A special report in Fourpoints Magazine aimed at contestants in the upcoming 2010 Miss America Pageant  stresses the importance of understanding who you are and of always being true to yourself, regardless of the advice and opinions of others. 

Sometimes we make assumptions about the expectations of others and try  to mold ourself to those expectations.  Then we discover that our assumtions were wrong.  When you follow your heart and trust your instincts you will usually come out ahead.  At the very least your sense of self will be strengthened.  When you are true to yourself, you feel validated and whole, not torn apart by the conflicting advice of others.

Though many misconstrue the intent of the Miss America Pageant, believing that if focuses predominantly on physical attractiveness, in truth, the judges are looking for that young woman who exemplifies a broad range of skills and personality traits.  As the FourPoints article explains, the job description for Miss America describes a woman charged with the responsibility of representing the best of contemporary womanhood – one who is comfortable in all kinds of settings with all kinds of people, who is someone worth looking up to and that has the ability to make a difference in people’s lives.  That’s a daunting task for anyone, let alone a young woman between the ages of seventeen and twenty-four.

A lot of beautiful women vie for the crown each year.  So why not crown them all?  So the judges look for those inner qualities of poise, confidence, intelligence and heart-based charm, all of which override mere physical attractiveness.  When they spot a contestant who shines with integrity and honors who she is, she could be wearing a flour sack and they will add her to their list of finalists.

Authenticity is the most effective cosmetic you can wear.  When you are true to yourself you honor everyone who you make contact with.  Remember that there is more than one right answer about how to achieve your dreams and you are the most important opinion maker when deciding which one is the best one for you.

I was a few minutes late, rather than the half hour early I had hoped to be, to  meet Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America 1958, for an interview for my triple award winning book, Pretty Smart: Lessons from our Miss America, Somehow the ticket agent at the Denver Airport had checked my bag through to LaGuardia.  

As I walked into the lobby of the Loew’s Hotel, a tall gleaming glass tower, 15 miles south of downtown Denver, I saw Marilyn, sitting erect, poised on the edge of a sofa just inside the revolving doors.
Her silver white hair was cut short and swept up off her face.  She was tall and slimmer than I had expected, her body, dressed in dark slacks and a light blue oxford well-starched button down shirt, was trim. I followed her into the hotel dining room.

Marilyn Van Derbur

Me and Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America 1958

As we sat and talked, her light blue eyes were focused on me. All she ordered for lunch was a large bowl of blueberries that she dressed in a shower of Splenda.  I guessed that’s how she maintains her slim figure in addition to regular hikes in the mountains. 

As in other recent interviews with Phyllis George, Miss America 1971 and Rebecca King, Miss America 1974, I didn’t try to steer the conversation too much with direct questions.  Marilyn wanted to talk about her experiences as a child of incest and the people she had helped.  I was mesmerized by her intensity and passion.  I could see how she was a sought after motivational speaker, and how people felt comfortable turning to her in their pain. 

Her story is quite extraordinary, having been sexually abused for years as a child by her father.  Her family had been picture perfect to others, but behind closed doors, it was a torture chamber for Marilyn.  It took her decades to come to terms with what had happened to her.  By day she was the perfect child, by night a terrified creature in the dark.  To this day she has trouble sleeping and sleeps in a locked bedroom.  She is fortunate that her husband of many years, Larry, has supported her through all of her trauma.
Once she was willing to go public (that’s a whole other story) about her experiences, she found, rather than shame, support and gratitude from others who had similar experiences.
I knew from reading her book, Miss America by Day, that for a long time she didn’t like people to touch her, so I didn’t know whether she would want a hug at the end.  But she turned to me when we walked out and hugged me.  She had moved past her trauma and into embracing life.

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Pretty Smart: Lessons from our Miss Americas ""

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