Pageants are not a cheap “hobby” to have. In high school I got my first real job, just so I could finance my sparkle filled dreams. Not coincidentally it was at a gown boutique…pageant girl heaven. I swear they got half of my paycheck back because I was my best customer.
By the end of my teen years, I felt like my pageant career had run its course. After about a decade of competing I evolved from a little tomboy to the glamorous IJM Miss Florida Teen 2010. Prepping and competing year round helped me find the best version of myself. When I went to college I was in a couple little college pageants, but nothing compared to my time as a teen queen.
Right after college I made my way to Hollywood and completely lost myself. It was a turbulent time of change for me. I was only a few weeks out of school, living across the country from friends and family, working full time, and struggling to find my way. Los Angeles is not a nice place for the lost and confused, so I had a few hiccups my first year here. Now I’m slowly approaching year two and I’m finding my rhythm, but to find myself I had to return to what helped mold me.
In January, with only 48 hours notice, I competed in the Miss California US pageant. A contestant had dropped out and was already sponsored, so her spot was offered to me if I could compete. Without any practice, training, or anything I pulled myself together and decided to just go have fun. I’m a has been, right? Luckily I had pageant worthy items still in my closet, but I had to go out and buy a swimsuit. One of the main reasons I stopped competing was my fear of the swimwear competition. I’m athletic but baring my curves onstage has NEVER been a life goal. It’s the main reason I hadn’t competed in the largest pageants in the country, The Miss America and Miss USA systems.
Well I faced my fear head on! I kept the pressure off by only telling 3 people I was competing and being incognito online. Then when I did compete…I had a blast. It was crazy to feel so calm and so confident, because I knew I had nothing to lose. Whether I won or lost my family would still love me, I was still single, and had to go to work Monday morning. Without worry of not meeting others expectations I gave it my all and flourished! My interview and evening gown competitions were probably the best they’ve ever been! As a young woman my opinions were stronger, breadth of knowledge was wider, and my whole body rippled with positive energy.
And the dreaded swimwear…prelims were shaky I have to admit. I was nervous and it showed, but I did it and that’s all that mattered. During the finals I rocked the stage like a Victoria’s Secret model!
In the end I was called for making it in to the top 5! I was thrilled because of my lack of practice but shouldn’t have been so surprised. This is my element! My competitors probably didn’t have over 10 years of pageantry under their belt like me. I nailed onstage question and placed 3rd runner up to the new queen.
Did I mention the new California queen was an old friend from middle school? In a crazy coincidence one of my classmates who I hadn’t seen since we were 13 years old competed too. Considering that we went to middle school in Orlando, FL, bumping in to each other in LA was surprising. We hung out all weekend! Reconnecting with her was a highlight for sure!
After the pageant I decided I would post about my experience on social media, because I was proud of my growth. The confidence and poise I exhibited all weekend is ingrained within me and I finally let it shine once again. The outpouring of support I received was kind of overwhelming, but I am incredibly grateful for it.
So you can say I got bit by the pageant bug…
After a year of endless rejection…e-mails, letters, phone calls, and in person…I was chosen. I was selected. My “losing streak” was over in a way I couldn’t even fathom.
When you are a competitor in a game where everyone is fighting to be the best…you face a lot of rejection. I was used to rejection in athletics, memberships, jobs, internships, pageants, student elections, relationships, etc. Despite any negative outcome, I always tried to pick myself up and keep going. At the end of my junior year of college I couldn’t see a point to that. In one year I had been rejected nearly 100 times. So when I was recommended to apply to NBC for the Winter Olympics in Russia, I didn’t plan to. Why waste more time and effort just to feel like a failure again?
The day the application was due it barely crossed my mind. It was a Friday and I was about to go out with my friend Sondai. I mentioned the application to her and she questioned me. “Are you sure you don’t want to submit something?” I sat at her desk and sent in the application with two minutes to spare. I knew I wouldn’t get it, but Sondai made me think of all of the people who would leap at the chance just to be considered. An anticipated rejection couldn’t hurt me.
That application led to interviews and despite how well the process seemed to go, I had no hope. I didn’t pray about it. I didn’t dream about it. I didn’t tell anyone. I was scared of people knowing about my impending failure so I kept it to myself. How does one keep dreaming when they doubt themselves to the point of paralysis? That’s a question I wrestled with as I didn’t await our final notification. It didn’t matter that I had years of television and media experience under my belt, won national awards, and believed I had some talent. One hundred previous rejections meant I wasn’t good enough.
So when the e-mail came, I wasn’t just ecstatic. I was humbly surprised.
Cramming my whole senior year in to one semester left no room for me to fear success or predict failure. All I had energy for was to get shit done. When I finally arrived at the Olympics I had a clear mind and no expectations. Our Olympics schedule was grueling. With basically no days I was forced to stay out of my head and let ‘get it done’ become my motto. Any task thrown at me was handled swiftly, precisely, and eagerly. By focusing on the work and accomplishing difficult tasks my confidence in my skills grew, as well as my credibility with the entire NBC staff. Two years later I’m happily still with NBC thanks to my time in Russia.
Watching the Rio Olympics this year was a reminder for me to not let fear of failure hold me back. The voices of doubt in your head can be silenced by shifting your perspective. Just look at the world class athletes who traveled to Rio despite financial issues, injuries, Zika virus, and Brazil’s sociopolitical chaos. If they can do all of that, what’s keeping you from achieving your dreams? We are all human. The actual goal itself may not be reached, but taking yourself out of the game makes it impossible. Focus on the work. Believe in your abilities. Let go of past disappointments. Reach for every opportunity. Get out of your head.
I almost blocked my own blessing. Don’t stand in the way of yours.
Going to Belize was a last-minute idea. Sounds crazy right? After nixing my birthday bash plans I realized that I needed to do something special for myself. I had been working crazy hours for months and stressing about literally everything. Three weeks before my birthday (and departure date) I made a game time decision that gave me an amazing experience without breaking the bank. Here’s how I did it!
TheFlightDeal.com is treasure chest of low price cost flights to major cities and vacation hotspots worldwide. It alerts you to cheap flights and then you use the information to purchase the ticket elsewhere. I went on and searched to see what areas had low periods during my birthday weekend. Belize was one of 4 locations I liked and the ultimate winner. The round trip ticket I
saw was for $304 from Los Angeles to Belize! A steal! I had to
wait a week to buy the tickets because of work. When I finally bought my ticket it was $411. Still a good deal. It included a layover in Dallas on the way to Belize and an almost 24 hour layover in Miami on the way back. Free day in Miami? I’ll take it!
I chose San Pedro because it topped every list of best Belizean islands. It was named one of the most
beautiful islands in the world! Other popular spots include Caye Caulker, Placentia, and Hopkins.
This part was a little annoying financially. When you land in Belize City, you either catch a flight to the island ($73 each way) take a cab to the dock ($25) and ride a water taxi($35), or catch the public transportation bus to the water taxi (cheap but don’t do it!!)
Round trip I spent $120 to get to and from San Pedro by taking the cab& water taxi.The water taxi literally sped across the Caribbean Sea for 90 minutes to get us to Caye Caulker and San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.
On the island the way to travel is on foot, bike, golf cart, or car. Golf carts outnumber cars and are available for rent. I stuck to walking mostly, burning calories and saving dough.
Hostel was a scary movie, but the hostel I stayed in San Pedro wasn’t at all. Sandbar Beachfront Hostel & Restaurant became my home for 5 days/ 4 nights for only $55! I went on to Hostelworld.com and searched for hostels in San Pedro, Belize available on my desired dates.
A number of options popped up, so then I went through each one checking the costs, rating, pictures, distance, and reading reviews. I didn’t do much prep for my vacation, but I researched the hell out of the hostels.
The Sandbar is right on the
beach and only about a mile from the arrival dock. It’s super close to all the action! The bar& restaurant are on beach level, and the hostel is upstairs. They offer dorm rooms with three bunk beds in each. They also have private rooms. I took the $15 a night bunk bed. In the dorm room you also were given a locker. Each bed had curtains around it for privacy , electric outlets, and towels. The hostel was air-conditioned, each room had big fans, and everything was cleaned daily. There were separate men and women bathrooms.
My dormmates were all nice, especially a fun couple from Ohio, Amanda and Watson. The dorm rooms were co-ed, but Watson was
the only male in ours.It felt like a college dorm. The staff at the Sandbar is awesome! They are friendly and enjoy the chill atmosphere they create.
If you like being in the water you will love Belize! I’m a mermaid hippie island gyal at heart, so you know I was stoked! During my trip I lounged on the beach, climbed to the top of the Mayan ruins Altun Ha, hiked through the forest, went cave tubing, zip lined over a river, and went snorkeling over a barrier reef with 15+ sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and fish. If you don’t go snorkeling or scuba diving in Belize, slap yourself for missing the ultimate attraction in the country! There are a ton of different companies you can do these activities with, but I went with the one conveniently partnered with Sandbar called “Belize Celebrity Diving” (firstname.lastname@example.org). I spent $250 for the listed activities, which included transportation to/from the hostel, breakfast/lunch/snacks/water, and the round trip water taxi back to mainland. Great deal!
Bring snacks. I brought enough protein bars to feed a basketball team. The food and drinks weren’t the attraction of this country for me, the activities were. I tried a few dishes & drinks and my foodie senses didn’t tingle. Save your money and go explore! The one drink I highly recommend is the “Panty Ripper”. It’s a coconut/pineapple cocktail unique to San Pedro and each bar makes it slightly different. So gooooood. $65 total spent on food & drinks.
I have to confess that I didn’t party hard here. Being a female flying solo didn’t make going out at night feasible for me. Luckily Sandbar has one of
the more popular bars in San Pedro, so I conveniently socialized at the bar before climbing up to the living quarters. $5 total. More on traveling solo in my next post…
GRAND TOTAL= $906
For context, a flight during a high period would run around $700 round-trip and the average hotel would be around $120 per night. Eating $10 worth of food for 3 meals a day would have cost at least $120. If everything else stayed the same, my total could have been $1,740! That’s over $800 saved! My biggest advice for anyone aiming for an affordable trip is to use TheFlightDeal.com and consider hostels and AirBnB.
A collective cry of despair rang through Los Angeles when it was announced that Runyon Canyon would be closed for several months. The beloved tourist trap hiking location is normally busy year round, due to its relatively easy climb and short distance from Hollywood Boulevard.
You haven’t experienced Los Angeles until you’ve hiked up this mount, taken an Instagram pic looking off in to the distance, and captioned it with an inspirational quote you googled an hour before. Soooo LA. Clearly I speak from experience.
Well if you’re now wondering where else to go for a little thigh burn, Griffith Park and Baldwin Hills provide awesome alternatives! I have compared my latest hiking spots to the popular destination, contrasting location, difficulty, time, view, traffic, and best mode of transportation.
Location: It’s a huge park in the adorable area named Los Feliz. After your hike, drive down and have brunch at any of the yummy cafes. It’s about 16 minutes away from Hollywood with traffic.
Hike difficulty: Prepare to sweat! There are multiple paths to take with varying levels of difficulty. Runyon has two paths, the easy route and a harder route. Griffith’s easy route is like Runyon’s on steroids.
Time length of hike: This varies on the route you take, but it can go from 30 minutes roundtrip to a few hours.
The views: The views here are definitely cool, but it will take more work to get an Instagram worthy shot. In Runyon the picture choices are obvious, showing the Hollywood sign in the distance or overlooking the City of LA. At Griffith, you have to be more creative.
How busy: It’s a lot busier now that Runyon is closed, but the park is so big that it doesn’t feel congested. You have more room to breathe and take in nature than at Runyon.
Parking or public transportation: Public transportation is available via the LADOT bus. It picks up from the Vermont/Sunset metro stop and for 50 cents you can ride to the Griffith Observatory on the weekends. It’s not hard to find parking, but you might have to wait awhile if you try to park in Griffith Observatory’s parking lot. There is street parking available. Avoid parking at The Greek Theater because they tow cars away at a certain time of day, 3PM on Saturdays.
The Hollywood Sign
Location: The route to the Hollywood Sign is within Griffith Park, but is so tricky to find! They need to put up some signs to lead people the right way. I went with my friend Antoinette and we became friendly with everyone on the path, because we couldn’t figure out on our own where the hell we were supposed to go!
To be brief, you drive past The Greek Theater, go through a tunnel, park, and then take the path on the left. Once you start hiking look for a big water tower and underneath it will be the Hollywood sign. Head towards the water tower like it’s your north star.
Hike difficulty: It starts off super easy, because there isn’t much of an incline for at least a mile or two. Once you get halfway in you’ll start to really burn some calories. To get above the Hollywood sign, walk to the left of the tower and climb the few steps to the top.
Time length of hike: Allot at least two hours roundtrip for this one. When I went, walking at a leisurely pace, it came up to three hours.
The views: If you get to the point where you are above the Hollywood sign, the view is incredible. On one side you see the San Fernando Valley and on the other side you see the rest of LA stretching in to downtown. It’s an amazing view from every angle.
How busy: The hike itself is very long, so groups tend to be very spread out. At the beginning you might not see anyone, but the closer you get the more people (and horses) you will see.
Parking or public transportation: Parking isn’t terrible, again just be weary of towing times in certain parking areas.
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
Location: Despite the name, it’s located just south of Culver City. The exact location is 6300 Hetzler Road. It’s hard to miss the 500 foot peak.
Hike difficulty: It’s not an actual hike, but you get a similar experience. It’s a large set of steps that you climb to the top, with different levels. I like climbing up a level and running a lap around the mound before moving up to the next level of steps.
Time length of hike: If you go up just once, it will take 10-15 minutes tops. I recommend going up 3- 5 times for a really good workout.
The views: It’s a pretty nice view from the top.
How busy: There’s always people there and since it’s more of a stair
climb, it’s easy to get in others way. Go early in the day for the smaller crowd.
Parking or public transportation: There is street parking available and a $6 parking fee at the visitor center. You want to avoid taking public transportation here, because it’s going to include at least 15 minutes of walking from the closest bus stop.
If you’re looking for a real challenge here are the recommendations I’ve been given by others for harder trails. I will let you all know when I make it up these summits!
- Wildwood Canyon in Burbank
- Zuma Ridge in Malibu
- Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu
I want to see your fave hiking spots! Be sure to hashtag #PoshPoisePolish and tag me @VivaciouslyViv!
By Vivian Adaobi Nweze
Four years ago I passed out water to girls running on my high school’s cross-country team. I was a student athlete too, sprinting on the track team, cheering, and beasting as Captain of the Girl’s Weightlifting team. But, long distance running was always a “skinny girl” sport. Not for me. Each practice the cross-country coach would try to coax me to switch from manager to runner, but I just looked at her crazy and told her “I’m too thick for this.”
But this week I completed my first 5k run. I still can’t believe what I have accomplished by getting rid of the notion that I couldn’t do it. The mental limitations created out of insecurity slowly dissolved as I let go of “I can’t” and started to embrace “I can at least try.”
Accomplishments are not recognized because of the actual reward. It is the sweat, blood, and tears that we celebrate. The dedication to your dream brought to fruition.
Hard work is pertinent to achieving any dream you have, but I also have 5 tips that can accelerate your pace towards reaching your daunting goals:
- Use your inspiration to push you outside of your comfort (lazy) zone
I started running with a friend last year. Watching her sprint 8 laps without blinking made it hard to be content with 4, for too long. To keep up I had to push myself, going to the track on days we didn’t run together to build my stamina. Then I met a fellow curvy girl, who told me she ran 25 laps to prepare for a race. Even though she was more toned than me, I was still surprised. After that I set a goal to slowly build up to running 25 laps too.
- Set short-term goals that lead you towards achieving the long term ones
You have to pace yourself, mentally and physically. I couldn’t jump from running 4 laps (1 mile) on the track to 25 laps (6.25 miles). Each day I set specific goals for my run. One day I may jog 8 laps and walk 2. The next day I would try to jog all 10. Not meeting my daily goal would not be an issue, as long as I made progress. Stagnation just meant my goal needed more time.
- Dedicate yourself to your goal.
Make a schedule, get the necessary resources, and educate yourself. You have to make your goal real and tangible. As soon as I got my Nike running shoes, I knew I was committed. I’m not a sneakerhead and generally if there isn’t a heel on a shoe, I won’t wear it. But, by investing in a solid pair of running shoes made for long distance runners I knew I would force myself to go out and get my money’s worth. Making a “life schedule” for myself, that included blocks of time dedicated to running, became a constant reminder of my goal. Reading distance runner forums, researching articles, and talking to avid runners helped give me a clear vision of what was realistic for my capabilities.
- Don’t let setbacks, hold you back
I try to go running at least three times a week, but there are times when life takes over and I can’t be on the track. It would always bring me down when I would hit the track and my stamina or speed regressed, but I couldn’t give up. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue on the path you have set for yourself.
- Remember where you came from, but focus on where you are going
How can achieving your goal change your life for the better? Any moment you want to give up, refer back to the change you want to see. Don’t think about what you cannot do, focus on what you have done, how far you have come, and what you will do. It’s not about wanting to do something or being able to do it. You have to go out there and make it happen. Getting over this psychological hurdle is the biggest step towards achieving your daunting dreams.
So, what goals are you striving towards? Feel free to share it with us email@example.com.