LA Life: From Crowns to Cameras

Many pageant girls have aspirations to get into the entertainment industry at some level and many will use pageantry as a spring board into that life. Since moving to LA I have had many current and former titleholders reach out and ask for advice about making the transition.  Much like every blog I compose I can only speak to my own personal experience ( which is just in its infancy) so, take it for what it is worth:

Don’t lie about your pageant past: I mean let’s be real, you shouldn’t lie on a resume ever for any job, modeling, acting or otherwise. Remember the modeling agency visit when I thought I was 5’8″ and I’m only 5’7″, even unintentional lies bite you!  But that said, I can not tell you how many people suggested I never mention I was Miss Wisconsin USA when I was moving to Hollywood. I was told over and over and over again that pageant girls are not taken seriously, they are frowned upon. Many said it would actually  hurt my chances of ever getting work. Here has been my reality. Every single time it comes up and it does a LOT (I mean Miss Wisconsin USA 2017 is still in my insta bio) it has become a wonderful topic of conversation and actually in many, many instances been a connection  I needed.  Maybe it is because by the time the subject comes up I have already proven my worth, professionalism and talent or maybe it is because a lot less negative connotations than people imagine are associated with Miss USA or maybe they don’t exist and it’s all a fallacy. I am not one to wager on the whys and hows, but Gal Gadot and Olivia Culpo have really helped to pave a pretty clear path. Suddenly pageant girls are cool. I’ll take it. If you aren’t comfortable, you don’t have to include it anywhere, that is completely your choice. For me it was worth promoting because I’m proud of that piece of my personal history. And people are always intrigued by the words “Butt Glue” and want to know more.

Big leaps and moves are necessary: So even years after I myself first realized it,  I repeat myself but, market matters. I once wrote a whole blog about making sure you were in a market that supplies enough work. It doesn’t have to be LA, although I will tell you this place is great, it can be any major entertainment market.  If you want to dabble in the entertainment industry and don’t want to make the move it can be done but know the limits of your market. Landing roles that will move you progressively up a scale might not happen if you are living in well, Wausau, Wisconsin, which is where I lived. If you are really serious know you can not commit to one home and plan to settle. I was just submitted for a film that would shoot for three months in Barcelona. Many TV shows film in Toronto, New York, Georgia. So even if you move, when that break happens you best be prepped and ready to uproot on a few days notice.  I just chose to leave every piece of clothing I own in my car, just in case 🙂 This also helps when I’m on set and the wardrobe person asks if I have shorter shoes, or taller shoes. Yes and yes, I have ALL the shoes.

Don’t make that move empty handed: What I would suggest is building your career well before you make any major moves. If you are a model and don’t have a great portfolio or an actress who doesn’t have a solid reel stay put and work a little longer. One; it is easier to do trade work with photographers and get local commercial work in a smaller market. Unfortunately the top notch fashion photographers in LA aren’t looking to do a quick shoot at the beach with an unknown when they can be shooting with Bella and Gigi and getting paid the big bucks. Two; you will learn the industry enough to be comfortable on set and taking direction. This goes for models and actors. Pageant headshots are not the same as shooting for a commercial brand. No photographer or director is going to stop and teach you what you need to know, you just better know. Acting on camera is different than performing on stage. If you are a musical theatre kid, like I was, or college theatre major get some commercial work first even if it is for the local television market. Something is better than nothing. The biggest mistake others who have come and gone have shared is that they made the move completely unprepared.  Never having worked in any capacity in the industry, without materials and without a financial plan. The triple whammy that will lead to massive disappointment.

Money$$$: Be realistic, understand how much everything and I mean everything costs. Can you stop working all together to pursue your dream? Can your family help you? Do you have a money genie? If the answer to all of these is no, make sure you have a really, really, really, solid plan. I have worked consistently on industry jobs since I moved, not full-time, not every day and sometimes I go weeks at a time. I honestly right now make $1,000 a month average in the industry. My rent is $1,200 a month. So clearly without a full-time job outside of the industry I would be packed up and moved back to Wisconsin and in debt. I also take weekly acting classes and  just got new headshots.  Ching, ching, ching. Oh and I just became eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild. That SAG card is great but the initiation fee alone is $1,500. Before I made the move I saved every single penny for months and months. Do not make the big move until you have the honest to goodness cash to get established. It’s a lot, but trust me you will be so thankful you have a start.

NETWORK LIKE CRAZY: The great news about pageant girls in the industry is there are quite a few of us. My first contacts were pageant folks and many are still willing to give me advice and connections. But in the industry every single person you meet is a connection. That photographer you did an TFP shoot with back in Chicago, the cameraman who also graduated from UW-Madison. Networking is how I started this crazy ride and it’s how I will continue it.

Not all advice is good advice, mine included: To the above point one of the greatest connections I have made here is with an amazing Director/Producer/Actor couple. I met them because I randomly submitted to do some background work. It also is the set upon which I met my greatest friends here in LA.  The piece of advice I didn’t take, “Doing background work will discredit you as a serious actor.”  A few days on the set as an extra have literally changed my life out here…all for the better. Do I want to be in the background of movies and TV shows forever? Nah! But the best things that have happened so far happened because I wasn’t too proud to do what I had to do. Also I happenstance landed on a huge movie set in the background with one of the biggest actors in recent history so that was a bonus. Stay tuned full details on that one coming June 2020! But by then I hope to have my first role working a little closer to the cameras. The point is, this industry is not much different than the pageant industry, every former and every coach thinks they know the formula for success and your path will not be the same as another persons. Do what works for you!!

Hone the pageant skills because you will need them all: Make-up and hair, be able to do your own. This will come in handy on every level. The first real make-up artist I worked with was hired to do touch-ups and you were to arrive camera ready. She couldn’t get over my technique and didn’t have to do a thing. I quickly became her favorite person on set. Interview skills are a must and those 2 minute interviews you prep for in pageant land, well you have even less time to impress a potential agent or casting director so you are practicing every single time you do one. Walking in heels, comfy in a bikini, can rock a gown…..all essentials. Granted I have been a high school student, scientist and ‘hipster’ girl in my last three jobs so glam is not a real go to necessity for many jobs,  but the confidence to work any look helps. Your pageant training is going to help you.

Finally, in true #skysthelimit fashion that I preached to thousands of middle school children throughout my reign as Miss Wisconsin USA. Set a goal and then set and accomplish smaller goals to reach that dream. Here are my 10 best:

1) Make the decision to be a model/actor/stuntwoman/writer/singer/producer whatever it is and fully commit to it. 2)Pick your market 3) Research and set you budget 4)Build your arsenal of work to get you started 5) Find others doing what you want to do and reach out 6)Save those pennies 7)Surround yourself with people who believe in your dream as much as you do and lose anyone who is holding you back 8)Let go of the fear and self-doubt before you set foot on your first real job. You can be your biggest set-back. Enough people in this industry will tell you “no” and you “aren’t good enough”, do NOT make yourself one of them. 9)Know what you are willing to sacrifice and where your boundaries lay, these will be tested. Write down when something is over that line (for me it was an offer to do a wacky commercial for a religious sect and a modeling gig for a rope bondage magazine called Knotty-can’t make this stuff up people) strange things will arise  10)Persist, persist and persist.  It might not move at the pace you hoped for so when you stall out – reassess, tweak, learn and move forward.

Follow me on Instagram and follow this blog to hear more about he trials and successes of life in Hollywood. I learn something new every day. And as you all know I’m not afraid to share!

Skylar Hollywood

Dream Big,

Skylar Witte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LA Life: Eww…Puke!

When I moved out to Los Angeles, it was a Friday. Although I didn’t plan it, the timing was perfect, my first full day spent in LA was a Saturday so I had a free day. I could run errands, and I could get together with friends…genius! I started my first morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, waking up at 7AM (my body clock was still on Midwest time). All I had to my name was all of my luggage, which was essentially just 60 lbs of shoes and a few outfits, and a bag of beef jerky.

I decided the early morning was the perfect time to run to the holy grail of essentials, Target, and pick up a few things to start my new life. Originally, I went to Target to find a desk… I left Target with a desk, several candles, a months supply of k-cups and food for the week. Score.

Walking outside I was over the moon excited. It was a sunny 65 degrees, there were bird chirping, I could see the Hollywood sign, I was finally where I’ve always dreamed of being. On the way to Target my phone wouldn’t pick up service so I was left to fend for myself. I didn’t even care. I’m in LA BABY!! It doesn’t get better.

My day continued as I set up my new room, clothes were put away, furniture was rearranged and this girl was ready to take on the California life. I had made plans with a few friends  for later in the evening and I could not have been more excited. I’m talking bursting at the seams, I just won Miss Wisconsin USA excited, plus some!

I began the evening with a friend from Chicago, Ashley, who happened to be spending a few weeks out in LA with her new modeling agency. The world fell in line, placing us both new to a city at the same time. It was such a blessing to have a little sense of home with me out here in la-la-land. Ashley and I are both a part of a Facebook group called “Girls Love Travel” which essentially connects gypsy souls from all over the world to share in their travel adventures and travel advice, it’s amazing. I was introduced to the group by a flight attendant friend, Savanna, from my Altoona HS days. Just days before moving to LA, Savanna tagged me in a post from a woman in the group who was living in LA was looking for a group of ladies to get together with as she was new-ish to town and just hadn’t “Found her people yet”. TALK ABOUT PERFECT TIMING. Ashley and I knew this was the perfect first night adventure and took advantage. We met the lovely group of ladies at this fantastic lounge – PUMP…if you’ve watched Vanderpump Rules, you know the place! We sipped on a martini while making friends with some powerful ladies. All things we love!

We bid adieu to the women of GLT and headed downtown to meet up with an old friend, Tate,  who I met through a gorgeous fellow Miss Wisconsin Teen USA contestant turned worldwide model extraordinaire, Sloan! Tate’s friend from high school, Jas, moved to LA just days before Ashley and I, so we were all getting together to be shown around by an expert. Talk about using connections to make connections, I was feeling so empowered throughout the day, I was working hard to make this new city my home and had surrounded myself with people who feel like family when family is so far away.  Advice break: You seriously never know when or how you will reconnect with someone so be thoughtful in every relationship that near or far, now those people are your people and someday that may matter. More on that coming up in future blogs

The four of us spent a bit of time in Tate’s apartment before heading downstairs to walk the streets of downtown and grab a bite to eat. Immediately when we got downstairs, I started to feel blah. I assumed it was from the lack of sleep I had gotten over the past week combined with the busy day I had prior to us meeting up, but shook it off! I’m in LA for the first night, there is no time for sickness, not today! We got to this great Chinese restaurant and I ordered a basic, teriyaki chicken. Before the food even arrived, I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat it..what is going on?!? We wrapped up at dinner, I left my meal practically untouched, anyone who knows me knows that is so uncommon and slightly alarming. The crew was hoping to head out dancing and we headed upstairs to hangout before going to bust a move. As we arrived up to the apartment, I knew I couldn’t stay. I was disappointed that this queasy feeling was going to ruin my first night in the city, but I knew that there would be many Saturday’s to come and I needed to get home. Ashley and I ordered and Lyft and we were off.

From downtown to my apartment was about 25 minutes, I was sending positive vibes my own way, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump and I’d be in the comfort of my own room in my own bed. It was not 3 seconds into this thought that I was leaning out the window of this Lyft on the 101…puking…yuck! As it happened, many thoughts ran through my head. 1. Eww, this is horrifying. 2. What a memorable first day in Los Angeles. 3. Aren’t California people mean? OMG this Lyft driver is going to give us a terrible review and charge us some outlandish amount for cleaning. To my pleasant surprise, the Lyft driver was super cool and understanding to the unfortunate situation. We were able to get him money for a carwash and I was able to get home with no other casualties.

This moment was a great lesson for me. Sometimes when all you want is to celebrate monumental life moments, you end up vomiting out a car window on the highway…but really, you can’t control your life but you can embrace it, be thankful and find the humor in YOUR life. This could’ve been a terrible start to my new adventure, but instead it was a great story and a fantastic reminder of what matters. I am grateful for good friends who make sure you get home safe, even after they have to watch you throw up. I am grateful for kind people who make a new city seem less scary. I am grateful for going out and chasing my dream, even if the start of the journey went differently than I’d hoped.

And to that Lyft driver, when I land my first movie deal, I promise you endless car washes…

Dream Big,

Sky

Just Life: A Drop

“It’s a drop in the bucket”

This is a phrase that is used in my house more often than not. Whenever I’m worked up about an exam, a boy, a bad haircut, or being in a bikini on national television, my dad always reminds me that each of these moments is just a “drop in the bucket”. A perfect sentiment that each day is simply one drop, you are never adding more than that to what will eventually become a full bucket of ups and downs, and well…a full life that will have been shaped by each and every day that you’ve lived. Leave it to Jeff Witte to turn major meltdowns into really good teaching lessons.

Well today marks one of my favorite drops in my collective bucket, my graduation from college. 1285 days ago, I arrived on the UW-Madison campus sick to my stomach with nerves, and totally clueless what my college years would bring. Little did I know! If you’ve followed my journey you know it’s been a really wild ride.

I began this journey as a poli-sci major, thinking I would go off to law school and that my high school modeling days were simply a really fun and glamorous phase. I ate pulled pork sandwiches from the dining hall like they were going out of style and became OBSESSED with the limited edition Gyro slice from Ian’s. I met and reconnected with some of the most amazing people this world has ever seen. And I learned that nobody really has it figured out, but college is your place to explore and take advantage of any opportunity you can possibly find. Looking back my biggest life philosophy came from my college experience, take the chance, take the leap of faith, jump in. The worst thing that will come out of it is that you learn to build your wings or your net on the way down and I have built plenty the last several years. Sometime I flew and sometimes I fell, but either way I was ready.

Over the next two and a half years I learned many of my greatest lessons, and most of them had nothing to do with Pre-Constitution Law…

I learned to know when to ask for help. This day would never have happened if it wasn’t for the incredible team behind me every step of the way. My family never stopped believing I could “do it all”, even on the days when I thought for sure my head would explode. Whether it was a pep talk, a home cooked meal, a text reminder, or simply a word of encouragement, I always had someone to lean on.

I learned that the most important thing in life is honesty. I remember sitting on the couch, the day after I won Miss Wisconsin USA, only one week into the first semester of my second year of school, and not even knowing where to start. Well I started first with a block of cheese, yum, and then proceeded to email each of my professors and the Dean of Students office saying “this just happened, and I have no idea how I’m going to make this school thing work”. That week I waffled a million times between taking a break from school or just juggling. I wanted to experience all the opportunities being Miss Wisconsin USA would afford me but I wanted to get the most from my college experience. My greatest fear was in trying to accomplish both I would ultimately fail at both and end up disappointed. I remained honest throughout the school year about my stresses, successes, and crazy ass schedule and managed to not only stay in school full time while prepping for Miss USA, but do so while maintaining a respectable GPA and with an entire campus staff cheering me on after taking my final exams two weeks early to “do the thing”! The amount of support I received from the UW-Madison community while I was at Miss USA will forever be one of the highlights of my life. Madison is a big school and people accomplish great things every day there, but for one moment in time, I was the Badger of the moment and I am so proud and so honored to have had that opportunity. It was a ‘golden drop’ if you will or should I say ‘red drop’ in the bucket.

I learned that you can’t do it all. You might have to give up being a double major or making the dean’s list and readjust your goals. For me, graduating became the focus and the perfectionist in me needed to let go of the rest. Flexibility is the key to making any plan work for you. I was great at preaching to middle school students as Miss Wisconsin USA to set a large goal and then smaller goals to get there. Sometimes that means focusing your energy in different ways. Sometimes it means letting go of a lot of other things to make it happen. One thing I am not great at, is saying no. Throughout my college experience I learned that sometimes, simply for your mental sanity, you need to say no.

I learned where my priorities lie. Even if means sleeping on a couch or driving odd hours of the day, you have to make time for the people you love and the people who love you. I also learned that distance isn’t real, I mean it is real of course, but not by meaningful relationship standards. If you are in the same room or a thousand miles away you can still love big and still be present. You can still give support and you can still seek it, regardless of the space between you.

Most importantly, I learned that everyday is a chance to learn, to make mistakes, to take chances. Nothing in life is perfect, nothing in life works out exactly how you thought it would. But if you work hard and trust the process, anything is possible. Bringing back the old saying “The sky really is the limit” I wouldn’t trade these past three and a half years for anything. Thanks to college, “found myself”, or at least was able to work on who I want to be.

I am so happy to say that I am officially one B.A. woman…Bachelor of Arts in Communications that is. So excited to begin the next series of drops….

Dream Big,
Sky

Style Life: There’s No Place (or Shopping) Like Home

I have been a lot of places in my 21 years on Earth. I feel so lucky to have worked jobs that have allowed me to experience all different parts of the country and meet so many people. The other day, after a summers worth of hard work in Minnesota, I made the trip down to Madison to watch the first football game of the season – you can put the girl in Gopher country, but you can’t take the Badger out of her blood. Before heading to the tailgates, I had to make a quick pitstop to pick up a few things.

Shopping first, everything else second, am I right?

I’m not a big fan of malls, they get too busy and crowded for me…I’m sure this comes as a shock to many, but as you know from my previous blogs, online shopping is my addiction. That being said, I have always loved the Hilldale Shopping Center. I remember going to Hilldale when I was younger whenever I came down to Madison to visit my grandparents, it was fun because as a kid I got to shop and play outside at the same time, I truly don’t think it gets better than that! I still feel that way, but am blown away by how much it has grown.

I’m not a label hound but I do have my favs. I am a Lululemon girl.  Kate Spade and Michael Kors never disappoint, and if you can’t find what you are looking for at Macy’s you didn’t look hard enough. All of those place can be found in this little gem of a shopping center. When I was Miss Wisconsin USA it was on the path between my college home and everywhere I had to go. A million stops at Hilldale later and most of my appearance wardrobe and every pair of pantyhose that needed replacing came from this corner of Madison. There is no secret style notes here, other than I buy a whole lot of stuff here. They have a LUSH for goodness sake, LUSH. I miss shopping in Madison.

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Madsion is a part of me and it will always be a part of me. I can’t imagine a visit without a walk down State, a stop at Ian’s, a visit to Hilldale and of course one quick scoop of Babcock Ice Cream.  There is something about the Terrace and Lake Mendota when fall is about to spark and the crisp air blows off the water that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.  I graduate in less than two months and the nostalgia is really kicking in. So if you ever are where I am and the song “Jump Around” starts playing, you best just move out of the way.

Dream Big (Dress Better)-

Skylar

 

 

 

Pageant Life: Empowerment Part 2

I don’t know what makes me sadder, the fact that I am yet again sitting in front of my computer refuting an article written by a woman bashing the women in pageantry, or the fact that this particular article not only bashed women competing in pageants but bashed women competing in pageants who came forward with a very painful confession.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely passionate about the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. As a titleholder myself, I can truthfully say that my experiences within this organization changed my life in ways that I could’ve never imagine. Did I wear a bikini on national television? Yes. Does that make me less of a role model for young women? No. Does that make my voice any less valuable than another woman? No.

For those of you that have not read this article in USA Today, I don’t suggest it. But I will give you the gist. The reporter speaks about the pageant saying it is a “tone-deaf affair”.

She references a commercial break filler, where multiple women in the organization were asked if they had ever experienced a “#MeToo” moment. The answers that followed were difficult to hear, painful to listen to. Everyone in the room I was in fell silent. To see these women, that so many look up to, come forward and speak about a moment in their life when they felt the most vulnerable they could’ve ever felt, it was chilling. Moments that we hope no woman ever has to face, yet we know that one and four women does. I was so proud to see this moment on TV, because it is a conversation that is often times ignored but NEEDS to be had. And if even one woman who was watching the telecast felt comfortable coming forward with her own story, looking for help, I would consider that a success. The most frustrating part of this particular point in the article, was the fact that the author made it seem that because the woman stood on stage in bikinis they had no right to share their painful experience, as if their voice didn’t matter because they were comfortable wearing a bikini on national television. Is that really the message that we want to send to victims of sexual assault? If you were wearing a bikini you don’t have the right to come forward, you don’t have the right to cry, you don’t have the right to feel pain. It’s sick to even imagine that someone would feel that way, let alone write it in a nationally publicized article.

“…as if producers thought that the inclusion of questions about marches and sexual violence would translate into an empowering affair” the author states. Everyone experiences empowerment in different ways, but I can tell you one thing, bashing another woman for how she feels empowered is downright cruel. Women all around the world are fighting an upward battle. And if you are a woman who is higher up that mountain, don’t push other women down, grab their hand and bring them to you. The only way that we, as women, are going to continue moving forward is if we do it together. To any woman who has had a their own #MeToo moment, know that you are not alone, know that you are not lesser, and know that you had every right to feel pain.

https://www.rainn.org/

Dream Big,

Skylar

Pageant Life: Empowerment

I don’t usually use my blog as a place to reflect on other people’s writing. That being said, last week, the Washington Post published an article about how the Miss America Organization is essentially the opposite of the feminist empowerment that we need, is outdated and not valuable to our society. The whole thing made my blood boil, and after watching some amazing women grace the stage at the Miss Fond Du Lac and Wisconsin Central pageants this weekend, I had a few things I wanted to say.
 
First of all, for those of you non-pageant followers, Miss America is different than and separate from Miss USA. But both programs empower young women to build each other up and work hard to achieve their dreams, whatever those dreams may be. Although I do not compete in the Miss America Organization, I do know that each of the women I have met who are a part of that organization are educated, strong, community-driven and impressive women. Now, let’s get to this article…
 
The article was written by a journalist and professor who is currently writing a “cultural history of the Miss America Pageant.” I will give her this, she had done her research about the history and  how the program began, but she fails to recognize how the pageant has progressed over its nearly 100 year existence. The part of the article that bothered me the most was the feeling statements about aspects of the pageant:
 
“The pageant has always been deeply invested in protecting the status quo in the face of women’s progress.”
 
Excuse me, have you spoken with anyone who has been a participant in this program or looked at the actual criteria by which the program operates? This article centers entirely on beauty and bikinis, missing the four points in the organization’s mission statement entirely; Style, Scholarship, Service, and Success.  The article fails to mention the platforms and community engagement the participants create, let alone what contributions the thousands of women who participate every single year go on and continue to make. In fact, there is a line that essentially scolds the pageant and the government for the scholarships that the organization offers for all of the hard work these women are doing.
 
“What failure of American democracy explains how a beauty contest accounts for the largest scholarship fund, about $6 million, for women in the United States?”
Isn’t everything that the participants do the exact criteria for a scholarship recipient? Dedicated to bettering their communities and themselves, working hard for the scholarship money they earn – by being phenomenal students, getting involved in community activities, creating platforms that go on to make impacts locally, nationally, and globally, and dedicating themselves for various goals: whether that means the goal of being Miss America, the goal of going on to graduate school or the goal of taking their platforms nationwide.
 
Google it I implore you, from former titleholders to local participants these women are literally changing the world. Stephanie Klett, former Miss Wisconsin and Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, you are my shining example.
 
Issues with the organization came from MEN tearing down these strong women, yet here is an example of a woman doing the exact same. Isn’t the whole idea of empowerment to build each other up and support each other as we fearlessly embark on our goals? I give the author of this article my respect as she furthers her journalistic career and research (no offense intended to this very well educated writer, my thoughts are just one woman’s opinions about one piece you wrote), but I will say one final thing. If you are going to write an article (or a cultural history) about an organization that has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of women across the country, it seems only fair to actually interview some of those women. To ask them about what the scholarship money has done for them, to ask them how walking on stage in a swimsuit has boosted their confidence and empowered them to fearlessly do ANYTHING. It is not fair. And to the women in the Miss America Organization, I stand with you and appreciate each of you and the work you do as titleholders!
 
So ladies, even if we disagree with another woman’s decisions, let’s empower her to live HER life. If that means writing articles, conducting research, or wearing a bikini on stage let’s build each other up not tear each other down!
 
Dream Big,
 
Skylar
Mifflin, M. (2018, March 1). In the #MeToo era, it’s time to rethink the Miss America pageant. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/03/01/in-the-metoo-era-its-time-to-end-the-miss-america-pageant/?utm_term=.f07e4e114776

 

Just Life: Leading

Today I had a very unique opportunity, I was invited back to a middle school where last year as Miss Wisconsin USA I presented my ‘Sky’s the Limit’ program. Now, granted I gave up the crown 6 months ago, they still wanted me to come and this time around I discovered it was very different. It was a reminder to me what the saying ‘Always wear your invisible crown.’ really means.  It was a reminder to me that people watch, pay attention and living to inspire is sometimes not a conscious choice but it should be.

The same middle school girls who maybe knew a little about the Miss USA program and a little about me last year, knew everything about me this time around. They had all been glued to their TV’s last May and well before watching every post and picture. They all continue to follow my life journey. They watched the recent NYFW show online, they followed my Insta Stories on my recent trip to Disney. They watch, they listen and they care. And that my friends is an overwhelming thing to think about. So today I had to ask myself the hard questions. Am I worth caring about? Someday when I have a child, would I want them to look up to someone like me?

The answer is difficult, because I know I am not perfect. I know that I have been struggling to engage in college and just desperately want it to be done. I know that I have off days and am crabby, lately they seem to have multiplied.  I question things I shouldn’t and worry about, things I can’t control. I know that my confidence has wavered more than it should recently. I know that as a human being I have a lot of room to grow.

I am not perfect, but I am always myself.

All of that being said today I had to opportunity to talk to a group about leadership and was simply reminded being a leader isn’t about being perfect. It is about making choices you are proud of, working hard, encouraging people and living a life that brings others joy. It is about sharing yourself in the most authentic and genuine way possible. It is about admitting your flaws and accepting them. It is about working continuously to make yourself and those around you better. It is OK to question everything, but leaders have faith in their abilities and faith that it will all work out.

I love that I had this opportunity today, not for that leadership group but for myself. It was the motivation I needed to remind myself of the things I already know.  My pageant days are over but I hope to live a life that continues to inspire and I hope that my words will be able to have an impact on these amazing students!

Please read my other blogs for middle school students, this is my favorite age group to write about:

Just Life:Being Respected

Just Life: A Letter to My 10 year old self

Just Life: Mean Girls and Middle School

Just Life: Instagram vs. Reality

 

Dream Big,

Skylar

 

Just Life: Two Years Later

Two years ago, a freshman in college launched a blog as a fun way to keep her friends and family up-to-date with all the new adventures.

What began as a way for me to share tidbits of information about my personal experiences learning and growing in the modeling industry, has since turned into a place for me to talk through (or rather write through) so many different aspects of the wonderful journey I have been on.

24 months ago, I had very little idea of what this blog would turn into. My main goal was to expand my modeling career to the best of my ability and share what I learned with other aspiring models.

I never imagined that my blog would become the place where I shared exciting news like landing a job working for Mac Duggal! A designer who’s work I fawned over for years and cried a little when I was able to wear one of his gowns at junior prom. A designer (and entire family of people) who would become some of my greatest supports and favorite people to be around. A designer who has invited me to not once, BUT TWICE, walk for him at New York Fashion Week. A designer who sparked a fire to push even further to make my dreams a reality, and who always made sure I was dressed my best when I was out there chasing after them.

I never dreamed that my blog would be the place where I would reflect on moments in my journey as Miss Wisconsin USA. A journey that lead me to so much personal growth. A journey that gave me the opportunity to spread my message of following your dreams with young people all over my state (a blog that allowed me to share my message with children all over the world). A journey that was filled with life lessons, laughs, tears and so many wonderful friendships. A journey that pushed me to be comfortable outside of my comfort-zone and to never take a moment for granted. A year that I will never forget with words that are forever written in stone, or at least on the internet.

I will never be able to put into words how grateful I am for the crazy life that I live each day. None of it would’ve been possible without a thought one day to start “blogging and logging“.

Here’s to two years of dreaming big and to many more years of making it happen,

Skylar

Just Life: Have Room

The past few months have been a whirlwind. I joined a Student Org, have been working a part-time communications position, traveling (more than ever), modeling, and continuing to be involved in “pageant-land” (in a much less bikini-on-live-TV kind of way). Oh, and I am taking 6 courses at UW-Madison! Whew!

I often get asked “how do you do it”? This question is a really multi-layered one, much of my energy comes from loving what I do, but I think the main motivation behind keeping myself moving is allowing myself to have room for the good, the bad, and every little thing in between.

Have room…

To fail. I am one of the biggest perfectionists you will meet, I always want to give 110% to everything I do and lately that “everything” has turned into the most magical yet overwhelming mix of things. My biggest successes in life have come from moments of “failure”, or missed opportunities.

Have room…

For weakness. With the world so full of blessings, it’s OK that your soul (or smile) doesn’t shine it’s brightest every single day. Take a break, cry, call your mom. Recent conversations with my Miss USA sisters have reminded me that everyone experiences moments of weakness or self-doubt, and each person experiences those feelings in different ways. Just because you have a moment of weakness does not mean that you are weak.

Have room…

For other people’s successes. THIS IS A BIG ONE, and probably the most important. I’m going to relate this to pageantry, however I feel the lesson is applicable always. When the crown is placed on another woman’s head, it can feel so easy to go into a negative place. Why wasn’t it me? Why was it her? I worked so hard, I deserve this. Change your narrative! Share in the excitement, feel honored to have had the chance to share in another woman’s success, and remember that everything happens for a reason. Jealousy is so ugly, and can cause for a heavy weight to be carried around. Have room for more successes than just your own.

Have room…

To enjoy your life. Put your phone down, grab your BFF and have a girls night! I have been making a habit of making sure I set aside one night every week to “just relax”. It involves me doing a bit of extra work every other day, but it is so worth it when you spend a night, stress free, at a comedy show with your best girl, or get to do sheet masks with your momma! Find time to make time to enjoy being present!

Your mental health is EVERYTHING! With everything going on lately, I have found that the one way I keep myself most “sane” is to allow myself ALL the emotions, even if they involve tears. Have room to feel overwhelmed, but above all have room to be happy!

Dream Big,

Skylar

Just Life: Instagram versus Reality

Sometimes, but very rarely, all aspects of my life collide in wonderful unison. After writing my last article, I was feeling extremely inspired to get back to what I love doing – using my voice in inspire young women. As Miss Wisconsin USA I was able to get into schools and talk about my program “Sky’s the Limit”, but since I gave up my title I have been striving to find a way to keep that motivation going. For a final project in one of my communications courses, we were asked to identify a place where we feel there is a “lack of media literacy” and implement (or imagine implementing) a program to bridge that gap.

Here is where the worlds tie together…

For my class project and, quite honestly, my new life project I have created a campaign called “Instagram versus Reality” – #IGVReality. Social media is so new in this world, but also so influential. There is no current education for young women about the pressures they may face on social media to feel “perfect”. Years ago, body image and confidence was shaken by the covers of magazines or a commercial on TV. Young women today face those pressures on top of the pressures each time they open their Instagram app. Social media makes it so difficult to tell what is reality.

I am not saying that when we post on Instagram it isn’t the reality of our lives. I never fabricate images on my Instagram to make it seem like something it is not. However, I will be the first to admit that my feed is filled with my best photos. Not the pictures of me in bed with a clay face mask typing this blog, but the photos of me smiling with my Miss USA sisters or the most recent dynamite photo from a recent shoot with the slew of talented folks I have the privilege of working with. These people get paid to be talented hair and make-up artists, stylist and amazing photographers who are trained in editing images. The pictures are all me, but they are the best possible edited and airbrushed version of me possible. And frankly to the little girls out there watching, that’s not fair. Angles and poses, lighting and filters all just social media tools used to perfect the imperfect. For once let’s embrace the imperfect!

My goal is to have people share photos and stories of their “Instagram versus Reality” and change the way young women feel when they use the app. It’s important to be able to embrace our imperfections, sometimes even laugh at them. Although the goal of this is to remove some of the pressures that young women feel, I think that each person who chooses to participate will experience a sense of lifted pressures!

There are two ways to be a part of the movement:

  1. Post 2 photos on Instagram. The first photo being the picture that you would share on Instagram and the second being the reality behind the photo. The great angle versus the not so great angle, the family picture that hangs on the wall versus the reality of what taking a family photo looks like.
  2. Post one photo on Instagram sharing the story behind it. This can be a funny story about the looks of judgement you received from the man sitting next to you on the plane as you took 25 selfies or the raw emotions behind a photo.

The most important thing is that you use the hashtag: #IGVReality and nominate as many friends as you wish. Also you will be helping my group actually implement a project which we all feel is worth standing behind.

Pick whatever photos you would like and get as deep (or not) as your choose! I look forward to spreading positivity with the help of each and every one of you.

 

Dream Big,

Sky