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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Miss Wisconsin USA Life: Farewell

Ahh, the dramatic music begins.

One woman behind me will have their life change forever. To those women and their families, I know how agonizing this waiting is, so I will try and keep this short and sweet.

To the lucky young lady that wears this crown, here are my tips:

Find your team, hold them tight, and remember you can never say thank you enough:

Thank you little brother for always being the voice that brings me down to Earth, and for easily being the best dressed person at Miss USA. Also for celebrating three birthday’s in a row at a pageant, Happy Birthday Noah!

Thank you mom and dad for letting me spread my wings, but reminding me that although the world is big I always have the most loving place (and people) to call home. Also for the reminders to WRITE IT DOWN.

Thank you to my Queen Team. My roommate and all of my amazing friends for never questioning my random schedule and always finding time to keep me sane.

To my aunt Meg, and numerous friends across the state and beyond, thank you for always giving me a place to rest my head, even if you only had a 20 minute notice. Also thank you Brynn and Eva for ALWAYS filling my sleep over nights with lots of laughs.

Bunny, thanks for doing what BFF’s do. Keep you laughing, offer words of wisdom, and helping you reach for your wildest dreams. If it wasn’t for your support of my first modeling in Dallas, I might not be standing here.

The entire crew who came out to Miss USA and made sure when the word “Wisconsin” came out of my mouth, the whole arena erupted.

Love your new sister like she is family, which she will quickly become. And if you’re really lucky you actually will gain an entire second family.

Abby, we have shared lots of laughs and lots of brunch. Thank you for always putting a smile on my face, whether it was 1,000 miles away or on what seemed like a cross country road trip. You have improved my Instagram aesthetic and made this year so memorable.

To the entire Bryson family,  I really feel like I became the fourth Bryson girl and it’s one of the greatest blessings of my year.

Be open to new ideas and stay strong physically and mentally.

It truly takes a village when it comes to your preparation for “the big show”. Find strength in yourself, and be thankful for the one who offers you even more strength…in your arm muscles…Nick you rock!

If you’re for sure going to wear Emerald Green on the Miss USA stage, try on the black dress…it may just end up being the one. Mac Duggal and Bridal Elegance made my dreams come true, in more ways than just my perfect gown.  Jan and Kathy, thank you for going above and beyond to make sure I was my best dressed AND most confident every step of the way.

Stay true to who you are.

As simple as that.

Be open to learn, you don’t know everything and if you’re willing you will learn more this year than you ever imagined.

If you think you know how to blend your makeup, just wait until you meet with Brenda. You will feel like a 5 year old with a makeup kit from Claire’s and walk out feeling like the queen of the world, or maybe just the USA!

Smile a lot.

This one may become difficult throughout the year as you face stress, hanger, and what seems like a lack of enough appearance wear. Laugh through it all, you have one year to do this and it would be no fun without a few hiccups.

After a few trips to see Dr Meiser and Wahl in Minneapolis, you will do this one without trying just to show off your perfected smile.

Soak it all in.

You will have opportunities this year that you never dreamed of, take advantage of them, even if it means skipping a few, lots of, classes. If you can find a travel buddy, even better, thank you Jessie for the greatest adventures and best breakfast tacos I’ve ever had.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s is always a great way to clear your head, I am so grateful to have a support system that lives just up University Ave.

You will find so much support through this year, thank you to each of the individuals and businesses who donated to make sure I was able to do as many appearances as I hoped and have the most incredible trip to Miss USA.

Remember where you came from and how you got here.

There are countless people who helped shape you into the extraordinary woman you are today. Never forget those moments or those people.

Write it down.

It will help you remember conversations that made you cry, reflect, or laugh until it hurt. Also it’s great to look back and laugh about the time your friend drove you to a gas station so you didn’t have to use a port-a-potty at a homecoming celebration, or the time your 9 year old cousin wrote a story for her class title “when my cousin became famous”.

On that note, take pictures.

SOOOO many pictures, I recommend a backup hard drive so you can take even more than a lot.

Pictures are memories you hold on to forever, thank you Micheal and Dean for giving me some of the best memories ever, to have and cry at FOREVER.

Listen to your directors.

Denise, Craig, and Libby will become your greatest blessing this year. Their goal is to make you the best version of yourself that you can possibly be, they will do that and then some.

I will forever be grateful to be a part of the Future Productions family. Carol, Bruce, Casey Lynn and all of the volunteers your dedication to this organization does not go unnoticed and these life changing moments would not be possible without you.

This is no longer just about you.

The moment that crown goes on your head you become a representative. A representative of each woman on this stage, a group of women who will become your strength this year. A representative of an international brand, the Miss Universe Organization, how cool. And above all, a representative of the state of Wisconsin:

This can mean whatever you want it to, but do not take it lightly.

I was reminded at each middle school visit I did, that with hardwork, goal setting, and believing in who you are, any dream is possible. Crown or no crown, each woman on this stage needs to realize that the Sky really is the limit and there is no cap on how far you can go from here.

364 days, 12 flights, 70,000 miles, 90 appearances, and a heck of a good time later. I am your Miss Wisconsin USA 2017, Skylar Witte

Pageant Life: Post-Pageant Blues

Everything I write is happy, happy, positive, but guess what life isn’t always happy, happy, positive…even mine. It’s amazing but I have my days, my weeks, my months and even my years (sorry Friends fan) Every pageant girl out there has gone through the PPBs Post-Pageant Blues, sometimes it happens after a state pageant, sometimes after a biggie like Miss USA, but we all face it and if you don’t think it will happen to you prepare yourself.

I am digging myself out of it as we speak.  People will always jump to the conclusion that you are upset or sad that you didn’t win or place….always. But for most of us it has nothing to do with the outcome, it has to do with coming off of the high. Just over two months ago I was coming from this place of total mind, body and soul preparation.  Ever inch of my being was humming in perfect unison.  Not only did my butt look fantastic, but I could answer any question you threw at me from my thoughts on government funding of Planned Parenthood to my favorite flavor of ice cream, and everything in between.  PEAK pageant performance.  I had spent months investing in not clothes or make-up but in myself  in preparation for the big show.  And honestly all the time was worth the investment. I am a different person because of it!

Now on top of all of that, throw me in a place for 11 days with 50 literally amazing humans who have all been doing the same thing, who all have perfect butts and brilliant banter and you have now entered this alternative universe and that place is hard to leave. Everyone imagines Miss USA is this cut-throat, competitive experience where everyone pretends to get along but the minute interviews and prelims begin the gloves come off and the claws come out….hahaha someone actually told me that before I went. But guess what, the opposite usually happens, by the time prelims hit you have found your pageant soul mates and you cheer for each other; HONEST TO GOD.  You become completely protective of your new family, when the crowning is done and they whisk away the new queen talk turns to your wishes and hopes that she has an amazing year…then everyone stands on-stage and  the reality hits you…IT’S OVER!  Tomorrow or even that very night everyone will once again go their separate ways and you have to hope that you can reconvene at reunions, other pageants and maybe if you stumble into the state where they live. And the weeks and months pass and you miss them.

That’s phase one.

Then there is phase two….your mind goes insane….”I don’t have to do two-a-day workouts, I’m in Vegas and they have infinite pizza and buffets, when I get back to Wisconsin I’m getting Culver’s…..all of Culver’s, everything they make at Culver’s! Thank God I can stop with the hours of  FOX News and CNN coverage to try to get a full and realistic view of every single thing happening in every corner of the world. I’m shutting off for a bit, and when I’m ready I will turn back on.”

Everyone goes a little crazy after the pageant, again if you don’t think you will be this girl, prepare yourself. I have finally quelled my need to experience all of the things I had been missing, at the expense of the butt, my belly, the thighs and every other part of my body that has gone into a little bit of shock. I have started to pay attention again to the things I’m passionate about happening in the world and want to follow, everything else will be handled by a daily look at ‘The Skimm’.  Yesterday I went to the gym……I didn’t recognize the front desk attendant……uffda….it has been a long time.  I’m slowly finding my way back to me. Will she ever be the sculpted, news junkie who made her way to Miss USA, probably not?!?! But she will be a better version of who she was before this journey began and she will have some of the coolest, most insanely beautiful long-distance friends…..YEP she will and she does.

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened……blah, blah, blah……it’s OK….YOU CAN CRY BECAUSE IT’S OVER, just know when it’s time to stop whining and get back to what’s important.

Also don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually sad, down-and-out or going through real depression….I’m loving my life. One part is over but a million other things are just beginning. I have thoroughly enjoyed hitting up the Culver’s and experiencing a million life events that could only happen after Miss USA.  But every once in a while the pangs of PPB flair up…..and there is no remedy.  It happened, it’s over……accepting it….slowly!

Dream Big, Skylar

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Miss Wisconsin USA Life: IT IS HERE

Since I was a little girl, I have watched Miss USA and admired the beautiful women who grace the stage. When I decided to compete this year for Miss Wisconsin USA I wanted nothing more than my chance to be one of those women. I wanted the opportunity to say “Wisconsin” on the big stage, and do photo shoots with talents like Fadil Berisha. I wanted to pick out the dress that would forever be archived as “the best dress I’ve ever worn” (sorry future husband). But, from the second that crown was placed on my head, it became so much more than me.

Yes, all of those things I listed are perks of the job. But for 8 months, I have had the privilege to represent the people and the state that helped make me who I am today. Throughout my journey as Miss Wisconsin USA, I have done over 70 appearances, and met thousands of people across the state. When I walked that stage Thursday and tonight, I am a representative of the proud, hard-working and spirited people of Wisconsin. Somewhere on this journey became the realization, this is bigger than me…so much bigger.

To the veterans who shared their love of god and country at one of my first appearances at the Tomahawk Fall Ride; to the band at Amery Middle School who learned “On Wisconsin” in two days just because I was visiting; and the cranberry farmer who was so honored to give me the literal fruits of his labor,  when I introduced myself and said that word “WISCONSIN”, you are my meaning behind it. It came out loudly and enthusiastically…but for good reason!

I have had a lot of people throughout this journey ask me if I would be upset if I didn’t make top 10 and tonight I will walk away with a smile and full heart no matter what the outcome. My goal was to represent the state of Wisconsin to the very best of my ability and as of today, May 14, I believe I have done that. Walking the stage wearing “Wisconsin” is enough, in fact it’s more than enough, for me. I feel blessed to be the woman chosen for this job and for this fantastic ride.

This is part of my life, it is not my whole life (although it’s been the best part so far). I will forever carry the distinction of being Miss Wisconsin USA 2017 and would be so honored to carry the title of Miss USA 2017 but even at that…neither of those titles will ultimately define my life. I have BIG plans, big hopes and big dreams and they do not end on this stage tonight. This is just the beginning. I embrace being the youngest contestant because it means not only was I lucky enough to experience the ultimate interview, ultimate stage experience so early in my life. It also means I now have 50 of the most amazing women I have ever met as my lifelong friends and inspirations. I have a big, bright and beautiful future ahead of me. I am not the underdog. I am not at a disadvantage. I am not going to be devastated by any outcome….because tonight….this is the dream. I did what I set out to do. I represented the state of Wisconsin with everything I have in me. I am the best version of me that I have ever been.

There are 51 women and not a single one among us is ‘not deserving’, not a single one among us will not make a wonderful Miss USA and a great representative at Miss Universe.

So if I don’t win what is the plan you ask…first and foremost return to the state I love and enjoy every last second of holding this title. I will finish out my undergrad degree. I am registered for summer courses and one more semester on-campus. Which brings me to the next part, continue building my modeling and acting portfolio and reel because that process has been on hold but it’s still a dream. I plan to eventually make a go of it in the entertainment  industry before someday returning to law school. Some people take a gap year, I am planning for a gap career. In the meantime I will continue to model for my favorite clients and hope to do Mac Duggal Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week again, if they will have me. I plan to spend time with my family (I miss them), maybe hang out with some babies, any babies will do. Go on dates, this isn’t an open invite but there is a boy who’s out in the world who I would love to go on a date with, he is probably reading this right now and either panicking or smiling….stay tuned. Eat cheese, copious amounts of cheese. And just flat out relax for my summer.

So cheer for me! Cheer loudly! But know that no matter what happens, I am proud and I am SO HAPPY!!IMG_7113

THANK YOU WISCONSIN!

Dream Big,

Skylar

 

 

Just Life: Grounded

Someone the other day asked me the “secret” to staying true to myself, even when the world around me is moving so quickly. Even when you are just weeks away from the ‘big show’.   I don’t know if I have a secret, but I do have some methods.

Say thank you:  This is the most important and quite frankly the easiest. Never stop saying thank you and never stop being grateful. Thank the woman who is giving you your morning coffee, something that keeps you running through the day. Thank your parents, let them know that you appreciate them and all they do for you. Thank the people who put up with your madness, my roomie Sav fits this bill. Right now I find myself thanking sponsors and my directors on almost a daily basis for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. Never forget to say THANK YOU!

Remember the struggles: This year I have chosen to talk to middle school students, because frankly it was the most difficult and uncertain time of my life. For almost everyone it was the period in life when you lose the idealism of your elementary school days and start to realize that it is a lot harder to become Hannah Montana than one would think. All our crazy dreams start to get beat down, the awkwardness and growing pains means everyone becomes competitive, girls and boys forget how to speak to one another and support each other and all of the reality of life starts to set in. It is the time when most kids stop with the big dreams and they start to look like fairytales; unachievable and ridiculous.  Add to that literal growing-up, the braces, the bullying and in my particular case  dealing with actual life….My entire middle school experience included living with and watching my grandmother slowly lose her battle with cancer. REALITY SUCKS. Don’t forget the struggle, don’t forget how it felt when your life was less than perfect, don’t forget what made you, YOU! Embrace it because it will keep you focused on your dreams.

Set achievable goals and then make it happen: This one is near and dear to my heart. This year I did not set out to “Become Miss USA or even to walk in New York Fashion Week” two monumental goals that frankly I have no actual control over. Judges will decide if I am the right woman for the job on May 14th and a designer had to pick me from thousands of model hopefuls. But I did set achievable goals to prepare myself for these things to happen. My physical preparation is all on me. Everyday getting up, hitting the gym, eating clean, all the trainers in the world can’t make your body ready for a competition or to walk a runway… if you don’t do the work. A series of small fitness goals and a plan that is achievable and realistic. Building a modeling portfolio and network of industry professionals all done with a series of small, systematic goals. I did set a goal of being the best Miss Wisconsin USA once I was crowned. For me that meant making a lot of appearances, promoting my state, promoting my #skysthelimit philosophy to every school that would let me in the door, promoting the Miss Universe Organization and just working really hard all day, every single day for the 365 days I am fortunate enough to wear the crown and sash.  This method works for almost all big dreams. Break it down and make it happen.

Just recently I watched film of JJ Watt (NFL rock star and Wisconsinite) returning to thank his 4th grade teacher for believing in his Badger/NFL dreams.  Even in 4th grade JJ knew his end goal but to get there every day he worked on the small things, every day focused and committed. Plus, he never lost sight of the people who helped make it happen, and even at the height of his career is gracious and thankful!

Don’t let anyone else define you: The hardest of all my suggestions…really hard when you are 13-18 years old, still hard when you are an adult. I am currently putting myself in the position to be ‘judged’ by the world. The harshest kind of judgment, the kind that will come in a bikini, in front of a LOT of people. The kind that will come with such quotes from viewers at home and even online like, “Oh Wisconsin is hideous!” “Not my pick” “Hate that girl” seriously those things will be said about not just me but every contestant by someone somewhere in the world. But here is my reality….NO ONE ELSE DEFINES ME! No ones judgment of me on a single day or in a single moment will be the foundation for how I live my life or the goals I am able to accomplish. This whole experience is a drop in the bucket of my life.

My middle school visits almost always circle to this place where a sweet girl or boy connects with me afterward and talks about someone mistreating them. And we almost always have a discussion about not allowing someone to define you. No one is allowed to tell you your dreams are too big, your passions, your ability to achieve, no one knows what is in your heart and no one has the right to take what is away from you.

This is how through the craziness and through what I will likely remember as some pretty big defining moments in my life, I have never lost sight of Skylar Witte. The girl, the middle school girl uncertain, scared and sad…the woman walking the runway in New York, same person….always stay grounded in who you are.

Dream Big, Skylar

New York Fashion Week February 2017

 

 

Miss Wisconsin USA Life: Top 5

“Your Miss Wisconsin USA 2017 is Skylar Witte”

6 months ago, this one sentenced changed my life. Over the past 6 months I have grown more as a person than I could ever have imagined.

I knew going into the Miss Wisconsin USA competition that there were many things I wanted to do if I had the honor of being crowned. I didn’t realize just how many amazing opportunities having this title would afford me and just how much fun I was going to have. Every appearance I do is different and every appearance has brought the greatest memories, but I thought to commemorate this 6 month anniversary I would share my top 5 favorite memories so far.

5. When my 9 year old cousin Eva wrote a story for class titled “When My Cousin Became Famous”. Becoming a role model for so many young people across the state is an honor that I am thankful for every day, but being able to be a role model for my two sweet cousins is a cherry on top. The story was just as adorable as you would imagine, she walked her class through the whole pageant. Reliving the best moment of my life through her words was such a sweet reminder that winning this title did not just impact me, but so many of the people who love me.

4. Singing the National Anthem at WACPC State Dance. This particular appearance was special for multiple reasons. At every middle school visit I do, I share the same story about the first time I sang the National Anthem at an Altoona High School hockey game. The story ends in me forgetting the words, utter humiliation, and using all the gumption I could muster to go back the next week and try again.   I thought while in that moment I would never sing the National Anthem for an audience again. Although I have sang the anthem since, this appearance made me especially proud, I had never given up. I also was so honored to have been invited because just two years ago I had won D1 State Pom Championship with the DC Everest Dance Team in that exact same spot. To be back on the floor as a representative of the state and cheering for my team, was such a surreal feeling.

3. The UW Homecoming Parade. Being a Badger makes me so proud, and has since the day I got my acceptance email. The parade for me was extra special, it was the first time I got to meet Chancellor Blank.  It felt transcendent because she came up to me and knew who I was. After I had won she had sent me a congratulatory email. I assumed it was from some assistant and doubted the Chancellor really took the time to reach out, I was wrong! My mom got a photo of me “fan girl-ing”. Anyone who knows me, knows that me being overly excited for pretty much anything isn’t new. At this appearance I also got to see Miss Wisconsin, Courtney Pelot, who represented Wisconsin at the Miss America pageant.  I had the pleasure of meeting Courtney when she was a local title holder and remember thinking, “that girl is the next Miss Wisconsin.” I watched the whole live stream of her state pageant and definitely cried when she was crowned. Courtney is a graduate of UW Madison, so getting to catch up with her and share a love for the greatest University on earth was fantastic. Thousands of people lined my favorite street in  Wisconsin, State Street and I threw out candy while trying to choke back tears. Footage from me in the parade was on ESPN during the game. There is no way I could ever explained how honored I am to have the opportunity to be Miss Wisconsin USA and in this moment, I was so overwhelmed with gratefulness.

2. My trip to Colorado to watch the Miss Colorado USA state pageant. This particular state pageant was the first time I got to spend any long amount of time with Miss Wisconsin Teen USA, Abby Bryson, and her mom, Lisa, after our crowning. Lisa was kind enough to let me stay with them since I was coming to Colorado alone. This trip was my favorite trip ever because I realized I had gained a lifelong friend and sister. We spent the trip laughing, eating lots of breakfast food, and realizing that we had so much in common that we really should just be best friends, and that’s exactly what happened. Pageants are always talked about as a sisterhood, and I am so lucky to have not only gained a sister, but to have gained a second family.

1. My favorite memory of the past 6 months was the day that I found my gown for Miss USA. I will attempt to tell this story in a condensed version:

I have had the privilege to work with the talented Mac Duggal for just over a year, after attending an open call looking for new models.  It has been the best job a girl could ask for. When I was crowned Miss Wisconsin USA, Mac and I started talking ideas for my perfect gown. I spent months giving his team countless ideas, nothing that I thought could actually be combined into a perfect dress, it was all over the place and a little unique. Every time I was there or working for the company we would all talk a little more about it.  At one point while visiting the Mac offices I had viewed a sketch of something being worked on and was pretty excited it sure looked like it had elements of my dream gown.  When it came time to picking a gown at our pageant prep week,  I was shopping with my directors, my mom and aunt trying on all sorts of new dresses from Mac’s collection. I loved them all, but there was nothing that screamed “THIS IS THE DRESS”. A gown was pulled for me that hadn’t been on the rack when I originally walked in the room. Immediately after getting zipped I liked what I was seeing and the gown fit like nothing I had ever tried on, perfectly. As I walked out of the dressing room and saw myself in the mirror, the tears came automatically. It was the. most. perfect. gown I had ever laid eyes on. Antoinette, the design teams Pageant Coordinator had Mac on FaceTime to tell me that he had designed this dress from his new collection specifically for me, rushed a sample so it would make it to the gown selection and it was the exact vision and culmination of what I pictured myself wearing on the Miss USA stage. Cinderella moment in real life.  The color was also hand-selected and the only completely unexpected surprise from my original dream…but the color is what makes this dress work on every level and that’s why the Mac Duggal team is the best, they just know and they definitely know me and what works for my style, personality and body!!! Turns out almost everyone in the room knew what was going to happen, but our sweetest volunteer Carol wasn’t even aware she had grabbed the gown, when I started sobbing she was panicked thinking I had just fallen in love with the wrong dress. Thankfully for Carol the sneaky plan worked out even better than imagined.  It was the most extraordinary moment, and one that I will never forget. I wish we had video taped the whole crazy thing, but for those who got to live in that moment with me I’m sure no one will forget it.  I cannot wait for everyone to see this masterpiece on the Miss USA stage. I am not revealing anything more  but if I could describe my gown in two words, they would be  SIMPLE DRAMA! (yep that will get you wondering)

To say that this has been the best 6 months of my life would be an extreme understatement. I still don’t think it’s all really sunk in, but I do know that each moment I am thankful and feel so lucky to be representing this great state. Thank you everyone for your support so far, here’s to the next 6 months! Miss USA here I come.

Dream Big,

Skylar

Miss Wisconsin USA Life: The Best You

I think the biggest myth in pageantry is that in order to win you must fit a certain mold. You have to wear a white dress, or have perfect pageant curls. The girl who spends the most has the best chances or you must give the judges the answer that you think that want to hear. If I have learned anything in my preparation for Miss Wisconsin USA and now Miss USA it’s that the one way to take yourself out of the running for the crown is to try and be something you are not.

When I was preparing for the Miss Wisconsin USA competition I had lots of input on lots of different things. What colors to wear, how to wear my hair and do my makeup, which swimsuit fit my body the best, and strangely enough…how to answer questions about myself. Weird! I loved that input and I listened to that input and it helped me sort through what I was and what I wasn’t, but at the end of the day I took it for what is was, someone else’s thoughts on pageantry, life and me.

It would have been so easy to fall into a trap of comparison. What did the top 5 wear last year? What have the past 5 winners done with their hair? What “story” has been most compelling in the past? What did someone else answer in their top 5 that sealed the deal?  And I think it happens all the time, in all sorts of industries, that women start to play the comparison game and feel they need to become somebody else in order to find success. NEVER NEVER NEVER!

Let’s be perfectly frank, creating a fake version of yourself is a game you will have to continue to play. I have literally watched women create versions of themselves so outlandish that they become lost in their own creation. So focused on maintaining the façade they no longer remember who they are, what matters to them and what they really have a passion for.

I decided very early on in my preparation that the way I was going to win was to be completely sure of who I was, and if it wasn’t this year it would happen when it was supposed to happen. I needed to know myself inside and out. As I’m sure you all know at this point, I love to write and that’s exactly what I did. I wrote about myself, what I loved, what I didn’t necessarily love, how I felt about issues in my life, how I felt about issues in the world and when I walked into the interview room I knew Skylar Witte from head-to-toe. (Novel about the minutiae of my life forthcoming)

When it came to being on stage, knowing who I was gave me the confidence I needed to rock my secondhand bikini with my six inch heels. I did not spend thousands of dollars on a gown or an opening number outfit. I was fortunate that my wardrobe was sponsored by designers and fellow pageant friends. (That’s the blessings of relationships and a whole different blog) It worked for me because I loved every piece of it, just look at my face, this coral spoke to me. Not because anything was custom or the fact I wore red gown or because I wore a coral jumpsuit with gold accents to interview.

People often ask me, “what was going through your head when you were walking on stage?” As goofy as it sounds, I just kept saying over and over “I am Skylar Witte, I am Skylar Witte”, and I was so excited to let the judges see ME.

So to break some pageant myths. White doesn’t always win, the color, price and style of the gown doesn’t make a difference, it’s the woman in the gown and how she graces the stage. You don’t need to ever be someone different in an interview.  You don’t need to always be pushing a created agenda.  Sometimes the judges ask the questions you have rehearsed in your head a million times, but often they simply do not.  My state interview was filled with laughs about my distaste for kale (for real, not a fan) and how my dad and I do a mean rendition of “Fergilicious”! When I walked out of that room I felt so confident that those 6 strangers now knew who I was, and that was because I knew who I was.

I want to take some time to tell every young woman out there who feels she needs to be someone else, that the very best person you could ever be in this world is YOU!! When you find confidence in who you are, it changes your world. There isn’t a secret to ‘winning’ a pageant or ‘winning’ at life. Life is all about constantly learning and growing, but when you choose to start learning more about you everything and everyone that surrounds you will gain clarity.

Dream Big,

Skylar

Miss Wisconsin USA Life: The Path Pavers

One of the most overwhelming ‘truths’  of becoming Miss Wisconsin USA was the fact I was suddenly launched into the same category as some of my idols. This is not hyperbole, the 12 women in this photo (Courtesy: Pageant Update)  who have come before me are, with all sincerity,  my lifelong heroes.

I have been fortunate to follow their journeys and some I have been blessed to personally get to know. Many have impacted my own path in ways they may have never even realized…but isn’t that what a blog is for…to share your inner most thoughts. So I’m about to tell them.

Kate Redeker, your pure beauty is incomparable. When I found out you would be competing as a miss the first year I was a teen contestant I tried not to ‘fan girl’ the moment I met you. Winning your title at 19 gave me hope and courage.  Just two months later while attending the Miss Minnesota USA pageant my mother and I got into a lengthy conversation with your parents. I told them how much I wanted to become Miss Wisconsin USA but thought I should wait, worried I was too young to compete. They were so absolutely inspiring. Your mother told me I had something special and the judges would see it at any age. They are such a huge reason this was my year, they planted a seed that grew all year long.

Haley Laundrie, there is a photo of you and Bucky Badger throwing up the “W” that was my ‘goal image’. Whenever I imagined my dream, what it meant to be Miss Wisconsin USA and how I envisioned it,  I thought of you and UW-Madison and that image. Bucky and I have yet to recreate, but I’m working on it. There will be a picture of Miss Wisconsin USA 2017 with Bucky, it will happen.

Bishara, I once referred to you as the “Queen of Queens”, and it is the truth. This year I finally had the chance to meet you and learn from you. I even had the opportunity to try  on the yellow dress you wore the night you were named into the Top 10 at Miss USA (fate anyone)!

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Your mother was on a mock interview panel that day and she gave me the best piece of advice I had gotten up until that point. She asked me about my dream job and I started by talking about becoming Miss Wisconsin USA and then Miss USA but quickly apologized for sounding too over-the-top. She stopped me and said “never apologize, be strong and confident in what you want and don’t be afraid to say it out loud!” I’ve thought about that moment many times since. When I completed the Miss Wisconsin USA interview I was disappointed that the judges never asked me that question. I’ve come to the conclusion they already knew the minute I walked into the room. Strength and conviction, they knew exactly why I was there. Thanks to your beautiful Momma for reminding me it’s ok to know what you want!

Courtney we have yet to meet, however my mother and your mother have formed a unique mommy mojo that makes me laugh. Your mother has always let it be known she believed in me and she saw something in me before anyone else had quite yet noticed it. She was convinced of my fate and kept my biggest fans sane in their most insane pageant moments not one but two years in a row. She just knew, I don’t know how but she believed in me when others doubted! I have to think it is because she raised a double crown winner and astonishing human being. She once said something about me reminds her of you, there is no greater compliment in the world.

Jordan I remember meeting you at the tender age of 13 when you were helping Kenna Mia as we both enjoyed our first stage experiences…I remember being completely enamored by you and your smile. You were the most beautiful woman in the room and still are everywhere you go.

Alex Wehrley, you are living my dream by creating a successful career in the entertainment industry. Not only that, you are doing it with grace, style and remaining true to yourself the entire time. You are the woman I aspire to become. I hope we can meet in person one day, because my connection to you is strong and that’s all I can say about that. #empowerista

Caitlin, your undeniable commitment to the growth of young women is evident. You have been such a force in the Wisconsin pageant community. You and your mother are the mentors every woman hopes to find in this world. Your motivations are so clear and so genuine… to build up others. I feel like I look just a little bit like you in our reaction photos and that gives me happy chills (fate anyone)!

Finally, Melissa there are no words. You are a beacon of pure light and energy. For years I ‘just missed you’ while those around me shared your story of hope and inspiration. In the end I believe it was only fitting that we finally embraced in-person the night I was crowned. Your life, your persona, your ability to create a legacy so much larger than yourself is the stuff dreams and legends are made of. You are the real and forever Miss Wisconsin USA.

My path has been paved by each of these remarkable women and their families even those I have yet to meet and know; each laying stones of hope, guidance, inspiration and love.  I feel like I am somehow the end product of each of their time with the crown. I followed their each and every move, dreaming of my moment, while working hard to create my own destiny. I can only hope that some Miss Wisconsin USA hopeful is reading this right now and someday feels the same way about me! And whoever she may be, it is just as spectacular as you have imagined it in your dreams.

Dream Big, Skylar

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