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 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

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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 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

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

 

Style Life: Online Shopping Edition

I am not a fashion or beauty blogger but lately I’ve decided maybe I should be! I have definitive opinions on stuff I love and stuff I hate.  When I was still a pageant queen (recently retired) people would ask me almost every day about my make-up routine or what brand of lipstick I was sporting or  where I got my dress. Now those questions are a little fewer and far between but still occur, if or when I’m wearing lipstick at all. So the following is my Skylar Witte 2017 list of clothing websites I can’t live without and why:

So my favorite sites are two I can rarely afford on my college girl budget but if you can……DO IT! http://www.revolve.com and http://www.shopbop.com, the latter is Madison, Wisconsin based! Whoop whoop. Both are amazing for current, fashion forward designer fare. I love them and both sites are completely splurge worthy. Great customer service, easy returns and high quality almost always guaranteed! I have been obsessing over this Nicholas lace dress for weeks and trying to justify why I would need a $700 dress to wear to my International Law lecture…alas, no excuse, and now it just keeps popping up in my Facebook feed…why you gotta do me like that Facebook marketing algorithm …WHY?

For my pageant peeps reading this right now who are far from retirement…someone wear this in interview, please and thank you!

Azalia dress

Next up in the mid-range category are http://www.shopakira.com and http://www.zara.com both discovered out of necessity when I was searching for appearance wear last year. So quick side-story.  I purchased no less than 4 potential interview outfits for Miss USA. I had one custom-made, purchased a few back-ups and simply couldn’t decide, by the way they all had their fabulous features. Turns out I ended up wearing none of them.  While in NYC I had purchased these cute culottes and matching shirt at Zara (not a jumpsuit, which everyone thought) and wore it to a prep session with my directors who immediately fell in love and ta-da my interview ensemble was born. It was actually very blush but looks a little more baby pink in photos. I loved it and was so happy it was my final look for interview.

Interview USA

Finally my go to site: http://www.us.boohoo.com, Ok here is where the review gets honest, half of my Miss USA wardrobe came from this site and much of it was under $20! But if I’m being forthright, which I always am, the stuff is hit or miss. Sizing is sometimes off and sometimes the material is not super high quality. But all and all it’s super trendy and super inexpensive. They do 60% off sales on a regular basis, stay on top of this site…I always have a wish list going and just purchase when the sale hits. Be cautious sales items are often not included so sometimes it’s less expensive to buy their new arrivals. Win and win. This company based in England ships to the US for a mere $6…so yeah there is that. This is where I go when I know I will only wear it once or it might not make it past one season. For example capes, rompers, chunk heels and bodysuits might not be in for 2018 so this is where I purchase all my fun stuff. Check out the below hits from my boohoo purchases (the white dress that made my dad blush, the super fun harem jumpsuit and the wild bell-sleeved floral romper):

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Then there was this little cranberry number worn to a fraternity formal in Texas last year….it was basically a swimsuit with panels but man let me tell you this dress got more attention than most $15 purchases (that’s right $15) warrant. It stood it’s own among girls in designer couture….it also sparked the love of this halter look which became my signature for Miss USA….note the similarities to another gown you may remember which was a little more on the HIGH END of high end. That of course is the gown that will forever by my favorite piece of clothing to ever exist. Mac Duggal does it up a little better.

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Speaking of which any website that sells Mac Duggal ranks high on my list, although this is one area where I would never suggest you go online to make a purchase. Pageant gowns, cocktail dresses, prom dresses, bridal gowns all should be tried on and purchased from an authorized retailer.  Trust me there are things you can’t buy online. There are items you must try on in real-life. It makes me sad to hear horror stories about knock-off gowns and expensive custom gowns ordered that come in too small or completely unlike the girl thought they would.  Try it on people.

So those are the secrets, I don’t have many. Next week I will tackle a few make-up and skincare items. I am not working for any of these websites (except Mac Duggal of course)  If you want more, let me know by either commenting on this blog or on my FB (by the way have you followed my public page yet on Facebook?!?)  This is a new arena but if you are interested I will write. As always!

Dream Big

Skylar