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: 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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Pageant Life: Competition

 

People don’t often believe me when I tell them I am not a competitive person. A model and a pageant girl, I must believe in competition and I must want to win. Half of that last sentence is true. I like to win,who doesn’t, but I don’t consider other women my competition.

Here is what it has taken me 18 years of life to realize, in subjective activities in which you can not control the outcome being competitive is both counter productive and exhausting. Both modeling and pageants are just such types of activities. The outcome rests solely on a set of judges or a client/agent who has a very personal and very embedded view of what they are looking for in a model or a queen. So knowing that there is not another Skylar Witte out there in the world I truly have no one to compete with but myself.

If a client is looking for a 5’10” Hispanic model to promote their new line, I will not get the job. Chances are they won’t tell me that is specifically what they are looking for but if they are there is nothing I could have done, said or changed to land that job. If I knew they were looking for that I would have them contact my friend Vielka down in Texas because she is that girl, I am not. Chances are as I stood in line with the 200-300 others at that audition everyone else in line was comparing themselves to each other and to me. “Oh she is pretty, oh she is tall, oh she came equipped with a huge portfolio!” I have given up on these comparisons long, long ago. Because if they are looking for Skylar Witte, I will get the job, if they want Vielka, well hopefully she is in that line somewhere too 🙂

The same holds true for pageantry. A long time ago when I was much younger and devastated over not placing in a pageant someone told me, different judges, different day, different outcome. It is probably one of the most real things I have ever heard. Judges have a job to find the best representative they can, they are given a loose outline of criteria. Can she talk, walk, is she representative of today’s modern woman…so on and so forth, but in reality everyone’s ideal is going to be different. So my approach to my life is to continuously better myself and worry only about the things I can control. I work on my physical, mental and emotional well-being. I am not afraid to help others better themselves. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I was worried about giving away some big secret that was going to make someone ‘beat’ me out for a title. The whole concept of a pageant being some sort of a race is ludicrous to me.  The girl who walks away with a title did not win her way to a crown by elbowing out other girls along the way, that isn’t how it works!

There are competitive girls in both fields, some but very, very few are downright mean. They will try to tear others down, they will talk poorly behind your back and they will just not be kind when given the opportunity to be kind. I feel bad for those girls, they are missing out on some of the best things that both modeling and pageantry have given me. Lifelong friendships with cool, motivated, beautiful woman inside and out who I want to have by my side. Sometimes those girls will win, sometimes those girls will get the job but I never cry about those girls because in the end they had an opportunity to build a kingdom much more valuable than any crown or job and they blew it!  That 1% has given both industries a bad name.

In reality, most of the women I have come across are supportive and kind. They have also learned along the way that there is endless value in building others up and very little value in trying to tear them down. I don’t necessarily believe in destiny but I do believe in every moment having its ‘time’!

Last year I was 1st runner-up to the title of Miss Wisconsin Teen USA and after the pageant I did not feel even the slightest let down by the outcome. It simply wasn’t my time and I look at what this year has brought me and every day I am reminded of it. It was Karly Knaus’ time and that girl is killing it! I am proud of her, I am thrilled for her and I am honored that we became friends, not because we were ‘competing’ against each other but because we are two motivated women who have a lot in common. I did well that day, I talked the right talk, walked the right walk and was the most confident I have ever been. When we were standing up there in that moment I was truly and genuinely happy, for both Karly and for myself, I was the best Skylar Witte I could be that day and she was the best Karly she could be.  We are now friends and will be friends for the rest of our lives and that’s probably the best ending I could ever ask for!

 

Dream Big, Skylar

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