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

 

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Just Life: Dancer Thighs

 

In the past I have addressed body image and self-confidence. Everybody out there can relate to having concerns, or being self-conscious about their body. The reality is everyone’s idea of beauty, the perfect body and what makes them feel pretty are as different as how the rest of the world perceives them. Healthy looks different on everyone, and this is something I have learned through this journey to Miss USA and as life continues post-Miss USA. My body has changed so much over the past few years and each transition has given me a new gift and a new challenge.

If you follow my writing, you know the story, I was a member of one of the best dance teams in Wisconsin (not completely bias, the team actually has the history to back up the claim) but it was not an easy road to get there. Physically I was not strong or a technically skilled dancer, so I had to work extra hard to find success. Along the way I developed my pride and joy, those dancer thighs. All my dancer friends out there no exactly what I’m talking about, off-season you lift to maintain them and in-season they are the reason you can do all those switch leaps and toe-touches (and they are reason it is crazy difficult to find jeans)! By the time I was done with High School I had beautiful dancer legs that I was so proud of.

When it came time to compete for Miss Wisconsin USA, I had a body I was proud of! Two years after dancing every day and I was still strong and I was healthy. That being said, when it came time to walk the Miss USA stage I had goals in mind and leaning out those dancer muscles was one of those goals. I switched up my exercise routine and changed what I was eating. I asked for tips from fantastic trainers and friends to help me reach my body goals, without compromising my weight or my daily consumption of cheese. I lost inches around my thighs and hips, but I maintained the weight I have had since high school. At Miss USA I had reached my goals for that point in my life, and I felt healthy and happy. Those same thighs I was proud of as a dancer I had become proud of for a whole different reason.

The point of this story is that healthy means something different for everyone, and can mean something different to an individual at different points in their life. Body image is a continuum for most women. The part you love one day can be your worst enemy the next. We think about it, we obsess, we judge ourselves even when no one else likely notices. This process never ends. If you are a dancer, a student, a weight-lifter, a mom, a bikini model the things you are most proud of might not even make sense to the rest of the world. But it isn’t their body to love, it is yours. So love your large muscular thighs, your waist, your hips, those biceps and triceps. LOVE IT ALL. The ability to change and grow with who you are at even given moment is part of the self-acceptance process.  Being body positive should change as much as your body changes.

Embrace not only what god has given to you but what you are able to create through hard-work and commitment, both are equally worth celebrating!

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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Just Life: Becoming You

There is not much about me you can’t find out by searching my name on Google or reading any of my blog posts. I am an open book. Some people find this perplexing, why would I share so very much of my life, my thoughts and my unsolicited advice. The answer for me is a rather simple one, something that I share will help someone, somewhere, someday.

My journey into modeling, my life goal of becoming Miss Wisconsin USA, heck even my frustration with the dating world have all been unique to me, however in each arena in my life I have gained some useful insights that frankly, I wish I had known when I started down that path. So I share. I do so without hesitation and sometimes without care for perfect grammar or AP style (apologies to every English teacher in my life). My writing for those who know me personally is probably more like a conversation you would have if you sat down and visited with me in person. Informal, candid and with a tone that always, always skews on the positive but not annoyingly sweet. That’s just me.

It wasn’t always me, it took me a long time to get here. When I meet young girls who are just finding themselves and struggling with finding the right friend group, the right team, the right ‘thing’ that they love, the right boy, the right path, even the right style that suits them, I can’t help but think…been there, done that. Add on top of that struggle the pressure of the world that you are somehow doing it all wrong. That pressure can come from your peers, your parents, your teachers, everyone you come across in life will have an opinion on who you should become. They all for the most part will come from a place of love. They will all want what in their minds is best for you. But becoming you is the most personal journey you will ever go on, and no one can determine the desired outcome. Becoming you is the only journey in life you must take solo.

The harshest reality out there is that the only person who can hold you back from achieving your wildest dreams is you! People will try, they will stand  in your way, they will give you a million reasons why you can’t do something, they will question you and they will judge your every move. But in the end those people will only control your destiny if you allow them.

People thought I was crazy for traveling every weekend on a shoestring budget to work with photographers for free, building a modeling portfolio for a career I didn’t have. They wondered why I would skip ‘the social event of the year’ to hit up a casting call a hundred miles away that would only last 5 minutes and likely end without a job! Everyone thought I was crazy, until that portfolio and a single 5 minute call ended in getting me a modeling job that any big agency signed model would die to have.

Even my biggest supporters (mom, calling you out) told me 19 was too young to attempt a run at Miss Wisconsin USA, “wait it out a few years, your time will come.” But I knew I was ready and I knew I was certain of who I was and where I was going. I knew they were right if it wasn’t my time it would be eventually,  but I knew something they didn’t… in the year between the 2015 pageant and 2016 pageant I had become Skylar Witte.  I was so certain of what was in my heart, and I knew that if I could just get that out to a set of judges I had already won. Apparently I did, they knew who I was in under 5 minutes. I showed them my heart!

Becoming you is a confidence that is hard to explain. It is the ability to believe in yourself when no one else does, it is wearing a full-length sequin bodysuit with huge faux leather cape sleeves when everyone else is wearing a cocktail gown. It is knowing who you are so beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one can change that vision; their words, their suggestions and their criticism will fly right off you like those cape sleeves in the wind. I am told that 19 is a young age to get to this place.  I don’t really apologize for that and I hope I never leave it. Becoming you doesn’t mean that you are finished, oh not by a long shot. You will change your life direction, change your goals, change your boyfriend, change your style, all of those things will happen as you continue to evolve as a person and that’s the way it is suppose to be. But once you find your peace, once you embrace that solo journey and learn to love who you are, the rest is all just growth.

My wish for all those I love and have yet to love is that they too can become who they are meant to be. It might not happen in a minute or a year, but it will happen if you allow it.

Dream Big,

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Miss Wisconsin USA Life: Awareness

This weekend I was honored to be part of the 10th annual Down Syndrome Awareness Walk in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin-Chippewa Valley advocates for a worthwhile cause and is a wonderful organization. I have supported multiple causes throughout my life.  Among the organizations related to celebrating all abilities, I have been an award presenter for Special Olympics, a judges coordinator and emcee for the Miss Amazing pageant and am so looking forward to participating in Best Buddies events around the state as an ambassador as part of the Miss Wisconsin USA organization.

But even more so, I have been involved in awareness events and walks since I could walk. My mother was a news anchor and was often asked to participate, so non-profit events were a true family affair. I am blessed to have been taught the importance of community involvement and giving back. We did it all, Alzheimer’s awareness, heart disease awareness, Epilepsy awareness, mental health awareness, and breast cancer awareness. The latter came to be when my Nana was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when I was 12 years old. She wanted to attend events and we all got involved.  Something she used to say has stuck with me all of these years. We would all get dressed up in our pink shirts with our ribbons and pins and head to an ‘awareness’ event and she was bald and sick and going through chemo and would say….”AWARENESS, oh I am aware, I’m aware of what breast cancer is and what it does and what it means.” and she was, we all were. For my family it meant we would eventually lose our matriarch.

So when I go to an awareness event that is always top of mind. The families who attend, who live every day with ‘awareness’, choose to come to help the rest of the world understand, even if it is just for one day, for a few hours in a park, to share what it means. It is a time for them to come together, be together, to laugh and sometimes cry. My heart is full this Monday morning knowing that showing up with a crown and banner didn’t actually make anyone more ‘aware’ of the ups and downs these families face every moment of every day, but it did put a smile on a lot of faces. They are aware, and I am more aware and more educated than I was yesterday.

This will be my favorite part of being Miss Wisconsin USA. Please invite me to your ‘awareness’ event, I would be honored to be a part of something bigger.

Dream Big, Skylar

Pageant Life: Confidently Beautiful

With all the excitement of the crowning of a new Miss USA last night, I wanted to take a minute to share my two cents about what it means to be a “pageant girl”.

Over the past two weeks 52 of the most extraordinary women in the country took to Vegas. The contestants volunteered, spent time bonding, and rehearsed (a lot I can imagine). But what those girls also dealt with over the past two weeks was being in the public eye constantly. When they walked across the stage, their bodies were seen by millions of people and judged by far more than the judges assigned to the difficult task of choosing just one Miss USA.

I think the biggest, most difficult issue facing young women is being comfortable in your own skin regardless of what others have to say about you. We live in a world where even strangers can have feedback on our lives, through social media. It amazes me what complete strangers find appropriate to stay about these contestants publicly for all to read.  That is extreme pressure and even though as a pageant girl you sign up for that aspect when you compete it doesn’t make it acceptable. I always wonder what an internet troll would say if they came to face-to-face with a contestant they called fat, ugly or dumb. Especially after hearing the strong words of our new Miss USA, a dedicated member of our military, who happens to be beautiful and well-spoken, would you have the guts to look her in the eyes and tell her she was anything less than amazing.

The Miss USA contestants prove being confident in who you are, owning yourself 100% of the time, and knowing full well that people will criticize you means you have already won in life, not in a pageant, in LIFE.

I wanted to use this opportunity to say thank you to all 52 contestants who competed. Thank you for being a role model to people across the world. Thank you for sharing with us your passions and dreams and for putting it all out there. I can speak from experience when I say walking on stage in front of an audience of people is no easy task, and you all did it with grace. Thank you for representing your state and the Miss Universe Organization. You are the epitome of real “pageant girls”, confident, strong, intelligent, compassionate, giving young women. Thank you for always staying true to yourself. You see the character of these phenomenal women as they all surround their new Miss USA with tears of pride in their eyes. These are women empowering women, and understanding that although it is a competition, the best they can be is themselves and in the end support the one among them who was chosen to represent them all, heck to represent us all.

So thank you to each of the contestants who competed last night. Thank you for being someone that thousands of people look up to and for representing yourself and your state to the best of your ability. Congratulations to the new Miss USA, and congratulations to each of the contestants. There are many girls out there who would love to have been where you were standing last night, be humbled by that reality.

In addition, those following my journey. Miss USA is still the dream for me, someday I hope to have my chance to be among that elite group and I’m so thankful I have young women before me to look up to and motivate me to reach that dream!

Dream Big,

Skylar