Just Life: A Drop

“It’s a drop in the bucket”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dream Big,
Sky

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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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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