Eww…Puke!

When I moved out to Los Angeles, it was a Friday. Although I didn’t plan it, the timing was perfect, my first full day spent in LA was a Saturday so I had a free day. I could run errands, and I could get together with friends…genius! I started my first morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, waking up at 7AM (my body clock was still on Midwest time). All I had to my name was all of my luggage, which was essentially just 60 lbs of shoes and a few outfits, and a bag of beef jerky.

I decided the early morning was the perfect time to run to the holy grail of essentials, Target, and pick up a few things to start my new life. Originally, I went to Target to find a desk… I left Target with a desk, several candles, a months supply of k-cups and food for the week. Score.

Walking outside I was over the moon excited. It was a sunny 65 degrees, there were bird chirping, I could see the Hollywood sign, I was finally where I’ve always dreamed of being. On the way to Target my phone wouldn’t pick up service so I was left to fend for myself. I didn’t even care. I’m in LA BABY!! It doesn’t get better.

My day continued as I set up my new room, clothes were put away, furniture was rearranged and this girl was ready to take on the California life. I had made plans with a few friends  for later in the evening and I could not have been more excited. I’m talking bursting at the seams, I just won Miss Wisconsin USA excited, plus some!

I began the evening with a friend from Chicago, Ashley, who happened to be spending a few weeks out in LA with her new modeling agency. The world fell in line, placing us both new to a city at the same time. It was such a blessing to have a little sense of home with me out here in la-la-land. Ashley and I are both a part of a Facebook group called “Girls Love Travel” which essentially connects gypsy souls from all over the world to share in their travel adventures and travel advice, it’s amazing. I was introduced to the group by a flight attendant friend, Savanna, from my Altoona HS days. Just days before moving to LA, Savanna tagged me in a post from a woman in the group who was living in LA was looking for a group of ladies to get together with as she was new-ish to town and just hadn’t “Found her people yet”. TALK ABOUT PERFECT TIMING. Ashley and I knew this was the perfect first night adventure and took advantage. We met the lovely group of ladies at this fantastic lounge – PUMP…if you’ve watched Vanderpump Rules, you know the place! We sipped on a martini while making friends with some powerful ladies. All things we love!

We bid adieu to the women of GLT and headed downtown to meet up with an old friend, Tate,  who I met through a gorgeous fellow Miss Wisconsin Teen USA contestant turned worldwide model extraordinaire, Sloan! Tate’s friend from high school, Jas, moved to LA just days before Ashley and I, so we were all getting together to be shown around by an expert. Talk about using connections to make connections, I was feeling so empowered throughout the day, I was working hard to make this new city my home and had surrounded myself with people who feel like family when family is so far away.  Advice break: You seriously never know when or how you will reconnect with someone so be thoughtful in every relationship that near or far, now those people are your people and someday that may matter. More on that coming up in future blogs

The four of us spent a bit of time in Tate’s apartment before heading downstairs to walk the streets of downtown and grab a bite to eat. Immediately when we got downstairs, I started to feel blah. I assumed it was from the lack of sleep I had gotten over the past week combined with the busy day I had prior to us meeting up, but shook it off! I’m in LA for the first night, there is no time for sickness, not today! We got to this great Chinese restaurant and I ordered a basic, teriyaki chicken. Before the food even arrived, I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat it..what is going on?!? We wrapped up at dinner, I left my meal practically untouched, anyone who knows me knows that is so uncommon and slightly alarming. The crew was hoping to head out dancing and we headed upstairs to hangout before going to bust a move. As we arrived up to the apartment, I knew I couldn’t stay. I was disappointed that this queasy feeling was going to ruin my first night in the city, but I knew that there would be many Saturday’s to come and I needed to get home. Ashley and I ordered and Lyft and we were off.

From downtown to my apartment was about 25 minutes, I was sending positive vibes my own way, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump and I’d be in the comfort of my own room in my own bed. It was not 3 seconds into this thought that I was leaning out the window of this Lyft on the 101…puking…yuck! As it happened, many thoughts ran through my head. 1. Eww, this is horrifying. 2. What a memorable first day in Los Angeles. 3. Aren’t California people mean? OMG this Lyft driver is going to give us a terrible review and charge us some outlandish amount for cleaning. To my pleasant surprise, the Lyft driver was super cool and understanding to the unfortunate situation. We were able to get him money for a carwash and I was able to get home with no other casualties.

This moment was a great lesson for me. Sometimes when all you want is to celebrate monumental life moments, you end up vomiting out a car window on the highway…but really, you can’t control your life but you can embrace it, be thankful and find the humor in YOUR life. This could’ve been a terrible start to my new adventure, but instead it was a great story and a fantastic reminder of what matters. I am grateful for good friends who make sure you get home safe, even after they have to watch you throw up. I am grateful for kind people who make a new city seem less scary. I am grateful for going out and chasing my dream, even if the start of the journey went differently than I’d hoped.

And to that Lyft driver, when I land my first movie deal, I promise you endless car washes…

Dream Big,

Sky

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Model Life: Don’t PAY!

Growing up in small towns I would have had absolutely no idea how to get started in modeling, I do remember there being model searches in my hometown mall however and once in a great while a ‘talent scout’ would come to a hotel selling your chance to be the next Disney star. Now that I have been doing this for some time and built a professional network which includes many other models I have learned this one very, very, very important fact. Do not pay  a ton of money to become a model!!!*

That said there are costs involved but if someone tells you that you need a series of classes, expensive workshops or thousands of dollars’ worth of photos they want to take your money and once they have it their interest in you is likely over. People I know have done this and I imagine they would not only echo my thoughts but have an even harsher reaction. Now this is a point where I could easily name the names of companies that are notorious for doing this but as an aspiring lawyer I am smarter than that. So please google modeling classes and know that very few signed models (with good agencies that get you paid  work) actually ever went to those ‘schools’.  Modeling is one of the few things in the world that cannot necessarily be taught and attending classes will not make you more successful, if you want to spend money invest in great photos. If you want to find success build a network.  25%Luck, 25%Relationships,50%Hard Work.

Also to read a lot more about this check out my favorite article on the subject.

So if you aren’t lucky like I was and fall right into this business in an unexpected ball of fire, how do you start? This is where the money you do need to spend probably comes in. Get a decent headshot and set of polaroids (or ‘digis’ or ‘digitals’, they go by many names) They are called this because if you got an agency interview or scouted, back in the day, they would  pull out a Polaroid instant camera and take a headshot, profile, 1/3 and full body shot, usually in a bikini or tight clothing or something that shows off your build  and are usually fresh faced with little to no make-up, raw unedited images. These become part of your portfolio for potential clients.  In 2016 modeling agencies usually prefer you submit these images digitally and if you go to agency sites often they will tell you that these photographs do not need to be done professionally, this is probably true if you have all the makings of a supermodel. But don’t trust your smartphone with this task. Go and get these done by a good professional photographer, especially your headshot, one who has worked with agency signed models, do your research for your market and find the best photographer you can!

So if you aren’t a ready-made supermodel (and honestly, who the heck is)  my best advice is to work first, build your professional portfolio, hopefully with a good headshot and some prime networking you can find work with photographers also building their portfolio and you can work together. The progression of an unsigned print model usually follows this route, you pay for really good pictures from a really good photographer, sometimes you need to pay for more than just head shots and Polaroids, portfolio prints don’t come cheap.  When you get good enough you can work for free with photographers on a TFP (time for prints, time for photos) basis and finally you get paid by photographers who want to work with you.  This is how as a print model you progress, learn and get better. If you have talent photographers will seek you out. In my career I started by reaching out to really good photographers, now photographers will reach out to me, that is an awesome place to be.  Those pictures build your portfolio which you use for casting calls and a comp card. These are items you will take to casting calls and auditions.

Then if you are so inclined take that material and hit the open call agency circuit to get signed. A true agency may charge you a nominal fee for including you on their website and will likely suggest photos from a high end professional who can assure your listing is the quality the agency prefers and yes this may cost you some money. If you have a strong enough portfolio, brand and proof of success no agency is going to charge you up front to sign with them.  If they insist you spend $1500-$3000 up front for ‘signing’ something is seriously wrong. Since I am a ‘free agent’ most of this advice has come my way from people who have been doing this a LOT longer than I have. But I trust them and take their advice to heart.

Again most of these things are separate posts. Connect with other industry professionals and models but don’t use them to advance your own career .  Be cautious of snakes in the grass, I have horror stories about bad casting calls, shady photographers and downright scary situations, vet everyone you work with.

And as usual as I complete this blog post my last paragraph has just given me four more post ideas. So follow me, if you are curious about my experience or stories from this crazy world I have enough apparently for a novel.  So until next time.

Dream Big, Skylar

*These are my personal opinions and professional experiences, I know there are people out there who will not agree. I am sure with an infinite amount of money many models can build a successful career. My goal was to build my own career without spending my parents cash. It has not been easy…it’s a lot of work every day!

Photography: MCMXC Photography

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

MacDuggal1

 

 

 

 

Model Life: Location is Everything

Preview-47Among the many pieces of advice I’ve shared recently with aspiring models:

Find and know your market.

My 18 years of life so far have been spent in two relatively small towns located right in the center of Wisconsin. One on the western side of the state, the other smack dab in the middle. The relevance is that I have learned that to be a ‘working’ model you need to:

1) find your closest realistic market and 2) be willing to either relocate or travel there often.

A realistic market is a city or area large enough with enough industry related business to actually make paid modeling opportunities available to you. On the western side of Wisconsin my market would have been Minneapolis, in central Wisconsin,unfortunately I was not close enough to a large market to find much success.My career did not take off until I moved within driving distance of Milwaukee and Chicago. Many of my friends in the south have found their success in markets like Atlanta, Dallas and Miami. 

This is one of those harsh realities and it is hard to explain and sometimes comes off a little devastating and trite,  but modeling for senior photographers, the mall fashion show or repping a local beauty salon are really great starts but they won’t make you any money.  Promotional modeling is one of the few areas that can be done almost anywhere, and I have a lot of friends who enjoy traveling with companies and representing their brands, but again that is a whole different post. If you want to do this, really do this you have to find and know your market. If you want to be ‘famous’ you will not be able to get there unless you are willing to move to a market that can make you famous….NY, LA, Paris.  My end goal is not to become a famous model.(that said if you are an agent from New York, read this blog, look at my portfolio and fall in love, call please call, I can be convinced! 😉 

My goal (and I am closer every single day) is to be a working model and actress in the Midwest for as long as I can before I am either washed up, large enough and professional enough to get a break that makes a move worthwhile or simply choose to stop doing it. In the end it will likely be the latter. I want to earn a law degree at some point, settle down and have a family. That is my personal dream, probably doesn’t appear as exciting as the constant go-go-go of my current life. My hope is that when someone is looking for a model in the Midwest, the name Skylar Witte comes up and is shared with enthusiasm and wonderful experiences.

By working I mean I get paid every time someone puts a camera in front of me. Right now I am about 70 percent there, I love to shoot and still do portfolio building. I have worked hard to network with the right people in order to do TFP work (Trade For Print or Time for Pics-an equal trade of time for portfolio building between a model and photographer)  I have a few consistent clients and recently started working with a designer who will hopefully make my TFP jobs no longer necessary. I have a pretty extensive portfolio and I am proud of it, in my market I have made wonderful connections with the right kind of people.  Hopefully enough to keep me working which right now is just about enough to off set the costs of books, food and incidentals in college. Next stop paying off student loans.

Dream Big, Skylar

Preview-47

Model Life: 1 Inch

I mentioned in my first post that my only actual agency interview involved a measuring tape, and OK I’ll admit it, some tears. After submitting my headshot and first campaign photos to every decent agency in the Midwest my senior year of high school I got what I thought would be the call of my life.

An agency in a very large city that has a reputation for being very up-and-coming in the industry reached out to me. And it wasn’t a staff member, it was the owner. I was elated. Especially because the voice on the other end of the phone told me I was just unique enough and my facial features made me very marketable. Looking back I’m not sure if ‘unique’ is a compliment, but in this life it is the hook you need. She asked how tall I was, honestly I had never really measured, hahaha my mother claims she is 5’8″ I am just a little taller so I’ve always assumed I was also 5’8″. So when asked I legitimately answered “about 5’8″” Turns out my mother is a liar.

Truth told I am just 5’7″  The fact was unfortunately discovered when I walked into that agency  and the owner immediately pulled out a tape measure. The conversation that followed was very brief and very deflating. I was told that all fashion, runway and most print models were at a very bare minimum 5’8″ but in reality more like 5’10”-6′ I guess this wasn’t shocking or news to me, but the next piece was. I was told simply “Miss Skylar Witte, you should not pursue modeling.”  I would never find work at 5’7″. Now I am not usually a vengeful person, but I literally walked out of that building two minutes later with an I’ll-Show-Them attitude.

What I discovered since, is in many respects she was partially right, big designers and fashion week shows, Victoria’s Secret and Vogue they want tall, tall, tall girls. But there is a market for me, and a solid one at that. I fit in most retail clothes directly off the rack,  throw me in any Target or Boston Store and I can wear most juniors and most womens clothing. I fit in dresses and gowns without any alterations. It is how I landed my deal with Mac Duggal. I was told I am the perfect measurements for their sample gowns.  I am not too skinny where the clothes hang off me and I am the perfect height to be a fit/commercial model.

My consistent job is with a large online boutique  www.bluechicboutique.com The owner likes working with me because I fit into every size small in her inventory. As a matter of fact, she shares my measurements (which lately have been decreasing) with her customers. She once told me she tried a tall model but all the clothes looked awkward and unnatural on her, whoo hoo, score one for the average girls!

Someone once said, you are so close you should just lie…but after my unintentional lie, back when I actually thought I was 5’8″ I could never do that again. In the modeling industry measurements are everything. I would hate to show up for a call thinking I had a chance and knowing that my waist was an inch too big or too small. It is wasting my time and the clients!

Now I don’t want to give all the short girls out there false hope, there is a market for petite models but it is a sliver of an already small pie.  I have found the difference between my 5’7″ and another’s 5’6″ is huge. In this business an inch can get you the job or lose you the job and once you start getting into the realm of not fitting sample sizes it gets pretty hard for fit and commercial models.

When people ask me my end goal, as fun as it would be to walk in the VS fashion show, I am a realist. I am perfectly content and fortunate to get any paid modeling jobs. I am living my dream, there is no secret end point. I’m just happy that all 5 foot, 7 inches of me can find work at all 🙂

Dream Big, Skylar

Photography: Amo Studios, Dance Series