I will be totally honest here. As I saw my window of opportunity to compete for my dream job slip away after not being named into the Top 15, I was a little crushed on the inside, knowing that years of hard work have led to this particularly deflating moment. I was doing my best to fight back tears because in those moments when the rest of the contestants and I sat down and watched the competition carry on, I couldn’t stop thinking about the sacrifices made by my family and team made to get me to this point. I thought about every single scale I played on the piano, every pound I lifted in the gym, every news article I read, and every penny I spent to prepare for the competition. I thought about my home state and all of the well wishes of confidence sent my way. I thought about my family who has given so much to see me chase this dream of mine. I thought about my sister, Brenna, and every child and family that I knew who bravely battle arthritis. I felt awful, like I let down so many people, even though that seems silly to think now.
But then, during the first commercial break after the Top 15 announcement, I heard “Go Brianna!” in the audience, and I could see my family and cheering section with flashing star lights, waving and smiling way out in the crowd. I could see my entire board, still waving the “Miss MN for the Win” signs. And I looked over to my sisters who were sitting alongside with me on stage, and the pure love in their faces melted any sense of disappointment. In that moment, I knew that while it may not have been my time to be Miss America, that didn’t mean I was any less of a person for simply trying, and there is no shame in that.
Success is not defined by the size of the award itself, the number of congratulations we receive, or the infamy that goes along with whatever that desired end may have been. Rather, success is defined by resilience and what we have learned from our previous experiences, both wanted and needed, that have lead to where we are today. When we experience those moments of personal upset, we face ourselves with one of two options: either to sit back and watch the world continue on, or to take the energy and optimism within us and forge a new path. By no means did I “fail” at Miss America, simply because I didn’t come home with a shiny piece of metal on my head. What really stands out in my mind are the moments of utter joy, where my hard work in both my musical talents and my love of service and giving were recognized as both a Preliminary Talent and Non Finalist Talent winner and a Quality of Life nominee. In addition, I made new friends that I cherish, fulfilled my dream of walking across the stage at Boardwalk Hall, and created memories that will last a lifetime.
As I mentioned before, I have written and rewritten this post over and over again, with so much thought and contemplation. But out of this personal reflection, I have realized that unless you truly give up on yourself, there really is no such thing as failure, because in all reality, failure is just “life moving us in the direction we are ultimately meant to go in.” And as Denzel Washington once said, “Fall forward, because every failed experiment is one step closer to success."
For me, the direction I want to take now as Miss Minnesota is far more meaningful than I perhaps expected. Coming home to a state of great prosperity is wonderful, but there are still those who are in need of help in any way, shape, or form, and I am determined, now more than ever, to turn my Year of Service into “The Year of Compassion for Others.”
I am so excited to announce that I will be moving forward with a “Miss Minnesota Serves,” campaign focusing on the needs of various communities of people throughout the state! For me, Miss America embodies service above self, and while I may not be Miss America, there is nothing stopping me, or anyone for that matter, from diving into this endeavor. This has always been my purpose for competing and being involved in the Miss America Organization and I am elated to spend the rest of my year advocating for and giving voices to those who do not have one through the Arthritis Foundation, the Children’s Miracle Network, and other admirable causes throughout the state. I challenge you to join me, and together, we can work to create a more optimistic future for those who need it in Minnesota.
Let’s fall forward together hearts first in service.