Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Answering Your Miss America 100 Questions - Part 2 of A Guest Blog by Elle Mark

On Instagram, I asked what questions people would ask a Miss America 100 candidate. Several wonderful questions were submitted. Elle Mark, Miss Minnesota 2021, was kind enough to take a crack at answering them for us. This is the second of a two part post. I hope you enjoy it!


Photo Courtesy Miss MN Org

When you’re crowned as a state titleholder, people love to ask you “Has it hit you that you’re going to Miss America yet?” and you respond with a polite variation of “no”. My favorite response to the question was, “I don’t think it will hit me until I’m on the flight home!” and frankly, I wasn’t wrong. The flight home from Miss America was the hardest of my life - processing everything that had happened and realizing that the event I had worked towards for so long was over. 


Now that a few weeks have passed and the many emotions have been processed (well, partially processed that is), I’m having a lot of fun reliving my Miss America experience by doing some Q+A! When Section 36 offered me the chance to answer a few of the fans’ questions, I couldn’t resist! 


Without further ado, let’s chat Miss America 100! 


What was it like backstage during the competition?

Photo Courtesy Miss MN Org

It depended on where you were! If you were in the dressing room, the vibe was fun, chatty and supportive! If you were in the general backstage area where candidates were rehearsing and getting in the zone, it was a little more quiet and intense. If you were in the wings ready to go on, it was surreal. Everyone was just in awe of what was happening around us. It’s hard to describe! But it wasn’t like the movies with the cattiness or drama - the vibes were always positive. 

 

What goes through your mind as you’re standing on the Miss America stage?

“Wow - I can’t believe I’m here.” 

 

I never competed in pageants as a kid, but I watched Miss America every single year. Back then, I never knew how to get to the Miss America stage or even how to become Miss Minnesota - yet there I was! It was so surreal, and I was just awe-struck. It was very emotional! 

 

How did you select your gown?

They say “you know when you know” - and golly, I just knew! I went to our gown sponsor, Regalia Magnificent Apparel, and saw the dress on the hanger. I loved the fringey sleeves, but I thought I “didn’t want a black gown”. When I put it on and it zipped up, I instantly started crying. That’s when they told me it was a one-of-a-kind Jovani that had arrived two days earlier and I was the first to try it on. And get this - NO ALTERATIONS NEEDED (which is pretty amazing, if you didn’t know). It was meant to be! 


Photo Courtesy Miss MN Org

What were your first thoughts after it was all over?

“I wish I could go back and do it all again” - and no, not because I had regrets. I wouldn’t change a thing about my performance. I wanted to do it all again because it truly was the time of my life. People tell you how life-changing the experience is, but nothing prepares you for just how empowering it is to be around so many like-minded, motivated, and kind-hearted women. Nothing prepares you for the realization that you are a part of such an incredible legacy. I am humbled beyond belief to have been part of the 100th anniversary class of Miss America. 



I can't thank Elle enough for answering these questions for us. I hope you enjoy both of her posts. To find out more about Elle, visit her Section 36 Forevers profile page for links and more info.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Answering Your Miss America 100 Questions - A Guest Blog by Elle Mark

On Instagram, I asked what questions people would ask a Miss America 100 candidate. Several wonderful questions were submitted. Elle Mark, Miss Minnesota 2021, was kind enough to take a crack at answering them for us. This is the first of a two part post. I hope you enjoy it!

Photo Courtesy Miss MN Org
When you’re crowned as a state titleholder, people love to ask you “Has it hit you that you’re going to Miss America yet?” and you respond with a polite variation of “no”. My favorite response to the question was, “I don’t think it will hit me until I’m on the flight home!” and frankly, I wasn’t wrong. The flight home from Miss America was the hardest of my life - processing everything that had happened and realizing that the event I had worked towards for so long was over. 

Now that a few weeks have passed and the many emotions have been processed (well, partially processed that is), I’m having a lot of fun reliving my Miss America experience by doing some Q+A! When Section 36 offered me the chance to answer a few of the fans’ questions, I couldn’t resist! 
Without further ado, let’s chat Miss America 100! 

Photo Courtesy Miss MN Org
How did your arrival in Connecticut go?
From the moment I arrived, I felt like a celebrity! We were greeted at the airport by our security team and shuttled (in big black SUVs!!!) to the Mohegan Sun where we checked-in in their beautiful Aspire lobby. From there, we were escorted to our rooms via the private elevators (and yes, I confirmed that J-Lo had used the same elevators) and got to enjoy our beautiful rooms in the Sky Tower. We never went anywhere alone and I truly felt like I was a star. 
 
What kept you grounded during the week?
Alone time! Though I’m an extrovert, I made it a priority to let myself process / relax every night over a cup of tea and a Christmas movie (which was harder than it sounds given how much I wanted to spend time with the other candidates). I also journaled quite a bit and was sure to check-in with my support team before bed. 
 
Did you have a favorite fan/friend/family encounter of the week?
Honestly, I have so many stories about impactful moments with “fans” and friends - from unexpected cards to meeting people who have followed my journey that I didn’t know - it’s hard to pick just one! But if I had to pick JUST one…
 
We had a break in the day on Saturday, and a small group of us wanted to walk around the Mohegan and visit their different stores. There were strict rules on being able to see family / friends during non-visitation hours, but my family decided to try and “catch a glance” of me from the lobby. When I saw them, I freaked out and (because we were in such a small group) one of the security guards said I could go hug them if I was “really quick”. I sprinted over, gave them hugs, and ran back. It seemed so silly and small, but after several days without seeing them during this high stress time, it meant everything to me. 
 
What was the favorite interview question you were asked?
Photo Courtesy Miss MN Org
Gosh - I can barely remember them! I’m one of those people who tends to “black out” a little in interview. What I can remember is that every question was purposeful and it was evident that the judges were prepared / had done their research! I appreciated that a lot. 
 
How did you spend your down time? What were some of your favorite activities with the other candidates? 
There was surprisingly a lot of down time that I spent one of two ways… Napping, or laughing! While we got plenty of sleep, the week is very emotionally exhausting and I knew if I didn’t sleep whenever I felt the need that exhaustion would catch up to me! But when I wasn’t sleeping, I was hanging out with the other candidates. We made a lot of TikToks, sang many random songs, and just bonded over our shared experiences. The job of a state titleholder is unlike any other, so it was empowering to be around so many women who knew exactly what it was like and had gone through the things I was going through. 

I can't thank Elle enough for answering these questions for us. I hope you'll enjoy part two when it comes out. To find out more about Elle, visit her Section 36 Forevers profile page for links and more info.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ending Summer With a Sale!

Summer is just about over. Is that cause to celebrate? Or, to buy something fun to cheer you up? Time to put away your Section 36 tank top? Time to pull out your Section 36 sweatshirt? 

Wait, what's that? You don't have a Section 36 shirt? Well, you'd better hurry up and get one! As luck would have it, I'm here to help. Because there's a sale!

Today through Monday, the Section 36 will be on sale! Don't miss this opportunity to show your support for the blog all year long! 





So, head over right now and select something that you like. But, don't delay. The sale only runs through Monday! That's right only a few days before prices go back to their regular levels.




And, as always, when you do get an item, send me a picture wearing it for me to share with the world! The blogFacebook, and even Instagram!

Like Bridget did! (With some help from K. Garcia Productions)

Sweatshirts like this are on sale!

Like Kylee did to show off her amazing new tank top.



Tank tops like this are on sale!

Or like Erin did with her tank!



Tank tops like this are on sale!

(Yeah, that tank top is my best seller!)

Or Nicolette, who went with a great t-shirt!


T-Shirts like this are on sale!

Or like Allison did!

T-Shirts like this are on sale!

Or, like Emily did!

Mugs like this are on sale!


But, first you need to buy something you like. There's a lot to choose from.

What will you get?






The available style and color combinations are practically endless!


Which is your favorite?

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Gastonia Honey Hunters Opening Night - a Guest Blog by Julia DeSerio

This guest blog from Julia DeSerio chronicles her appearance as Miss Gastonia at the inaugural opening day for the independent baseball team the Gastonia Honey Hunters. I hope you enjoy it.

I can’t even begin to describe the sense of energy, excitement and community our very first Gastonia Honey Hunters game brought to the City of Gastonia. The culmination of nearly a decade's worth of diligent and intentional work from our community leaders finally came to fruition as we gathered and celebrated the opening game for our brand new professional baseball team.

Affiliated with the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, The Gastonia Honey Hunters are owned by Brandon Bellamy, the only Black majority owner in baseball. The name pays homage to a famous figure in Gaston County’s past: Ransom Hunter. Mr. Hunter is believed to be the county’s first freed slave and the first to own property there. “Honey Hunters was chosen to reflect the shared traits between the City of Gastonia and those of the world’s most fearless animal: fearless, determined, and resilient,” Bellamy said in a statement.

The FUSE Stadium, now named Caromont Health Park,
proved to be a wonderful place to make memories and mingle, all while enjoying America's greatest pastime. This was the most “normal” event I’ve attended in my year and a half of serving as Miss Gastonia, and it felt SO GOOD to interact with community members safely with my COVID vaccine. I ran into Andrea Jasper, who serves as the executive director of the Miss Taste of Charlotte Organization. It was so good to see her and briefly catch up, sharing our excitement for the upcoming Miss North Carolina Competition.
Mayor Walker Reid, Councilwoman Jennifer Stepp, and Councilman Robert Kellogg were among several community leaders in attendance that I also got to celebrate with. Even my family got to join in on the fun and drove from South Carolina to attend the event. This was their first time tagging along with me as Miss Gastonia, and it was a blast to show them a small part of my job and the wonderful people I get to represent.

These moments were made all the more special by the phenomenal Honey Hunters staff, many of whom are Gastonia community members.
This is Reginald, who is now a retiredGaston County Schools teacher and active musician, working at the park for fun this season. 


Stacey Malker is a force within the Gastonia community, and I am so thankful to know her and have seen her adorned in Honey Hunters gear and serving during the game. We are so thankful for your service and appreciate your hospitable spirits.

Now for the most star-studded moment of the evening…Ervin "Magic" Johnson of the LA Lakers flew in to throw the opening pitch for the game! I was bound and determined to say hello, and I got even better…I GOT A PICTURE! It was at this moment I understood a whole new level of “the power of the crown…” What a priceless memory and privilege! 

I am often asked what my favorite thing about Gastonia is, and I always answer with pride and confidence:

“C O M M U N I T Y.”

These photos represent just a handful of the kind, enthusiastic, friendly and accepting community members I got to interact with on opening day, and I am so grateful for how lovingly they have welcomed me as their representative. Serving this city and its people during such a tumultuous, triumphant and historic year has truly been the greatest honor of my lifetime, and the people of Gastonia never cease to amaze me.

Gastonia: I carry your huge heart with me every single day, and I cannot wait to wear our city’s name across my sash at the 83rd Miss North Carolina Competition!

I want to thank Julia for sharing this story. To find out more about Julia, visit her Section 36 Forevers profile page for links and more info.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

New Name. Same Section 36!

When I first started a Pageants blog, I admitted that it took me by surprise. I was writing a Red Sox fan blog. How did that branch into Pageants? But, I realized that as I conducted more interviews with titleholders on the Red Sox blog, they needed their own space to be properly celebrated. I said it would evolve as I went and found its true focus.

And, evolve it has.

To the point where the name didn't even make sense anymore. I realized I wasn't "covering" pageants. I didn't make predictions on pageant winners. I didn't report on winners of each pageant. In all the articles I posted about the actual Miss America competition, for instance, I don't think I mentioned the winner once. (And, I mean, Miss America isn't even a "pageant" anymore.) Who did I mention? The titleholders who had interviewed previously with Section 36. I talked about how they did. That was my focus. This is a true spin-off from the Red Sox blog, celebrating the amazing titleholders who have already been interviewed and just can use more space to share their story. A place to talk about their events. A place to post guest blogs about topics important to them. A place for the amazing women who will forever be part of the Section 36 family. Hmm...forever. I like that...

Introducing "Section 36 Forevers".

A new name, for a new focus. Hopefully that will let people know we're still dealing with titleholders, but the focus is on the women, not the organizations. Forever titleholders, and forever a part of Section 36. 

What else will change? Hopefully not so much of a change as an expansion. I've been honored to be able to post some amazing guest blogs from titleholders in the Section 36 family. (Those have all been transferred over to the new name.) I hope that will continue and grow. I still plan on posting announcements from the forevers when they come up, along with any number of things that come my way. But, I want to simply emphasize the titleholders themselves...who they are, what they do, what is important to them. This is all about them.

Forever.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

My Breast Cancer Journey - a Guest Blog Series by Savanna James (part 5 of 5 “Where I Am Today”)

 This is the final post in a five-part guest blog series by Savanna James discussing her breast cancer journey. See the first installment here. I hope you'll read and share them all!


Photo by Deanna Webber
On December 7th, 2020, I completed my third surgery this year in relation to my diagnosis. I have been so blown away by the outreach and support of other survivors, their families and organizations. And those people, and that outreach, is what pushed me to do what I do everyday. 

A very good friend commented on a recent Facebook post of mine saying, “I don’t know how you manage to find time to do everything you do!” And I laughed because I don’t have the answer to explain how I do in logistical sense, but I do have the answer on why I do as much as I do. It can be summed up by a Winston Churchill quote. 

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

To me, personally, happiness is the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. If you just meander through life concerned with yourself and what you gain, you will be forgotten. Your true potential only comes when you begin helping others. You are remembered for what you did and the impact that you had on those that came into contact with you, whether it be directly or indirectly. And, to quote one of my favorite musicals, “Hamilton,” “History has its eyes on you.” 

Whether it be St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Susan G. Komen, The Boon Project or a platform that is close to your own heart, it matters and you can spark a change. You have to enter each day knowing that the purpose of your involvement is to genuinely make a difference, not to be praised.We have to give back to the community who raised us in order to support the next generation. Without community service, we aren’t a united nation, we are just a population independently living its life. Community service is what connects us to each other and lets us learn other cultures, people and situations.

I have already decided to dedicate the rest of my life to sharing my story, and I hope that it inspires others to do so as well. When one person speaks the truth, it allows all us to do the same. If you use your voice to share a story, no matter how big or small, you are allowing the opportunity for someone’s voice to be heard. And I hope this is mirrored in my work and my life.

I know that my story is just one in a sea of many, but I hope that my voice is enough to spark a wave that creates awareness. I want to be a disruptor, igniting a fire that inspires others. You have to understand that you can’t just try to change the world. You have to find something that you love and do that every day for the rest of your life, and eventually, the world will change.

If you feel compelled to donate to either organization, you can do so at the links below! And if you want to follow along on my journey, please follow my personal Instagram page @probablyvannajames

Love you all and thank you for being humans that provide hope, whether it be through your kindness or community service. Kindness and love are not finite resources. Give them freely and as often as you can - you never know whose life you can change. 

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I can't thank Savanna enough for allowing me to share her story. To find out more about Savanna and her breast cancer diagnosis, visit her Section 36 Forevers profile page for links and more info.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

My Breast Cancer Journey - a Guest Blog Series by Savanna James (part 4 of 5 “Survivors”)

This is the fourth in a five-part guest blog series by Savanna James discussing her breast cancer journey. See the first installment here. I hope you'll read and share them all!


I’ve had countless conversations with survivors, and survivorship for young adults can be summed up as “70 years of looking over your shoulder waiting for the cancer to return.” And because of this...more than anything...we don’t just want to survive, we want to thrive. 

This amazing organization exists “to combat the increased rates of isolation and depression in young adult cancer fighters and survivors, as well as to equip them with resources in their fight to help increase survival rates. The mission of the organization is to support young adult cancer fighters and their unique needs, through providing beneficial programs and creating a cooperative cancer fighting culture that works to heal the whole patient.”

And as they say at Boon, with a cancer diagnosis, you become a member of the club that no one wants to join. They combat this with the Courage Club, a free online support community and monthly meet up group for young adult cancer fighters and survivors in the Lowcountry (and beyond) to connect with others who understand the battles that come from a cancer diagnosis as a young adult. They also provide financial assistance, mental health resources and access to guidance which helps facilitate care and second opinions. 

In June 2021, I will compete for the title of Miss South Carolina, an honor I hope I have that I have the chance of receiving. Regardless of the outcome, I know that my purpose is to continue serving my community and being a voice for my fellow survivors and fighters. 

My hope is that fellow survivors, and those going through treatments or a recent diagnosis, use my story to help look at their situations in a different light, and that others can see my story and understand the need for support and comfort, not only during treatment but through the years after. It is one thing to hear a statistic, but it is another to put an actual face behind that number. The scenario becomes so much more real. It goes from something you see in a textbook to your neighbor, your co-worker or even your family. 

Cancer is an ugly word that strikes fear into hearts, creating an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness, but let me be the first to tell you that you do NOT have to feel powerless. You aren’t any less of a human for what you’re going through and feeling. 

Cancer doesn't define you. And that is a lesson I have to learn on a consistent basis.


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I hope you'll come back next week for the final installment of her story. To find out more about Savanna and her breast cancer diagnosis, visit her Section 36 Forevers profile page for links and more info.


Answering Your Miss America 100 Questions - Part 2 of A Guest Blog by Elle Mark

On Instagram , I asked what questions people would ask a Miss America 100 candidate. Several wonderful questions were submitted. Elle Mark, ...