Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A Note From Abby

As Abby Mansolillo turns over her Miss Rhode Island crown, I'm honored to share this farewell message from her.

Photo: Daniel Gagnon

As my time as Miss Rhode Island comes to a close, I am struck by the fleeting nature of this year. 

I am reminded of one year (and 22 days ago) where my whole world was flipped upside down - where suddenly, everything that I’d known was changed. 

I remember when I was little, and I watched Miss America on the couch with my parents. I thought that I was separate from those women; I never thought I’d be one of them. 

Being the 81st Miss Rhode Island seemed light years away. I thought Miss America and Miss Rhode Island candidates alike, were light years away from me.

Every year, hundreds of women compete for their respective local and state titles - only 51, however, compete for the job, title and role of Miss America. To be in this group of women is an honor, and it is certainly life changing. 

A few days ago, Miss West Virginia (Elizabeth Lynch) happened to be in Rhode Island for approximately 24 hours. Elizabeth and I spent a significant amount of time together at Miss America, and to say that our friendship is based on talking every day would be an understatement. The fact is - we do talk every day, but that’s not the half of it. I run to tell her good news, I confide in her when I need help or a logical ear. She is truly and unequivocally one of my best friends. 

That’s what the Miss America organization does. Yes, it is about networking, inspiring other young women, showcasing talents and providing scholarships- but it is about the cherished friendships that we gain.  

I have been competing in pageants since I was 14 years old - a freshman in high school, who had no idea the world she was stepping into. Now, at almost 24 years old, as Miss Rhode Island, I toured a Blackhawk helicopter, have spoken to hundreds of students across our state about my Social Impact Initiative, “Trust Your Gut”, toured the Dallas Star Stadium, and danced to Whitney Houston during a Providence College basketball game at the Amica Mutual Pavilion. These are just a handful of the opportunities that I was given as Miss Rhode Island. I only hope that whoever follows in my footsteps (and beyond) does the same and remembers to take plenty of pictures.

Recently, I was asked what advice I would give the next Miss Rhode Island. I have so much I’d like to tell her, whoever she is, that I worry I’ll forget it all. 

I’ll start here, though. 

Every year, every class, every winner - is different. The way I spent my year may not be how she spends hers - and that is to be expected. I would tell her to take every moment she can - take the silly pictures, go to the events in the rain (but learn from my mistakes: pack an umbrella and use it), and pour your heart and soul into this year - you only get one. 

Know that you are so much more beyond the Miss Rhode Island crown; know who you are without that title. 

Back in 2015, after placing second runner- up at Miss Universe, Olivia Jordan, a former Miss USA, posted the following caption:

"Sometimes, it's just not for us. The job, the interview, the man, or, in this case, the crown...sometimes, it's just for someone else. Not because they are better, more qualified, prettier, nicer, superior to us, but because it is their opportunity, not ours.

And that's okay, because our opportunities - our job, our interview, the man of our dreams - are not for them either. They're ours. And they're often right on the other side of rejection” 

I would tell the next Miss Rhode Island the same thought that I remember replaying in my head as I stood onstage waiting (hoping) for my name to be called as Miss Rhode Island 2022 - that what is meant for you will never pass you.  Sometimes what is meant for you is on the opposite side of a “no” or a “not yet”. 

Whether what is meant for you is being Miss Rhode Island, being Miss America, or something entirely separate from pageants entirely - it will never miss you. 

I humbly thank the state of Rhode Island for making me your girl. It was an honor. 

With love, always.

Abby Mansolillo

Miss Rhode Island 2022 

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