Last week was the culmination of 25 years of dreaming, 17 years of dedication to military families, 5 years of dedication to Gold Star Families and a year of preparation. I did not win the title of Mrs. International but I gained more in the journey than I can begin to express. I am honored to have represented military spouses, my family and my state on the national stage. I am exhausted, overwhelmed, humbled by the journey and ready to head home and ROCK the last 3 weeks of my reign as Mrs. California International. Thank you to each of you for your love and support. I can’t wait to share my photos and adventures from the week. It will take me a few days because I want to make sure that my week is properly documented as touching and amazing as it was.
My dream to become Mrs. International began in 2008 when I met an inspirational man and director, Eddie Peterson, who taught me that being myself and loving me was the way to get there. I was still mentally a victim of domestic violence, I was learning to be myself again with the support of my fantastic husband but I hadn't gotten there yet – on stage at Mrs. California 2008 was the first time I had admitted, in any public forum, that I had been abused which was a huge step. I didn't win or even place that year and I was perfectly alright with that because I made it through. I spent the next few years growing, learning and thriving at just being Shana. With the urging of a few surviving spouses I competed again for Mrs. California International because you only live once. Winning Mrs. California International 2013 in September 2012 meant I was finally living my dream as I began to prepare for my moment on the International stage. I could not have felt more confident or secure in my own skin as I prepared to be my best self and represent my home state with pride, poise and elegance.
I arrived in Chicago last Monday with my heart full of hope and my stomach full of butterflies I had no idea what to expect. You honestly never know if you will show up to a bunch of nasty catty women who are all about themselves or if they will be as sweet and gracious as they seem on Facebook; especially when you are dealing with 70 of the most accomplished and beautiful women in the world (This is inner and outer beauty!). I spent Tuesday with the beautiful and talented Kara, my makeup artist for the week, touring Chicago. We had such a good time visiting Navy Pier, a cute farmers market, Millennium Park and Wrigley Field before heading back to the hotel to prepare for Orientation.
When I walked into Orientation, thank you to Facebook many ladies “knew” each other, it already felt like a sisterhood. There were so many smiles, hugs and introductions I was overwhelmed but hopeful for an awesome week ahead. I was so excited to meet Amber, Mrs. Virginia and Tammy, Mrs. Colorado as both were 'sisters' via Facebook for quite some time. I also got to meet my wonderful roommate for the week Mrs. Rocky Mountains. As we each took our seats, I sat between the lovely Mrs. Kansas and Mrs. Iowa then we began to listen to all that is expected during the week and of the new Mrs. International… then the contestant numbers were handed out. I silently prayed “PLEASE don’t be #1, please don't be #1, please....”. Well, the Lord was apparently hearing the 69 other louder voices asking the same room (I was not using my inner mom voice) and I was graced with being the first of 70 contestants. As petrified as that placement was I embraced it; if it was my destiny then my placement didn't matter. It did however lend me to being part of the A Group with the awesome Bernee at the helm.
|My very sweet roommate! I got lucky with this wonderful woman|
I went to bed that night with a smile on my face as I was part of the Class of 2013 – it had finally sunk in! I was overjoyed to attend Tuesday’s day in Chicago as well as start rehearsals and get to know the other contestants.
More to come…