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In the wake of Miss Universe, let’s talk beauty…

It’s no secret that our society is ob-SESSED with appearance. I personally never thought much about it until I was in college. Prior, I was the ultimate nerd/tom-boy. I was really, I mean REALLY, in to school. I cut my hair short in middle school which didn’t give me a snowball’s chance in hell at being considered “pretty” (it just wasn’t cool at the time). I liked trucks instead of dolls and I was more inclined to be class-clown than class-y. In the summer of 2000 (maybe it was the new millennium :-p), things started to change. I was becoming a woman and started receiving compliments that for years I wouldn’t know what to do with. I entered a beauty pageant without the slightest clue what it meant to be beautiful. And when I (with the help of one amazing sponsor Andre Carvana), to my own surprise, made the top 12, I subconsciously began over a decade-long quest, to figure out what I was missing. It took me 12 years to realize what I somehow innately knew back then. Beauty is simply an all encompassing, self embrace.

Growing up, no one ever said to me, “you’re beautiful”. Something I’m truly grateful for because as a result, I never strived to be. When it was time to face the world on my own, I had sureties about myself that were way more than skin deep. The downside of never hearing those words was that when I did come face to face with the concept, like everything else, I thought, if I just worked hard enough, I could succeed…I could hit the beauty mark.

I started looking for role-models who to me, seemed to have the secret. If I could emulate them, surely it would take me from the top 12…to the winner’s circle…not just in pageants…but in life. As any good student…I studied…I studied hard. I read books…I paid whatever necessary for services and products…I hired coaches…but the results of my hard work were foreign. They got me nowhere. If anything, I digressed. How could that be? This seemingly failure at the time, almost ate me alive. I gave up. I’d crossed paths with a problem I couldn’t solve. But…wasn’t I toying with the solution when I started? How could it slip right though my fingers?

As I was approaching 30, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how far I’d come: my successes, my failures, my lessons. As I thought back to my 18 year old self, I couldn’t help but to ask: What did she know that somehow didn’t transcend the next 12 years of life? I honestly thought long and hard about it. I wanted to be on familiar terms with her again. Something about THAT girl was magnetizing. She seemed to be the closest of all of us…to having it all figured out.

As I thought those very thoughts and questions to myself repeatedly, it occurred to me where I got off track. Beauty is not something you can achieve, it’s not something you can work towards. Beauty comes from accepting who you are and what you have to offer the world, regardless of what that may be. You will never find yourself in that space looking outside of yourself and trying to conform. If anything, you will lose yourself along with everything that made you beautiful in the first place. At 18, I had direction, I had a plan, and I had beat the odds. The focus that got me to that place consumed my thoughts to the point that there was no room to obsess over bi-weekly manicures, designer digs, or a golden tan.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a woman and I DO care about my appearance, and I am also, well aware that appearance does (unfortunately) matter…and even though it may seem I’m headed in that direction…I’m not looking to coin the next version of “true beauty comes from within”…but I do hope that more people start to realize…everything you see out there…at the end of the day…is just smokey eyes and mirrors. When it comes to aesthetics, almost anything is achievable. Don’t like your face? Get a new one! But just know that no amount of physical alterations, expensive makeup, or reoccurring regiments will make you beautiful.  If that is the route you choose, you will never reach your destination. I can only tell you these things…from the other side. I have tried. it. ALL. The only thing that brought beauty back into my life…was remembering who I was.

So tonight, when you strip down & wash the day away, take a good…long…look in the mirror. Look yourself straight in the eye. That person looking back at you…holds the key…he/she has every beauty secret you will ever need to know.

Pageants often get a bad wrap for being campy or shallow or objectifying events. But trust me, Gabriela Isler didn’t just walk away with a crown because of her beauty. She has simply found the sweet spot between her reflection and her resonance. That’s something we all can aspire to.