This topic hands down is one of my top five most asked questions.
It starts with, “what’s the hardest part about being Miss America?”, or, “what’s the worst part about your job?”, and is almost always followed up with a, “don’t worry, you can be honest with me.” I have always been one hundred percent authentic and honest in every answer I give and it always makes me laugh when it is assumed I would be dishonest when asked this particular question. However, it is a fair thought, as I would never want to talk poorly about my title or my year as Miss America. Nor could I ever answer such a question in ten seconds. So this blog post is in response to this question.
When you’re younger and you watch the Miss America’s of your childhood do this job exceedingly well, by the time you are of age to compete, you think you know exactly what the job of Miss America means. With full transparency, I admit to you that even though I felt in my heart of hearts I knew what it took to be Miss America, in reality I knew very little.
Being Miss America is more than a full time job, more than a 24/8 job, it takes over all parts of your life. For one year, your life is not just ‘your life’ anymore. For one year, you answer to a different name. For one year, you are tested, challenged, molded, encouraged, changed, stretched and grown more than you ever thought possible. For one year, every single day, you witness miracles happening across the country.
Now, being a hopeless romantic and an art major, I cry at a really great Subaru commercial, and I am predisposed to emotionally attach and invest myself in every human I meet. This means that for the first few months of being Miss America, every heart felt conversation I had, I became overwhelmed with giddy emotions. People probably thought I was very emotionally unstable.
This also meant there were some very difficult times. As I read back through my journal I am reminded that there were times of confusion and doubt. That I often doubted my ability to do the task ahead, believing that my insecurities were truth markers that mapped out how far my capabilities could go. There were moments when I would be in a sea of hundreds people all loving me so well, asking questions about being Miss America, telling me I was beautiful, but I had never felt more alone. I believed the lie that “I was known by everyone, but understood by none.”
When I read through my journal today, I almost feel as if a different human wrote the first half and another took over the next. But this change in perspective does not happen overnight. Rather I can look back now at the person I was on September 11, 2016 and smile, for I now know that she hasn’t even started yet.
There are a million and one lessons I learned in this past year, and hopefully, I will slowly and surely process them all. But looking back, a few stand out.
A question that often followed “What’s the hardest part about being Miss America” was,”Do you feel a lot of pressure?” Absolutely yes. A lot is self inflicted, and a lot is just the pressure of the job. I find a lot of the women I competed with in this organization all had the “perfectionism” gene, making them some of the hardest workers and most passionate humans I’ve ever met, while also being the most self critical. I remember there were mornings I would apply make up, put my crown, and look in the mirror and think, “You don’t look like Miss America.” I hate admitting that I so often thought to myself, “No one is going to believe that YOU are Miss America”, “You didn’t deserve this.” Even as I type these words out I shutter at the weight they once held over me. I struggled to find truth in the compliments people gave me, and got even more upset that I could not accept truth I so desperately wanted to believe.
I often dealt with the lie that people only liked me because of the crown that was bobby pined to my teased hair. Now while this may hold some truth, I let it rock my whole world. I became desperate for people’s affections and words of encouragement, and even though I did not believe their words, I felt as if they gave me worth. I found so much happiness in people telling me who I was, or more accurately put: who they thought I was.
When I think of Savvy during the two weeks of competition before I was crowned, it makes me laugh. I was convinced that I had conquered every fear and insecurity that had once leached onto my heart, and I believed in my heart of hearts that I was immune to any trial life could bring. While I admire the courageous confidence I once had, I love that I can now look back and see that my journey to being the version of myself I was designed to be had not even started.
I want to say it was around January when I realized the mental place that my negative thoughts had lead me to. I can also say that I am STILL working on them, and that’s the point. I have learned to love myself, for me. Not because of how many likes on instagram I got. Not because of the way I looked, what I was wearing, or how my last speech went. I learned to love myself not because of who other people said I was or because there was a crown on my head, but because I was fearfully and wonderfully made.
I am a very faith based person, and that in itself has been tested a thousand times over. Before this year I had prayed for growth and change, and I never could have imagined what laid before me.
I have prayed over this blog post in hopes that the truth I found through the pain and confusion I felt this year finds parallels in the hearts of others who go through the same thoughts of self doubt and criticism. You are enough. You are loved. There is no one like you.
Was this the greatest year of my life? YES. Was this the hardest year of my life? YES. Am I thankful everyday for this gift given to me this year? ONE HUNDRED PERCENT YES.
I love you all forever.
So much love,
HollySeptember 1, 2017 at 9:56 pm
So real and wonderful Savvy! I am so so glad you chose to write blog posts throughout your year and to write them so vulnerably. Your heart is stunning!
WhitneySeptember 2, 2017 at 12:01 am
What a beautiful soul you are inside and out. It has truly been an honor to get to follow your year as Miss America. Being able to relate and share your story with such raw versions of yourself, that so many need to hear, is just a testament of the kind of person you really are; true and authentic Savvy.
I can honestly say I’ve never followed a person as much as I have you and it’s truly impowering, the positive impact you provide and learned. I have made self-development a priority this year, and I’m so proud to say your positivity has encouraged me to keep going. Thank you again for being you and being a light. Xo- A little Oklahoma love ❤️
FedericaSeptember 2, 2017 at 12:13 am
Thank you. This made my heart feel safe. Made me feel enough. Thank you.
This are the types of Miss the world needs: open and coragious.
Best wishes for your journey ahead.
I’am sure it will be amazing ?
Shawn GabbardSeptember 2, 2017 at 12:16 am
Wow savvy this really touched me and I appreciate your words they really moved me and I needed them greatly.
BevSeptember 2, 2017 at 12:29 am
You Are beautiful xoxo! – San Francisco, CA loves you!
John DewsSeptember 2, 2017 at 12:43 am
What a beautiful story Savvy. You have made every Arkansan – and every American – proud!
And the bar has been raised on the expectations of every Miss America to follow. Can’t wait to see your next chapter! All the best.
Kourtney KellarSeptember 2, 2017 at 12:49 am
Oh my goodness, Savvy! Thank you so much for having the courage to be so transparent. These words hit me right in the heart. I feel these negative thoughts so often just like so many others do, I’m sure. There is a post-it note stuck to my bathroom mirror that states “You are enough,” because sometimes I just don’t feel that way. You radiate love and warmth more than anyone I’ve ever met. Several people I’ve worked with that know you have told me something that stuck with me. They said “Savvy is the type of person that makes you feel like you’re the most important person in the room.” I try to remember that and replicate that same “Savvy Spirit” as I meet others as Miss Texas Intl. Im so honored to have you as my Miss America! Xoxo
AshleySeptember 2, 2017 at 1:10 am
This is my favorite blog❤️ I cried in parts of the blog? But I’m slowly working on loving myself? This was the greatest
JennySeptember 2, 2017 at 1:33 am
Precious Savvy, you beautifully and eloquently verbalized every woman’s true struggle: to know her worth and beauty in the eyes of her Creator because He made her, apart from every earthly trait and opinion of others, good or bad. Thank you for sharing. I am moved. I am inspired. And I’m twice as old as you! You’ve done the seeemingly impossible- been the most inspiring Miss America I’ve ever seen and yet real enough to make us know, in some way, we’re all our own Miss America. Thank you. I hope to meet you someday. We have many mutual KKG Fay friends?
NicoleSeptember 2, 2017 at 1:41 am
You are so brave for sharing this, and I’m so grateful you did! Thank you so much for being so honest! You’ve been a wonderful Miss America, but more importantly I can tell you are a wonderful Savvy. 🙂
Marci WardSeptember 2, 2017 at 2:12 am
Thank you so much for sharing! I am so thankful that you are my daughters role model as she navigates the Miss AR world. A wonderful woman of faith and so encouraging! We are so proud of you in AR and honored to have you as our forever Miss America.
MarissaSeptember 2, 2017 at 2:26 am
Wow. This made my cry. You are full of coffee and Jesus, and everything I strive to be. I too, (though a complete stranger to you) and SO grateful you were Miss America this year. God always has a plan, and He always does it so much better than we could. You’ve been such a blessing, Savvy. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly always ❤️
Staci Oppleman-BedellSeptember 2, 2017 at 2:30 am
Thank you for sharing your raw, personal insights into ‘your year’! Your gifts of engagement and the ability to join American are truly the gems on your crown! Thank you for making MAO modern and relevant, yet representative of the cherished history that has and continues, to leave its mark on young women across America! All my best, Staci Oppleman-Bedell. ??
AmberSeptember 2, 2017 at 2:34 am
So real, so amazing, so very much you. I love your transparency, the role model that you were, are, and are becoming. You shine Jesus, girlfriend and I know He is so very proud of you. Stay the course and run your race; He will give you wings.
Kathy McIntoshSeptember 2, 2017 at 2:36 am
Savvy, I first met you two weeks after you were crowned. I couldn’t believe you were standing in front of me outside the ATL airport and I hesitated to walk up, but was so glad I did! You were so real, so genuine and I’ve been a fan ever since. I had the pleasure of seeing you again at Disney the morning of the Princess 1/2 marathon breakfast, and introducing you to Rapunzel. Even after 5 months of your reign, you were still the same sweet beautiful girl I met on the sidewalk. You also graciously fulfilled my request to send a message to my youngest daughter and it meant the world to her. (One day you will meet her, as many have said you two look so much alike!) It’s been so exciting to watch you this year, to watch you grow, yet remain the genuine girl we all watched crowned that night. I know without a doubt you’ve made your parents so proud, your home state of Arkansas proud, but to moms with daughters competing in the MAO organization (and moms everywhere) you’ve made us all proud that our daughters have such a strong, empowering beautiful young woman to look up to. Thank you for showing the world what a true Miss America looks like! xoxo
Beverly HopkinsSeptember 2, 2017 at 2:52 am
I admire you so much Savvy, I have followed you throughout your beautiful year as Miss America and reading this makes my heart smile! Thank you so much for being the perfect role model for me and a bunch of other girls!!! You are so worthy of the job of Miss America and you have proven that!! love,
DeboraSeptember 2, 2017 at 3:03 am
You are His warrior princess!
MorganSeptember 2, 2017 at 3:22 am
This was such a beautiful and inspiring post, Savvy. So often people associate negative stereotypes to pageant girls and the reasoning behind why they compete for the crown and the job of representing a county, city, state, or even an entire country. But it is so obvious that you have such a pure heart, strong faith, and you truly are a wonderful person that is whole heartedly trying to help & benefit the lives of everyone around you. I’ve loved following your journey throughout this year and will be so sad to see you give up the crown and title of “Miss America” that you have represented so well with all the grace in the world. Miss America 2018 has some pretty big shoes to fill if you ask me. Wishing you the best in your next journey!
DustinSeptember 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm
Joclyne NunesSeptember 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm
What makes you one of the best Miss America’s of all time is that you were unapologetically yourself. We loved you & saw you as Savvy – not a version of yourself who became molded into Miss America. Miss America became you. You have been great. ?
GinaSeptember 4, 2017 at 5:28 pm
You are the real deal! You are exactly what Miss America is all about! Thankful for young ladies such as yourself, for the great role model you’ve been and will continue to be for my daughter and all other young ladies around the world to look up to.
Savvy Shields, you will be a hard act to follow for the upcoming Miss America. We wish you the best and thank you for doing an outstanding job as our 2016 Miss America!
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