My journey through pageantry started when I was fifteen years old. I caught the “pageant fever” when I competed in my first pageant back in 2012, a local Miss West Virginia’s Outstanding Teen preliminary. I remember I was so nervous because I was competing against the girl who received first runner-up at the state pageant the previous year. Luckily, it turned out that they were crowning two girls that day. She and I both got crowned and became “pageant sisters.” To this day, I still consider her one of my best friends that I’ve gained from pageants.
I often look back on that day when I was crowned Miss New River Gorge’s Outstanding Teen, which was about four years ago now, and I see a completely different girl. Back then, I was shy teenager with very little self confidence. Now, I am confident in myself, I can hold a conversation with just about anyone, and I’m a devoted advocate of my platform. These are just a few qualities I have gained through pageantry. I have learned numerous, valuable life lessons that I don’t think I would have otherwise learned if it weren’t for competing.
The value of good sportsmanship and friendship is a key element I’ve seen in pageantry. From the outside looking in, people assume that pageant girls are catty, mean, and hateful. However, throughout my experience in the industry, I have noticed the exact opposite. Pageantry is a sisterhood, and the women I’ve met through competing in pageants are some of the strongest, most accomplished people I know. A few of my closest friendships have evolved from pageantry, and I am so thankful for that. Although us pageant girls may compete against each other, we can still remain good friends at the end of the day, regardless of the outcome.
Perhaps the most important thing that pageants have taught me is how to lose. Believe it or not, pageants aren’t all about winning. I strongly believe that I’ve grown more as a person from losing pageants rather than from winning them. For example, I started competing in the Miss West Virginia Association of Fairs & Festivals pageant system when I was sixteen years old. I competed in this system for three years straight without winning. I placed first runner-up many times, but sometimes I didn’t even place at all.
These three years were tough, but they made me stronger, they taught me how to conquer defeat, and they taught me to never lose sight of the end goal. I’d say I competed in at least 20 pageants before I finally won a title, but after three long years of trying, I finally accomplished my goal. This May, I was crowned Miss Princeton AutumnFest, and I will go on to compete for the state title of Miss West Virginia Association of Fairs & Festivals in January.
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I know that everything leading up to this moment was worth it and meant to be, including all of my losses…especially my losses. It’s true what they say—you have to learn how to lose before you can truly learn how to win. After many years of defeat, I never lost sight of my goal, and I ultimately learned the true meaning of success. It’s not all about the destination. It’s about the journey, and more importantly, staying humble throughout that journey.
My name is Heather Lee Naples, and this is my journey…
2 thoughts on “Never Give Up on Your Dreams”
Yes! Great article!