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. I often look back on that day when I won my first pageant, which was about five years ago now, and I see a completely different girl. Back then, I was shy teenager with very little self confidence. Now, I am a confident woman who can hold a conversation with just about anyone, land the toughest of job interviews, 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.

A few of my closest friendships have evolved from pageantry, and I am so thankful for that. Pageantry is a sisterhood, and the women I’ve met through competing in pageants are some of the strongest, most accomplished people I know. The value of friendship and good sportsmanship is a key element I’ve seen when it comes to competing.

But perhaps the most important thing that pageants have taught me is how to conquer defeat. I strongly believe that I’ve grown more as a person from losing pageants rather than from winning them. I started competing in the West Virginia Fairs & Festivals pageant system when I was sixteen years old, and I competed in this system for three years straight without winning a title.

Those three years were tough, but they made me stronger, and they taught me to never lose sight of the end goal. One year ago today, I accomplished my goal and was crowned Miss Princeton AutumnFest. I went on to compete for the state title of Miss West Virginia Association of Fairs & Festivals where I placed in the Top-Five out of the state’s 80 best competitors.

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, and I am so appreciative of all the support I’ve received along the way. 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 journey as Miss Princeton Autumnfest has now come full-circle, and although I wish I could have this title forever, I am more than excited for my successor because I know all of the opportunities this title will open up for her and I’m certain she will have the time of her life.

I want to end my reign by thanking everyone who has supported me throughout my journey. If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably someone who has supported me, some how or some way… so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I want to personally thank my director Miss Pat Whittaker, her husband Bill, and the whole Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce for always supporting me and being the best board of directors I could have ever asked for.

Also, thank you to all of my friends and family, but especially my mom and grandma, for your unconditional love and support. No matter how many times I said I was going to quit, you both never let me give up on my dreams. And that sparked a fire in me to encourage others to never give up on their dreams, either.

This is the legacy I want to leave as Miss Princeton Autumnfest 2016. I want to be someone’s inspiration to never give up. Always remember: most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.


Signing off, your Miss Princeton Autumnfest 2016, Heather Lee Naples.

Miss Princeton

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