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  • Writer's pictureDawn Neufeld

A Disappointing Finish

I can't believe it's been three-and-a-half weeks since I competed in the Mrs. Texas pageant but it's taken me this long to process everything. Things definitely didn't go how I'd planned or hoped but it helps knowing there isn't much I could've changed or done differently. It was an incredible weekend and I feel blessed to compete again.

After taking a year off from competing because I broke my foot a month before the pageant last year, it felt good to be back in Corsicana representing Frisco. It was my 10th time competing and I think there's an advantage to knowing the ropes. It takes the stress out of rehearsals since not much changes from year to year (except the opening number routine). But things just sort of felt different this year. There were the old-school contestants who have competed for a while (the "OGs") but most of the contestants were new(er) to the system. And unfortunately, the dynamics made it feel a little like "us vs. them' at times. It bummed me out a bit as it made it hard to get to know some of the contestants.

Anticipating that this was going to be my last pageant, I went all out. I decided to order a custom Jovani gown (in my signature purple) several months before the pageant. I'll spare you the details, but my gown finally showed up the Monday of pageant week around 5 p.m. If it had fit properly, no problem. But because I ordered it several months ago (and I'd been able to lose about 20 lbs.) the dress was about 3 sizes too big. With enough time, alterations wouldn't have been a problem. But it was hard finding someone who could do the extensive alterations at the last minute. I had friends calling in gown favors for me all over the country - it was that serious. And stressful. But i knew the pageant is bigger than the dress and I had to keep it moving.

Tres Jolie, the official gown sponsor of Mrs. Texas, was amazing. They sent me several back up options and I ended up wearing one of their gowns. I'd also stopped by Terry Costa on the day I left for Corsicana and I was able to find a back up to the back up (thanks Sergio). I've got to shout out Beaux Wellborn too - he was my gown angel and was going to make sure I looked and felt spectacular at the pageant. Thanks Lindsey Lambeth, Rebekah Wheeler and Emerald Stanley for being dress angels too!

Despite all of the dress drama, I was in such a good place mentally this year. I'd prepared for interview like I usually do, with Valerie Hayes' 501 Perfect Practice Pageant Questions. I wanted to take my interview up a notch this year so I even met with Lisa Dean Niewolny, pageant coach extraordinaire. I'm happy to say that I made top 3 in interview. I'm glad I resonated with the judges and that I was able to talk about my autism awareness platform AND my hopes for a statewide "Take Me Home" program. Both are issues I will continue to champion throughout the year and beyond. (Note: I also had drama with my interview dress - it showed up an hour before I left my house to head down to Corsicana)

Then there was swimsuit... oy. Three months before the pageant I weighed in around 170 lbs. I've been battling my thyroid and my hyperthyroid meds have destroyed my metabolism. I eventually managed to lose 20 lbs. and weighed around 150 lbs pageant weekend. I struggled with this - in years past I competed around 135 lbs. The thought of having to put on and compete in a swimsuit was tough for me (I mean... it usually is even when I compete at my usual size). I finally made the choice to own my curves (because they weren't going anywhere) and rock the stage as best as I could. I made a choice to focus on how far I'd come... not how far I had left to go. And I was happy with how I did. Confident, even. I truly thought I had a chance at making the cut to top 10. The thought even crossed my mind that I could win.

Since I'm getting older (and coincidentally bigger), I've decided to wear pantyhose during swimsuit. I figured hell - if the Hooters girls or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders can wear hose when they're on, so can I. One of the other contestants highly recommended Wolford stockings so I purchased two pair (those bad boys aren't cheap). Good thing I had a back up because both pair of the Wolfords tore as soon as I pulled them up my legs. Everyone else who'd purchased them had similar experiences. I ended up wearing Diva Hosiery... they are the only pantyhose I'd ever wear onstage. Thank goodness I'd ordered some. Combining them with a base layer of Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs made me feel super confident.

I made the first cut - the top 23 were able to compete on finals night. It's surreal because as soon as you go offstage you have to rush downstairs to get ready for the competition, not knowing whether or not your friends made the cut after you. It was only before going back on stage for evening gown that I saw the disappointed faces of some of the OGs who hadn't made the cut. One friend had a baby not too long ago. Another is a military veteran who has overcome tremendous adversity. And yet another friend's perseverance is awe-inspiring - it's hard to stay mentally in the game knowing that your friends aren't on stage with you.

I thought I had a good shot at top 10. Believe me - at this point I was still thinking I actually had a chance at winning the whole pageant. It's hard to describe how it feels to not make that cut... waiting and hoping for your name to get called. And when it doesn't, it's heartbreaking. I made it downstairs before I started crying. In all of my years competing, it was the first time I'd really been disappointed and/or cried. I'd hoped to finish my last pageant on top - I think I would've been happy with a top 10 finish. It just wasn't meant to be. But let me tell you this - the OGs were waiting for me when I came downstairs. There were lots of hugs and tears and a needed reminder about why I do this anyway. It's about the relationships and memories. The crown would merely be the icing on the cake.

It hit me later that I I was the only one out of the top 3 in interview who didn't make top 10 (one of the other girls made top 10, the other made top 5) - it happens. Interview scores don't count after the first cut. And unfortunately, I had another contestant physically push me out of her way on stage (she later apologized). That was unfortunate. But at the end of the night, a beautiful young lady was crowned Mrs. Texas and will represent us at Mrs. America in a couple of months.

Congrats Chesney Berzins! You are incredible and I can't wait for you to spread your testimony!

Congrats Mrs. Texas Chesney Berzins

The OGs...

And that moment when no one's watching...

Another special thanks to my sponsors - Spa La La and Lavishly Tan. Hair and makeup by Nicole West. Photos by Larry Wright.

And guess what? I signed up to compete next year.

Yasss: Diva Hosiery, Sally Hansen

NOPE: Wolford

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