By Chelsea Bullock
Miss South Carolina Sweet Potato Festival 2015
“Why pageants? Do you not find it demeaning to prance around a stage in a swimsuit? Do you watch Toddlers and Tiaras, or Honey Boo Boo? Gosh, did you use an entire can of hairspray to get that hair fixed that way?”
Granted, I do love my hairspray, but pageants are much more than some of the comments I receive from those unfamiliar to everything The Miss South Carolina Organization has to offer. The Miss South Carolina Organization has provided young women an opportunity to be active in a public forum that allows us to express our passions and driving forces through personal platforms. We fulfill this by volunteering countless hours and raising awareness and money to fund movements that make a positive difference. It allows the contestants to display their physical fitness, an important health factor that is so often put on the back burner, as evidenced by the alarming rates of obesity.
Furthermore, it allows a stage to display the many different talents that make the women of this organization well rounded individuals. My favorite part however, is the evening gown and onstage question portion of the competition, a segment that allows us to exhibit the elegance and poise that every woman should possess and the ability to speak fearlessly in public about very relevant and pressing topics.
Another part of this organization that I love is the Palmetto Princess and Prince program. Under this aspect of the organization, each Miss and Teen contestant is encouraged to mentor at least one younger girl or boy. This mentorship includes incorporating the Prince(s) or Princess(es) into the community service, appearances, and scholarship features of holding a title. It provides positive role models in the child’s life and also networks the child and family with others across the state of South Carolina. In fact, I was once a Palmetto Princess myself. I learned not only how to be a lady of character, but how to be a human that cares about other humans. Beyond what my parents had already instilled in me, I learned the importance of having priorities and also living a life of selflessness. In a world where society idolizes immoral and often irrational people, I adore a program that puts young women pursuing scholastic achievement and living lives of leadership at the forefront. The crowns one may so often see us wearing are more than simply sparkle and shine; those four points of that crown represent scholarship, service, style, and success, and I am so very proud to wear it.
Two of the largest components of the community service in one’s reign are supporting the Miss America national platform, Children’s Miracle Network and also a personal platform of one’s choosing. Being a nursing major and spending much time in the hospital, I get to see firsthand just how much the Children’s Miracle Network is vital to these patients and their families. Since adopting this platform in 2007, the Miss America Organization, through its local and state contestants, has raised over $9.5 million dollars to support these families. One very important fact to note is that every dollar that is raised for CMN in the state of South Carolina is retained in state, and supports Children’s Miracle Network hospitals right here at home.If you have yet to walk the halls of one of SC’s Children’s Hospitals, please do yourself a favor and make that trip. The least we can do as able bodies is to try to relieve some of the financial burden from those that spend weeks, months, birthdays, and holidays in hospital beds. After working in the hospital as a student nurse, I am that much more willing to go the extra mile and am so proud of being a devout supporter of this platform.
My personal platform is a topic I hold near and dear to my heart.It is entitled, “Go Green,” and my goal is to bring awareness to mental health and work to destroy the stigma surrounding it. As Miss S.C. Sweet Potato Festival, I have done several speaking engagements, some at local high schools, one even as large as the state convention for SC Pilot Club. At each speech I begin by asking the question, “What does it mean to be healthy?” The typical responses include eating your fruits and vegetables, exercising, and getting enough sleep. The common factor is that mental health is never included in the responses. It is such an absurd idea to me to separate the brain from the body in talking about health. Mental health affects all of us; we are all affected by the daily stressors of life, which can so easily cause some of the more common mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.
Last summer I had the opportunity to work a nursing internship with the SC Department of Mental Health. I saw just how absolutely life altering suffering from a mental illness can be, and just how imperative it is to be able to seek and find professional help. Just as someone with diabetes would turn to their primary physician and insulin pen in time of crisis, someone suffering a mental illness should be able to do the same without feeling outside judgment or fear being labeled “crazy” or “psycho.” This year of reign for me will consist of trying to make as many people as possible understand the importance of being mentally healthy, and also dismantling the nasty stigma that accompanies such topics.
So again, you may ask, “Why pageants?” I say there is no other outlet that enables my voice of mental health awareness and support for CMN to reach the ears that is has thus far, and the ones yet to come. I say there is no other place to build relationships with such a multitude of talented, innovative, and intelligent young women across this great state. I say I want to be a part of the organization that is the largest provider of scholarships to young women in the world. I am forever grateful to the Miss South Carolina Organization for building in me a heart of service and leadership.