5 Min ReadSelf 11 May 2020
Back in January of this year –– though it feels like a world away now –– I won Miss New York USA. At that point, I was officially in the running to compete for the title of Miss USA and closer than ever to making one of my biggest dreams come true. Prior to being crowned Miss New York USA, I always followed the delegates from previous years as they shared all the amazing things they got to do in their community (both glamorous and philanthropic) as well as their intense preparations for Miss USA.
The weeks following January 19 to March 12, I had an incredibly busy schedule. I would wake up at 6 AM and not get back to bed until 10 or 11 PM every single night, 7 days a week. From working half the day to meeting with sponsors, and then attending events and other appearances, traveling to boot camp, and running around NYC in heels, I was on a kick. I felt like I was Olivia Pope.
The weeks following January 19 to March 12, I had an incredibly busy schedule. I would wake up at 6 AM and not get back to bed until 10 or 11 PM every single night, 7 days a week.
I had booked appearances weeks and months in advance including events with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, hosting women in leadership panel events, my More Than Enough school tour, and a trip to Paris to volunteer with a charitable organization and judge the Miss Cap-Vert France competition.
On March 12, I was getting ready to head to an appearance at the Project Runway season finale party. I even had my hair and makeup already done since I was scheduled to do a photoshoot before the event. However, 30 minutes before I was scheduled to leave my apartment, I got an email stating that due to COVID and the new regulations New York City was implementing the event was canceled. On that first day, I could never have imagined how the next few months would play out. With all my appearances canceled and me being stuck inside my apartment, like everyone else in the city, I had no choice but to adapt.
First off, let me just say I'm a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens in our lives, whether it is what we perceive as being good or being bad. For me personally, when things don't go as planned, it actually fuels a fire in me to be creative and make the best of the opportunity and that's exactly what I did. I had to be resourceful and use my can-do attitude.
With all my appearances canceled and me being stuck inside my apartment, like everyone else in the city, I had no choice but to adapt.
For one thing, I never would have thought that my official headshot and photos for Miss USA would be taken from my apartment; my official photoshoots were scheduled for mid-March, of course, were canceled. So, I had to get resourceful. I reached out to a photographer friend in my building since his camera was higher quality than my iPhone, which I had previously been using to do mini photoshoots. I went to Target and bought a fan; I already had a gray backdrop. Finally, with all the pieces in place, I did my own hair and makeup and sat on the floor of my living room facing natural lighting to get the absolute best at-home photos for Miss USA, all with a fan blowing my hair.
I had no other option, and I was determined to get the absolute best photos I could. So, I made it happen. Other at-home preparations have included interviews, wardrobe, and makeup lessons, all of which have been done via Facetime or Zoom with my incredible team. We're making it work, as we all are these days.
Outside of my own personal preparations, I knew my community was hurting, and I wanted to do something about it. We have lost so many people and professionals on the frontlines who are sacrificing their lives every day to help heal our country. Naturally, I had to turn my attention to this meaningful issue in any and every way I could.
For starters, I teamed up with the company Super Coffee to make donations to hospitals around the New York City area. I also began training with New York Cares as part of their phone bank volunteer program. Because Spanish is one of the 4 languages, I have been able to make calls to isolated individuals and NYC public school students in transitional housing who have difficulty speaking English. As for the More Than Enough school tour I had planned, I made it virtual and opened it up to people across the United States doing 30-minute mentorship calls via Zoom.
For one thing, I never would have thought that my official headshot and photos for Miss USA would be taken from my apartment; my official photoshoots were scheduled for mid-March, of course, were canceled. So, I had to get resourceful.
Living in the epicenter of COVID-19 and being Miss New York USA has challenged me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. But I am doing my best to rise to that challenge.
Although this is obviously not what I pictured my preparation for Miss USA to be like, I am immensely grateful for what I have learned about myself and my community. God willing, if I do win Miss USA, I know that the effects of COVID-19 or even a possible second wave will affect my reign. But I am fully prepared to do whatever it takes to tackle these issues and serve my community no matter the circumstances.
For anyone reading this, I want you to know that none of this was easy. There were mornings I would wake up and feel defeated, days when I missed my family and friends so much that I felt too tired to be productive, days when I stressed about whether or not I was doing enough. I think we can all relate to these feelings in one way or another, but I wouldn't — I couldn't — let these hold me back.
But I am fully prepared to do whatever it takes to tackle these issues and serve my community no matter the circumstances.
Do you know what the silent driving factor that's been keeping me moving forward is? My ambition.
My ambition for life, for what I want for myself, and for what I want for my community. I know that the platform I have doesn't come with a manual, but it does come with a purpose. We are all capable of tapping into ourselves during this time to make the best of a challenging situation.
Right now... I am alive, I am healthy, and I couldn't be more fired up to compete for Miss USA.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist