Friday, November 13, 2009

A Courageous Beauties Interview: Virginia 30's Beauties of America-Rebecca Crosen

Angie: In asking other women I admire for referrals to someone they admire, Michelle Fields connected me to Rebecca. An interesting twist to confidence is that we put trust in the confident referral of someone we trust. Hmm. I think there's something in this for the upcoming book, Courageous Beauty!

Angie: What titles do you hold?

Rebecca: I do not currently hold a title, but am the former National Mrs. Virginia (2006) and Virginia 30's Beauty Of America (2008/9)

Angie: How did you learn about pageants?

Rebecca: In the 10th grade, a dear friend named Sabrina, was competing in a local high school pageant. She asked me to compete with her to have someone she knew along for the adventure. I reluctanly said yes, knowing all along that it was just a bunch of nonsense, but as a friend I would join her. Never did I imagine that at my first attempt I would make the top 20 out of 75 girls. From that moment on, I was completely hooked!

Angie: What is your platform?

Rebecca: "It's Hip 2 Give" is my personal platform - Blood donation is vital to my life and the life of millions of others and by donating just one hour of time and one pint of blood, a donor saves 2 lives.

Angie: How do you build your platform and promote your work?

Rebecca: It has been an incredible journey and I have been blessed with several opportunities that have truly driven my efforts. In 2004, I received my first transfusion, while continually under a doctor's care I began working local blood drives and saying thank you to donors personally.

After time, I was able to partner with the American Red Cross on a regional level and by working with them directly, I have now had the opportunity to film a Public Service Announcement, be included in a baseball-card style appreciation promotion, and I continue to attend their blood drives to thank donors.

Just this year, I will be working with another regional blood bank (through America's Blood Services) to participate in their Thanksgiving campaign. Making these connections has not only been vital to my platform, but my life. American Red Cross and the America Blood Services distribute the largest amounts of blood across the US and I am honored to be included in their efforts, after all, without them and their donors, I may not be alive today.

Angie: Why did you decide to compete?

Rebecca: Beyond my friend asking me to compete, I genuinely thought as a teen that it was a fun experience. As I grew older, I not only felt it was fun, but an opportunity to grow as an individual and to promote a personal cause.

Angie: Was this your first pageant?

Rebecca: Back in 10th grade yes. As National Mrs. VA, it was my first national pageant. I had only competed on the state level prior to then and had absolutely no clue what to expect!

Angie: Was/is competition scary?

Rebecca: I rather enjoy being on stage and the adreneline of competition, however I was not prepared for some of the overwhelming schedule during pageant week. Suffering from severe Anemia, I can feel run down rather easily, and I was unprepared for the schedules, the events, and the long days. I am now able to cope very well and maintain a constant state of energy, but I admit that the first national pageant schedule just about did me in!

Angie: What personal fear did you have to overcome?

Rebecca: Having never competed at the national level, with ladies that had, I was beyond nervous. I had knowingly signed up for a pageant that included a swimsuit - which I had never done before. I worked hard for a year to be at the pageant and wanted to make my family proud, but even in rehearsals I did not know how I would get through the swimsuit phase. It truly terrified me.

Prior to being at the pageant, I had lost nearly 200 pounds and the swimsuit competition was one of my personal goals. In the end, when the lights came on and I was able to walk across the stage with a smile, I not only felt relieved, but I was completely overwhelmed with emotion knowing I accomplished a very personal goal.

More importantly, I was shocked when I was later recognized with the award for the highest Swimsuit score - just astounded that I could go from fear to elation. In the end this pageant taught me that I could achieve the goals I wanted, even if the outcome wasn't what I wanted. I left the pageant as the 1st runner up and the Swimsuit, Evening Gown and Photogenic winner, but I had achieved my personal goal and it didn't matter that I didn't win - just that I had overcome my fear.

Angie: What about your first competition, were you super confident?

Rebecca: My first competition, I wasn't confident about anything! I felt like a bumbling toddler, only with time and experience did I feel confident in my presentation and overall competitive ability.

Angie: What did you have to learn to compete?

Rebecca: I absolutely have had to learn to turn off any negative outside energy and focus on the competition itself and the reasons I compete. Trusting my faith, my instincts, and my support system, I am able to concentrate on all that is good and let the negative thoughts, ideas, and people fall to the side. Maintaining a positive energy, outlook, and attitude are crucial to achieving any goal.

Angie: Please tell us about a goal, why it's been a goal, and what it means to you?

Rebecca: Losing nearly 200 pounds was a very important goal. I did not embark on that journey for pageantry or for social ideals of beauty - I did it for myself and my family. I wasn't able to play outside with my daughter, at 350 pounds, I could barely move. Chronic health issues at the age of 28 was hardly how I wanted to live, but a doctor so kindly told me that if I didn't change my health, I wouldn't see my daughter graduate from high school.

That was it - the catelyst for my journey to a healthier lifestyle. Now that I am living an active life and seeing my daughter mature, having my health means that I can be involved and fully engaged in her life and in the life that I was meant to have. I was truly missing out on all that God had intended for me to experience, and now I can see what He wanted me to see. Amazing how vibrant and fully life is when it is approached with Him as our guide.

Angie: What do you still want to achieve?

Rebecca: My goals at this time are rather ordinary to some, but having missed out on a lot of my daughters early activities, I truly enjoy seeing her grow and experience life. Her joyful presence is gratifying and also humbling - a child's perspective is always fresh and begs the adult to see things differently. It's God's way of reminding us that there are still many ways to learn.

My personal goals present themselves at unique opportunities and at this time, I am stepping into a more visible role with my platform partners as they have asked me to speak at various engagements and participate in national campaigns. These are rare opportunities that only through hard work and focused dedication can be realized - I am excited for the coming year!

Angie: There's an idea in society that pageants are just skin deep. How would you answer that?

Rebecca: First and foremost, society's idea of beauty is usually formed by various media outlets that edit what they feel is unnecessary information or not salacious enough for the public. Through my weight-loss journey, I became involved with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. As a certified facilitator for Real Beauty Workshops, I saw firsthand the lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem that thousands of girls/women experienced. Having personally encountered these issues, I knew that what they needed to learn is that confidence is found within themselves and not on tv, the pages of a magazine, or on the big screen.

Young women need to understand that we are each unique and have been blessed with beautiful talents. The gift wrapping, or your outer beauty, is merely that - gift wrap for the most beautiful present of all - your inner self, your inner beauty, your personal confidence. It's there, I promise, just allow it to reveal itself naturally and not when society thinks it's time.

Angie: The media has given Americans the idea that pageant girls/women are not intelligent and accomplished. What kind of an education do you have?

Rebecca: Again, it's in the editing of information that media provides as to how opinions can be formed. Now there are those rare occassions that happen on live tv where contestants are nervous and things happen - but for the most part, it's in the editing. From what I have experienced, once the general public has spent a few minutes with a titleholder, they learn that she is intelligent and the opposite of what they had originally thought. Life experience is the best educator.

Angie: Do you have other creative talents you pursue?

Rebecca: Being a busy wife, mom, employee, and advocate, the pursuit of creative talents can be limited. But I do find quiet moments to paint and look forward to the holiday season when my painting picks up pace!

Angie: Why is it important for a person to look their best?

Rebecca: Looking one's best is personally defined and what I consider my best to be, may not be the same as others. I think that pulling yourself together each day is important to not only set a good first impression, but to also give an added boost to your personal confidence. Tendencies are that when we feel good about ourselves, it will radiate in our appearance and to those around us.

Angie: What do you hope to achieve long term?

Rebecca: Should I be blessed with another title in the future, my hope is multifaceted. First, I would like to encourage and engage more Americans to be blood donors. If only 1% more of Americans would donate, our current blood shortage would disappear - it's a staggering statistic, but very real. Secondly, I would hope that I can be a role model to other women, who through life struggles, may think that they can't go after their dream - whatever that may be. But with perserverence, determination, and patience, every dream can be achieved even if the achievement is through failure - we learn.

Angie: Would you share about your fashion favorites, flair, or a tip that makes you feel beautiful?

Rebecca: I think that regardless of trends or what's considered passe', you have to go with what works for you. Find those elements which you love and work for you, and wear them with confidence. I personally, love heels. Not shoes in general - just heels. The taller the better - I even have a dear friend that we trade shoes so that we can extend our closet and share the expense - it's a fun way to try new trends. Not to mention that heels give you better posture when always gives a boost to the confidence level - plus they look great!

What's it like when a title ends?

In the past, when I have ended my reign, I simply reflect on those moments which I enjoyed the most and relish in the moments that were learning opportunities. Giving up a title does not mean that the platform work ends, therefore that will always be there and I won't stop being an advocate for the gift of life. In the future, if I'm blessed with another title, I am certain that I will do the same.

Angie: What compliment do you receive most often?

Rebecca: I think that in daily life people receive compliments regarding their style, beauty, station in life, or other specific topics. I appreciate those various compliments and am regularly surprised by those that offer the compliments, but the one compliment that I receive that makes me proud is the one that recognizes my efforts for blood donors. My daily life depends on donors and I work tirelessly for the cause and when someone takes a moment to listen and understand, that in itself is a compliment.

Angie: What are you most confident about?

Rebecca: I am confident about who I am as a woman, a mother, a wife and an advocate. These are the most important aspects of my life and regardless of what society or peers have to say or think.

Angie: How did you earn that sense of confidence?

Rebecca: Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
--Hebrews 10:35, 36

My confidence comes directly from God. I have no doubt that through each journey, mistake, triumph, disappointment, and breath that God is right there with me. Though I did not always believe this, and have had many "why me" moments, I know now that these moments are there for a reason and I will walk through each experience with His guidance.

God was in the doctor's office when I learned I needed a healthier lifestyle - He was speaking to me then. God held my hand through dark personal moments and again when I was nearly on my death bed needing the first of many transfusions. God was there as my hair fell out and thought others would laugh; He is there when my daughter giggles and makes my heart smile.

I can do nothing in life without Him and through my confidence in Him, I am given confidence for life.

Angie: What would you like to share?

Rebecca: It may sound cliche', but please don't judge a book by it's cover. Perception is usually wrong and given a few moments we might learn a little about each other and ourselves in the process. Each individual has had their own life story, their own personal struggles, and their own triumphs. No one person's journey is more important than the next and each deserve a chance to be heard - these stories make up the tapestry of life.

To that end, I do ecourage each of your readers to donate blood - if they are unable to donate, encourage those they know to doante. There is no substitute for blood and it cannot be manufactured. Each month at the hematologist I pray that this will be another month of good donations, but I do not have any guarantees. On an average day more than 40,000 pints of blood are needed around the country - from premature babies, to heart surgeries, to catasrophic events, leukemia patients and beyond - blood donors are needed. I just ask that you donate today - as often as you can. It's rewarding to save a life - you could save mine.

Angie: Thank you so much, Rebecca, for being with us. For more information or to be a part of Rebecca's platform for blood donation, click here:
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