Friday, November 06, 2009
A Courageous Beauty: Mrs. Nebraska USA 1998-Tosca Lee
Angie: It is my distinct pleasure to introduce to you, Tosca Lee. She's an acclaimed author, speaker, and a person I admire greatly. I met her at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference a couple of years ago after her first book release, Demon-A Memoir. It's one of my all time favorite books because it made me decide how I wanted to live each day of my life and not just chase dreams or merely getting by. Her work shows me that there is purpose and that my life is a part of a greater purpose.
Tosca has not only coached me in pageants, but into a more confident life calling. Every one needs a Tosca in their life. Someone who believes in you and helps you to blossom. But that you can offer friendship back as well. Thank you, Tosca, from the bottom of my heart.
Angie: What titles have you held?
Tosca: Mrs. Nebraska America 1996, Mrs. Nebraska United States 1998, First runner up to Mrs. United States 1998
Angie: How did you learn about various pageants?
Tosca: A friend of my mom’s suggested I run for Mrs. Nebraska around 1994. I had never thought of doing something like that before! I never considered myself a pretty girl, and didn’t know how they worked. But there is great power in having someone bring something to your attention like that; it suddenly existed as a possibility where before it had not.
Angie: You are so right, Tosca. It's amazing the empowerment when someone sees something special in you. What is/was your platform?
Tosca: My Nebraska America platform was about strengthening marriage, though I also devoted a lot of my year to women’s health causes such as breast cancer. By 1998 I had made the acquaintance of a friend who had gone three rounds with breast cancer (and, though we did not know it then, was about to enter a final battle with it the following year), and so breast cancer was my major platform that time.
Angie: How did you build your platform and promote your work?
Tosca: I spent a lot of time with the first title sending letters to various chambers of commerce and volunteering to help at events. I began public speaking during that time as well.
Angie: Why did you decide to compete?
Tosca: The first time, I’ll be honest; I did it to see if I could. Perhaps to validate something about myself. That was 1995. That year I was second runner-up, and after having put so much effort into it, I didn’t really want to compete again. It was through the encouragement of a couple friends that I made the decision next spring to try again. My focus shifted that second time—instead of wanting to get through it and try to win, I decided I would try to enjoy every moment of the experience and really try to project myself and connect with others. That was the year I won.
Angie: Was/is competition scary?
Tosca: Walking on a stage in 5” heels is scary. Having been on stage much of my life as a ballerina and as a classical pianist, I had not anticipated the on-stage jitters I would have!
Angie: What personal fears did you have to overcome?
Tosca: I had to learn to let go of the judgments of others, which sounds very strange given that I was in the process of being very subjectively judged in that setting. But what a crucible to learn to let that go!
Angie: What about your first competition, were you super confident?
Tosca: I was super hopeful, and rather frozen. I barely smiled, my cheeks were shaking so much.
Angie: Lol, I so understand. I always think people can see that, but they really can't. What did you have to learn to compete?
Tosca: How to smile. How to project out and connect with each person sitting in the audience. How to put the judges at ease and communicate in a way that lets *them* feel heard.
Angie: How do you think pageants help women?
Tosca: I think they help women in whatever way the woman is interested in strengthening or bettering herself. It challenges her notion of real beauty. It challenges her sense of self. You have to find that when you’re deciding how you’re going to respond in front of an audience or crowd. You have to decide whether you’re going to cripple yourself by comparing yourself to others, or just do your thing. And those women who can learn how to “swim in their own lane,” as I say, are the ones who will be the most assured and satisfied in the end.
Beyond that, let me tell you that it’s a great motivator to learn about getting and staying in great physical shape.
Angie: Please tell us about your writing, why it's been a goal, and what it means to you?
Tosca: Writing is something I believe I was made to do. I’ve been doing it since I was young, and have dreamed of writing fiction since junior high or high school. I can’t imagine life without it at this point. I am so blessed to be able to do this.
Angie: What do you still want to achieve?
Tosca: I have a lot of writing to do, a lot of projects in the works, and much, much learning to do. I’ve always written, foremost, to understand—my faith, my feelings, my own life. A have a lot more learning to do. And traveling, too.
Angie: There's an idea in society that pageants are just skin deep. How would you answer that?
Tosca: Like anything, it’s what you make of it. Though there is something that draws judges and the public toward certain contestants more than others. I can tell you, that that something is charisma, and that goes way deeper than skin.
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?
Tosca: I received my B.A. in 3.5 years from Smith College. I also studied International Economics at Oxford University. I currently work as a Senior Consultant for the Gallup Organization.
Angie: Do you have other creative talents you pursue?
Tosca: I was once a ballet dancer and concert pianist. These days, my main creative outlet is writing.
Angie: Why is it important for a person to look their best?
Tosca: LOL You’re asking this of a woman who can go a week or more at a time without washing her hair. For me, I care about how I feel. You won’t find me running errands with my makeup on, or in anything other than sweats on an at-home day.
Angie: :-D How awesome that you are so comfortable with yourself. So many women worry too much about what others think and forget to connect with how they are feeling inside. What do you hope you achieved with your titles long term?
Tosca: I hope I touched the lives of others. My own life is undeniably richer for every experience—and every new friendship. I made several new friends who I keep in touch with to this day.
Angie: You still support and work in the Mrs. Nebraska America system. Why?
Tosca: This is a special sisterhood to those of us who are a part of it—and that sisterhood includes contestants, supporters, and board members as well as title-holders. Why? Because we enjoy one another. Yes, we love an excuse to dress up once a year and do all the things that putting on a pageant requires, but we also enjoy supporting local causes and charities and engaging in worthwhile experiences that enrich our communities.
Angie: Would you share about your fashion favorites, flair, or a tip that makes you feel beautiful?
Tosca: Sometimes when I’m on the road and have this weird disjointed wardrobe of parts and pieces—whatever I’ve packed—I come up with fun new outfits. I love having weird hair left over from the day before and seeing what I can do with it.
I love the way I feel when I drink a lot of water, when I’ve been consistent with working out, when I’ve actually gotten a good night’s rest. Those things have nothing to do with glitz, glam, or glitter, but make all the difference in the world.
My best accessory? A smile.
Angie: What compliment do you receive most often?
Tosca: I’m half Asian; people tend to be intrigued with my eyes.
Angie: What are you most confident about?
Tosca: My ability to put others are ease and make them feel heard.
Angie: How did you earn that sense of confidence?
Tosca: By focusing on others.
Angie: Thank you so much for joining us today, Tosca. And thank you again for being the kind of person I want to emulate. You are a blessing!
Learn about Tosca's writing at www.ToscaLee.com