Have you ever smiled and cried at the same time? Heartbreak and Happiness, hand in hand.
The human ego is far more fragile than I could have ever imagined.
My fragile ego has been in jeopardy for years. Rejections became a part of my life, especially once I hit 30 and my metabolism slowed down. I've been incredibly fortunate to have accomplished as much as I have, but there's been so much that I've been held back from doing - mostly because of myself.
I've had this fear all my life of going into strange places if I'm alone. It's nerve wracking for me to walk into a grocery store I've never been into before if I'm alone. I wouldn't shop at "Sprouts" market for years because I'd never gone into one and couldn't overcome my phobia in order to do so. Well, sometimes there's something I want badly enough to face my fears and fight for what I want. This past weekend I did just that.
As a complete stranger with not one friend in the entire area, I flew from Los Angeles to Denver in order to attend the 1940's Ball. Alone. In a place I'd never been. But I'd been obsessed with the 1940's all my life. And I was one of the 20 finalists for the Pinup competition at 8:30pm - also something I've never done.
I was more than nervous. I was petrified and intimidated. I was facing a challenge before me, and that was only the door ahead! But as I waited in line, I befriended a lovely older couple who bonded with me instantly. As a safety net, I attached myself to these two people who told me they also didn't know anybody inside. The three of us became friends rather quickly.
As we stood around the dance floor watching everyone swing away the time to a Glen Miller tribute orchestra, Glen Miller walked down off of the stage with his trombone in hand to take MY hand and kiss it. He then thanked me for coming.
I would be remiss if I didn't explain that already hundreds of people were there dancing and watching. I was one of the crowd, and yet Glen Miller (the man portraying Glen Miller) reached out to me of all people. I was not only shocked but thrilled! I already was in an atmosphere filled with 1940's dresses and hair and military uniforms and Glen Miller music... Having the Orchestra leader exit the stage in order to greet ME of all people just completely blew me away. I won't lie, I swooned.
My two new friends then decided to hit the dance floor for a slow song, and a stranger asked me to dance. Of course I didn't decline. I love to swing dance, even if I'm not very good at it. I danced with a few different people, but as I stood along the sidelines watching my two friends dance, a man in a 1940's military uniform asked me to dance. Well, history was made. We hit it off and became instant friends. When he found out I had gone all the way out to Denver from LA just for that event, he took me under his wing and introduced me to everybody he could think of, and even a few he didn't! He helped to set the event up every year and even helped one of the most talented photographers in Denver with shooting the Pinup calendar - so his connections were limitless!
I danced the night away, met a hundred people and lost my first two friends in the crowd! Eventually it was time for the pinup competition, and I could see who I was up against. They were all stunning! They wore evening gowns and elbow length gloves. I was in a knee length dress and a feathered hat! They had four inch heels. I had on a pair of 70 year old practical shoes. They were young and thin, I was - well... not so much of either anymore. They were all beautiful! All I really had going for me was my red hair - and even that wasn't exclusive to me. To make it worse, the other redhead was a GORGEOUS Burlesque dancer, well known in the community and the 1940's circuit. I didn't stand a chance!
They lined the contestants up in alphabetical order by first name, which meant I was first. I hate being first. I'd much rather have a moment to be observant and learn from the mistakes of others, but I certainly wasn't going to let a little thing like being first get in my way. I'd come this far and I didn't exactly have stage fright. So what if I didn't look like a traditional Pinup girl? I had a great 70 year old dress I didn't mind showing off. I had come all the way from Los Angeles to do this, and I had used the Pinup competition as my excuse to go. I made a commitment. I needed to follow through.
"I won't get picked" I told the pretty young lady beside me. She was second in line.
"Are you crazy," she said straight back to me. "You look great! If they DON'T pick you I'd be surprised."
"You're sweet, but there's no way. I used to model. I know competition when I see it," I gestured to the other 15 ladies lined up behind us, "and I'm certainly not it." I laughed, and so did she.
"You're still crazy," she said.
Suddenly it was time to go. One at a time we filed across the floor in front of the stage before hundreds of onlookers. People cheered and applauded loudest for their favorites, and of course I received very little applause. Everyone else had their own cheering section. I was a stranger to everyone but the soldier I had been dancing with, and he had left suddenly when a family member of his wasn't feeling well. I was alone.
They narrowed it down to five, the young lady said to us. We were waiting for them to decide which five. I had been fighting with my hat for an hour and finally I just took it off.
"What are you doing," the young lady beside me asked.
"I'm taking off my hat. I'm done up there. I won't be going back up."
"Who says? You never know!"
It wasn't even a full minute later when I was being ushered back onto the stage as one of the five finalists! But one of the judges just happened to be a friend of the dancing soldier, so I didn't know how much of this was a polite gesture to the "out of town girl who traveled so far" and how much was a genuine vote for me. Thankfully I got to know that judge quite a bit better later on in the evening, and now I know my answer.
When they announced the third place winner, there was a tie. Since there were only five people on the stage at that point, myself included, I knew that only one of the five would be exiting the stage with nothing in their hands. I was completely prepared for that moment. The others actually dressed as Pinup girls for a living! I was lucky to stand in their shadows.
They announced the second place winner, and I suddenly knew without a shadow of a doubt that the belly dancing burlesque gal had it in the bag. She was walking home with the six VIP passes to the next event and that amazing photoshoot I desperately wanted. That photoshoot was the whole reason I had entered the contest in the first place! The photographer was incredibly talented and I'd always wanted to do a proper 1940's photoshoot. But I knew that young lady in the peach dress who was so popular among the more than 400 people watching intently would be walking away with that glorious package. The lucky dame...
"And the winner of the 2014 Miss White Christmas National US Pinup Competition is...." the audience faked a drum roll by slapping their hands and stomping their feet against the floor before us...
"The winner is ... Ms. Amanda Blackwood!"
P.S. After the competition, I was finally able to find my two original friends from the line at the very beginning. They saw me in the crown and sash, and the first thing out of their mouths was "What happened since we saw YOU last?!"