GUEST COLUMN: Being Miss Nevada a life-altering experience |

GUEST COLUMN: Being Miss Nevada a life-altering experience

Shannon Litz / Tribune News ServiceChristina Keegan talks about being Miss Nevada at the Soroptimist International of Carson Valley meeting in September 2009. Keegan retired as Miss Nevada on July 3 and the new Miss Nevada was crowned in Mesquite.

GARDNERVILLE, Nev. – The task of encapsulating my year of service as Miss Nevada 2009 seems impossible, as my journey to become Miss Nevada encompasses much more than a single year. It started at age 11 while watching Miss America for the first time. I remember thinking, “Someday, I’ll be on that stage.”

Never in a million years did I conceive that I would actually make it.

Then at 18, I competed in my first Miss America local, where I did not even place, but I knew I was absolutely hooked. It was then that I started my six-year participation within the Miss America organization, which culminated last June when I was crowned Miss Nevada 2009. During those six years, I earned over $26,000 in scholarships, which have helped me to remain debt free through my first year of medical school. I also met some of my best friends (shout out to Miss New Hampshire, Miss Nebraska and Miss Louisiana).

Miss America has changed every fiber of my being, and I am unendingly grateful to all who have accompanied me on this life altering experience.

It is true what they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it takes an army to raise a Miss Nevada. First, to my family: Mama, Daddy, Oma, Pete, Cristal, Kathy, Mary, Frank, Jim, Phil, Debra, Megan, and Michaella (yes, my family is massive), you all have provided me with unfaltering support and unconditional love throughout this entire process.

When I was difficult, stubborn, impatient, or cranky, you stood by me and gave me a good heaping dose of reality whenever necessary.

Thank you for not disowning me when I was a pain, helping me to remain humble, and reminding me what is truly important in this life. I love you all more than you will ever know.

To all of those who are like family, you know who you are, thank you for providing listening ears, shoulders to cry on, an extra push of encouragement, and enriching my life in so many wonderful ways.

To Jan, my second mother for the year, pageant guru, fairy godmother, and personal drill sergeant, thank you for helping me to make this year exactly what I wanted it to be. My year was such an enormous success thanks in huge part to you. To Markham, you have always had an uncanny ability of knowing must when to reach out when I am struggling the most. You are my rock.

To Teresa, thank you for keeping me focused when my direction began to shift. You are a phenomenal reminder of everything I could be as Miss Nevada and everything I can be after Miss Nevada. To Christina O’Neill-Bourne, Miss Nevada 2003 and my Miss Nevada twin, you and your family have been like a surrogate family to me this year and I couldn’t love you more for it. To Del, I just love you. Thank you for always having faith in me, even when I did not.

To Christina Taylor, my Pageant Patty BFF and Miss All This, thank you for housing me at Hotel Taylor while I was in Las Vegas all this year and for being the best roomie ever. To the DuPriest Family, Nevada’s Miracle Family for 2010, thank you for providing a tangible reminder of why Miss America’s National Platform is Children’s Miracle Network.

To the rest of my Miss Nevada/America family, I can never thank you all properly for all of your amazing gifts to my life and well-being. To my fellow Miss Nevada sisters, I am so honored to join the ranks of such a talented, intelligent, beautiful, and elite sisterhood of women. I am ready to become a “has been,” “yesterday’s news,” and “former.”

Lastly to my sponsors, La Casa Hermosa, Lisa Proctor, Marie Lear, All About Dance, Protech Auto, The Entertainers, Dr. Anthony Zimmerman, Drago’s Salon, and World Gym, thank your generous contributions and for sharing your incredible talents and services with me this year.

I still cannot believe that this year happened. I wake up every morning hoping it was not all a mere dream because my year has been more than I had ever imagined. Whether I was working with our country’s armed forces, military families, veterans, victims, students, civic leaders, legislators, or elderly, I was constantly humbled to be representing the wonderful state of Nevada where I was truly welcomed in every way imaginable. It is the people of Nevada who remind me why the Miss American Organization and the title of Miss Nevada are so significant to me.

Miss America embraced me at a time in my life when I could barely meet my own gaze in the mirror. After being raped at 19, I thought my life was no longer worth living and my dream of becoming Miss America was dead. However, Miss America told me I was worthwhile, and my story needed to be told. That is exactly what I did, not only throughout the state of Nevada but also throughout the nation. Miss America provided me with the stage to speak out against rape and the ability to give a voice to the 20 million Americans who are victims of sexual assault, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

I sit here today a proud, confident, strong, happy, healthy, and successful woman thanks to the Miss America Organization. I can only hope that I have returned such gifts to this state and that I have made our beautiful state proud.

Christina Maureen Keegan is 2009 Miss Nevada.

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