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My early childhood memories are filled with local pageantry stages and televised Miss America contests. No, I was never actually in pageants myself, but I always wanted to be. My best friend Steph was a “pageant girl,” and my weekends were often spent in hotel convention centers and meeting rooms watching her do her thing. I was SO jealous of the attention she got and the prizes she took home: life-sized dolls and stuffed animals and pretty tiaras. Obviously, I kind of missed the point initially. I didn't realize that my best friend's single mom was trying to help her daughter earn a scholarship. I wanted those dang prizes and I intently studied each contestant's moves, determined to one day be Miss America myself. My keen observations taught me that every pageant girl must have a cause. This was very important throughout every question and answer section, and I was fascinated by the causes that each girl devoted herself to. World peace, starving children in Africa, cancer research. I, for one, was going to dedicate my eventual Miss America crown to funding ballet studios so that every little girl in America could be a ballerina.

Okay, so I was five years old. And on top of that, I was immensely klutzy. My inability to walk in heels over an inch tall killed my Miss America dream, and my complete and utter lack of grace eventually made me give up on the ballerina thing, too. But I never lost my interest in causes and my fascination in girls like Steph. Steph and her mom had come from a rough background, with an abusive father and a seemingly-hopeless situation. My mom told me later about shelters that helped save the lives of millions of girls and women like Steph and her mom, giving them a place to go when they had nowhere else to turn. I eventually ended up volunteering in shelters like this and turning to these programs myself when I ended up needing help. I continued to watch the Miss America pageant every year. I also continued to watch violence unfold against women and children in our society, and I was constantly surprised that pageant winners didn't put more of an effort into speaking out against domestic violence.

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A lot of people make fun of the whole Miss America thing and the pageant lifestyle, but I think they're missing the real significance and potential of the pageant. Pageant winners earn a scholarship to the school of their choice, and a chance to get a jump on their career in the national spotlight. The pageant ended up sparking a lifelong career for star Vanessa Williams. And most important, it gives a voice to important topics that might otherwise remain in the shadows, like domestic violence.

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Miss America, Take Note!

I'll be sharing my story with Miss America during her Twitter party with Artistry Beauty on January 17th from 8-9pm EST. If you're free, join me in welcoming the newly-crowned Miss America and encouraging her to give a voice to domestic violence victims throughout the nation.

Did you catch the Miss America contest over the weekend? Amway provided $50,000 to the newly crowned winner. Amway & Artistry Cosmetics help women pursue their dreams by enabling them to further their education. Amway also provided more than $300,000 in scholarships for all Miss America contestants! Be sure you do not miss your opportunity to meet Miss America this Thursday, January 17 on Twitter at 5:00 PM PST / 8:00 PM ESTSign up here!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Amway. All opinions are my own.