Always Wear Your Crown

Being a winner that’s just a loser who tried again.

My first beauty pageant was at the age of 12 years old. As a big athletic girl, competing against well-trained, polished, beautiful contestants, I quickly discovered being inexperienced in this type of competitive arena was an understatement.

There were many challenges to the contest, like looking older than I really was (refer to photo). I still remember the on-stage interview question, “what does America mean to you”? As I repeated the question, I heard the ‘voice of god’ over the microphone and froze. At that moment, I knew I had blown it. I lost and was totally devastated. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I told my family that I would never do this type of contest again. I QUIT!

Miss Teen West Virginia

Deborah at the Miss Teen West Virginia Pageant

Well, until a few months ago, when it was my 60th birthday. I posted this milestone celebration to share on social media. With a new decade of gratefulness ahead of me, I was eager to set new goals. I’m a big believer in operating in the fast lane to be more successful, no matter what age you are.

Taking a Risk

The national pageant director, Pam Bolter, with the prestigious American Queen Pageant Organization took notice. I was so impressed with the new pageant structure, I signed up. Why? As a competitive performance expert, I’m a big advocate of practicing what I preach. I wanted to prove to myself, that I could get back up on the proverbial horse, per se, and compete in a pageant again.

This time I ate better, I practiced harder and I put on a different dress. Being my true self, praying, holding hands, I heard my name … Deborah Gardner … I WON!

deborah fiesta bowl parade

2020 Fiesta Bowl Parade, Phoenix, Arizona

Why do I share this? In life, you will lose. You will be fearful. You may even be completely terrified to try something you want or try, or even be who you want to be. I am a testament to the old adage that if there is something truly important to you, just try. And then try again, and again, and again.

I am a Winner That’s Just a Loser Who Tried Again

Reflecting on my first pageant as a young girl, I felt like a complete flop and it was such an embarrassing moment of my life. But the truth is it was not my time to win. It was my time to learn by taking that experience and applying what I had learned in another pageant contest.

Losing hurt so bad which meant I cared enough to want it badly. I just needed to prepare and learn strategies that would ultimately give me the confidence I needed to win. Looking back, I wish I had entered other pageants much sooner. I consider them missed opportunities because this time, I did not fail.

My #1 advice. Don’t wait for days, months, or years to go by to find out that if you had only tired again, you might succeed. Take the risk.

Women compete in pageants for many reasons. This time, mine was to bolster my confidence, meet other amazing women, and enjoy the fun and spirit of competition. I wanted to elevate my platforms (Adults to Swim, Military Veterans, and Animal Rescue) and give back through their causes and communities.

Along the way, I learned to compete in the fast lane, gained confidence by being motivated and true to myself. Now, I am a winner that’s just a loser who tried again.

About Deborah

Deborah Gardner is a competitive performance expert that works with leaders and their teams to accelerate in the fast lane. Rising to international prominence as a dynamic, funny, and entertaining speaker, Deborah delivers powerful fast-track, profitable results.

deborah gardner


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