month I had one of the greatest honors in my professional career, I judged the
2009 Miss America Pageant. What an
awesome experience! The emotion was
intense. It had been 10 years since my
Miss America moment and now I was playing a direct role in changing the life of
another young woman – forever. Wow!
incredibly nervous. Interviewing 52
bright, accomplished women was no small task!
Assigning a number to the same women as they paraded in swimsuits on the
stage – an even bigger challenge. Then
there was talent – whew! The intensity
and capability of these women was astounding. Finally, evening wear and
on-stage speaking. Which woman could
best command the stage with grace, confidence and that intangible “it”
quality? It was truly an awe-inspiring
experience that made me proud of the women we are nurturing in the Miss America
program and as a society. I learned so
much. I bet you didn’t know that when
judges are evaluating swimsuit, they are really looking for a sense of
confidence and an unmatched presence. It is more about answering the questions “can
the women do the job of Miss America when they are stripped of modern
conveniences?” than about her figure.
Interesting huh? I wish I had known that ten years ago!
judging process and the enormity of the assignment weren’t enough, there was an
added diabetes drama that revealed more about character, resourcefulness and
the real job of jet-setting.
way to Las Vegas, on a non-stop flight, my luggage got lost! Lost luggage is nothing
new and not much to write home about.
Typically, the lost bag(s) reappear within 24 hours, I was told to hold
tight and that I should receive my bag later that evening. So, in jeans and a
sweater, with little make-up and no hairspray, I went to the first day of judges
meetings and social events – including a meet and greet with the contestants
and the board of directors of the Miss America Organization. I honestly believed that my luggage would
appear late that night, but as the clock spun no one ever called to tell me my
bag had been found.
morning, in a borrowed dress, with no phone charger, no amenities, no curling
iron or even a brush, I met the first 35 contestants in interviews with the
other members of a star-studded panel of judges (Jim Moret, Ken Paves, Cullen
Jones, Paige Adams-Geller, Laura Bell Bundy and Beth Klein). The pressure of being the woman on the panel
who these women were aspiring to emulate, while still no luggage and little
chance to appropriately get ready, was enormous. I didn’t want to disappoint the contestants,
the other judges, and the Miss America organization. How naïve my thoughts and impressions were
that Monday morning. As the interviews
went on, I called the airline – no information, no bag. By the end of the day, I was reminded that
impressions are not made up of physical attributes, but rather the character
that shines from within. It isn’t about
how you are wrapped, but rather what you unwrap and share with others. A lesson about judging and about being
lesson also applies to living with a health condition like diabetes. Are you more concerned about appearances than
you are about your health? Are
superficial issues clouding your judgment about caring for yourself? This happens to all of us at some point. For example, I remember body image being the
biggest deterrent in my early indecision about an insulin pump. Thankfully, I learned – through a serious
hypoglycemic episode – that it was more important for me to be safe than to conform
to my pre-conceived, unrealistic definition of what’s attractive.
the pageant…day three began, more interviews and evaluations. Which girl is ready for the job? Who can handle the constant pressure? Who can deal with judgment? My perspective on
the process had been pushed, prodded, twisted and wrung. I am looking for someone who has grace under
pressure and wisdom to handle challenging situations. Are those qualities learned or innate?
have no luggage. By this time, I have
purchased makeup and an extra outfit, but that is all. I keep thinking something is going to turn
up. All of a sudden, my pump
alarms! I am low on insulin. Panicked, I rummage through my purse – thank
you God! There is a vile with a small
amount of insulin that will certainly get me through the next two days. (A
small cushion of time until my family would arrive with more supplies.) Fortunately, I also had an emergency infusion
set in my purse too. At this point, I am
no longer bitter about diabetes claiming small purses and rendering them
impossible for the rest of my life. I
love my PRADA knockoff suitcase with straps! (Guys, it is my big and very heavy
purse that I carry everywhere.)
carry extra diabetes supplies with you at all times?
continues with the judges and contestants making their way to preliminary stage
competitions. It is Tuesday night. I still haven’t had time to get additional supplies,
nor is anyone helping me acquire the items that I need. We arrive at an auditorium filled with
pageant people. I am dressed in a borrowed
suit with straight hair, and I am strangely proud. The interview process and the judges coach
has reminded me that life isn’t about the outside, but rather what shines
through from the inside. It is so easy
to forget that and get caught up in what society sells. What is shining through you? Are you filled
with joy or anger? I pray those who saw me that day saw joy and a sense of
won’t lie. I was getting pretty frustrated at this point. Four days – no luggage and over $700 spent in
replacing necessary items. (Make up, toothpaste, deodorant, a brush, a suit and
underwear – all of that in Las Vegas can really set one back.)
were two more days of preliminary stage competitions, a day of social
engagements and then the final night that would air live on TLC. (It will
re-air about 20 times!) I never did get
my bag. Thankfully, my family arrived on
the last days and replenished my medical and personal supplies. I am now in a battle with the airline for
reimbursement of expenses and replacement of items lost. Of course, I had packed all of my “good”
shoes, suits, dresses, etc. in that bag that was lost. Even my very cool, very
expensive, really unreasonable new Betsy Johnson shoes and dress!
and continues to be a lesson in patience, perseverance, point-of-view and
preparation. Are you prepared to deal
with disaster…more specifically a diabetes disaster? I mean prepared physically
and emotionally. Do you have your
physician programmed in your cell phone?
What about your pharmacy? Have
you ever actually talked to your pharmacist and taken the time to build a
relationship? Do you have emotional
support around you to help in these kinds of emergencies? My drama was really mostly, drama. But it could have been dangerous even
disastrous had I not been prepared. (I
am still mourning the loss of my comfortable heels! I can’t replace those.)
things to think of as you prepare for your next excursion…. you can bet I am
taking my preparation to a whole new level these days!
1. If you wear a pump, leave with a
new set and a full cartridge of insulin.
2. Take extra test strips in your
purse or handbag.
3. Carry a vile of insulin in your
purse or handbag.
4. Carry extra syringes or infusion
sets in your purse or handbag.
5. Make sure to have your
physician’s phone number with you.
6. Make sure to have a copy of your
prescriptions with you.
7. Make sure to have your
pharmacist’s number with you.
8. Do you have “ICE” in your phone?
– (In Case of Emergency)
9. Do your family or friends have
the address where you are staying and your travel itinerary?
10. Are your family and friends well
acquainted with where your “supplies” are in case they need to retrieve them
and send them to you?
11. Do you know of a health provider
at your destination that could help you in an emergency?
12. Do you travel with enough snacks to treat
13. Did you spread out your diabetes supplies in
recent Miss America experience had about the same level of stress as my first
one 10 years ago. Funny huh? I guess with maturity I have learned that
life is all about stressful moments and how we react in those moments. There will always be challenge and with
challenge will always be an opportunity to share your inner spirit and
hopefully your sense of humor.
America in 1999 was quite different from today’s version. As I reflected back this anniversary, I am so
proud of the chance I have been given to represent that organization and
diabetes. It wasn’t easy and at times I
faced rejection, even ridicule, because of my choice to speak out about our
cause. I am grateful for every challenge
because the personal growth over the last decade has been enormous and is due
to learning to cope and flex. What has
life with diabetes taught you? What has
it brought to you? How have you learned
to be better because of the experience with this disease? What lesson did you learn from your most
recent challenge – even if the challenge was something as small as losing
way, Miss Indiana Katie Stam is the new Miss America 2009!)