Willpower Is Everything

Miss New York USA pageant weekend was an absolute whirlwind! I thought I would have a chance to check in and blog during the weekend but the days were so jam-packed with rehearsals, hair and make up, shows, and more that I barely had a free moment.

I’m going to post about pageant weekend itself, but I wanted to write a note about the pageant outcome now that it’s all said and done. ❤

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In many ways, girls like me are not “destined” to make it to the Miss New York USA stage — at least on paper. I am from a single-parent, low-income home. I am African-American. I am short. I have an athletic build. I had no pageant experience.

But I did make it. And I believe that will trumps fate.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t progress further in the pageant (spoiler alert: I’m human! :-P), but I am proud of myself for making the attempt. I will never stop willing myself to succeed; willpower is everything. I never wanted anyone to be able to say that I didn’t win the title because I didn’t work hard enough. This year I simply lost to a better candidate. I lost to a stunning girl who also worked her butt off to succeed and win her title. I can appreciate and live with that.

Competing in Miss New York USA was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done. I never imagined that I would be saying that (how hard could a pageant really be?!) but it’s the truth.

It pushed me beyond what I thought my limits were physically, emotionally and mentally. From grueling strength and conditioning workouts, to daily meal prep for a strict nutrition plan to endless planning and paperwork, I’ve already grown tremendously through this process. The pageant forced me to be introspective and think about what kind of person, friend and woman I want to be and how I want to project myself to the world. I hope that I can translate all that I’ve learned and accomplished so far into being a better person in 2016 and beyond.

Thank you to all my friends, near and far, for supporting me in this endeavor. What an incredible, incredible experience and who better to share it with than you! I would not be where I am today (or go to wherever it is that I’m going) without your unwavering support. YOU ARE #teamAK‬. I owe you everything and I love you guys to pieces.

xo,
AK

Positivity

The last few days have been absolutely exhausting juggling all of my pageant to-do items. There’s a lot I still need to get done but a major, major stressor for me has been all of the wardrobe issues that I’ve been facing. I’ve worked so hard on so many components of my pageant prep so in some ways to have all of these last minute wardrobe issues feels very disheartening. But this is exactly the time when winners keep pushing and get creative to figure things out.

My original gown sponsor went M.I.A. so I pooled my resources and was able to work with the amazing team at Pistol & Stamen to have a beautiful Adrianna Papell gown shipped to me from LA. I went to the best tailor I know and my gown is being custom tailored literally as I type this post. My swimsuit options weren’t working (see past posts) but I hunted and hunted in NYC and online and now have a gorgeous suit to wear on stage – no more saggy diaper duck butts thankfully! 😛 I thought I was all set with my interview and opening number dresses but pageant coaches suggested I go with other options, which set me back to square one there too. So, I need to stay calm and rethink my options now more than ever.

Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes of our time, once said, “Work hard, train hard, think fast, think win.” I truly believe that hard work and a positive attitude can be the difference between dreaming about success and actually making your dreams come true. Positivity is everything.

As I push forward during my last few days of prep, I’m trying to remember to be thankful to have even come this far. Not just with the pageant, but in my life. I’ve worked hard. I deserve the chance to compete for this title, and everything that I’ve ever done has in some way shape or form, led me here, to this point in my life. Regardless of what happens this weekend, competing for Miss New York USA is now a part of who I am. The pageant has already changed me in profoundly positive ways and I’m excited to see where else it leads me.

It will all work out. I won’t let it be any other way.

xo,

AK

 

Wardrobe Malfunctions

I’m one week out from Miss New York USA and I am in the final dash to bring everything together. Of course, nothing ever goes 100% as planned.

Despite beginning my pageant prep months ago, I’m having a ton of last minute wardrobe issues. The original swimsuit I ordered was pretty ill-fitting in person. So much so that when I tried on the bottoms I literally said, “saggy, diaper duck butt”to my roommate. So you know it was bad!! Then my gown sponsor went M.I.A. so I’ve been racing to find a perfect alternate option should I need it. Luckily I live in New York City, express shipping exists and I have wonderful friends who have really come to the rescue!

One of my amazing friends is Jackie Miranne – TV Host, Style Expert,  Model and all around wonderful human being. We worked together at VH1 and in my near breakdown about the gown sitch, I reached out to her for some assistance. Being the gem that she is, Jackie referred me to her friends at Pistol & Stamen,  a PR firm that focuses on clients within the areas of fashion, beauty, wellness, lifestyle, and affordable luxury. The dress all types of celebrities for the red-carpet, TV and more. After working with their fabulous team remotely (they are LA-based), I was able to select two beautiful gowns to be express shipped to me. Fingers crossed that they work out! If they do, then it’s off to the tailor to make the final alternations (aka mini miracles) happen STAT.

Now I need to finalize my interview outfit, opening number outfit and make final hair and make up decisions. (The swimsuit story ended up with a happy ending. I found the perfect suit in a really beautiful color so that’s one more item out of the way!).

The pressure is on to finalize my looks but I’ve been through worse. 😉 My glass is always half full and I know that I’ll find a way to make it work – I always do! Can’t wait to hit that stage in one week!

xo,

AK

Happy New Year!

It’s just under two weeks until Miss New York USA 2016, which seems almost impossible. There are times when my pageant journey feels like it has taken years, and other times when it feels like such a whirlwind. But here I am, in the home stretch!

Preparing for this pageant has pushed me beyond what I thought my limits were physically, emotionally and mentally. It is one of the hardest things that I have ever done. I never imagined I would be saying that (“how hard could a pageant really be?!” everyone says to me) but it’s the truth. From grueling strength and conditioning workouts, to daily meal prep for a strict nutrition plan to endless planning and practice, I have already grown tremendously through this process. The pageant has forced me to be introspective and think about what kind of person, friend and woman I want to be and how I want to project myself to the world. I hope that I can translate all that I’ve learned and accomplished so far into being a better person in 2016 and beyond. I’m already liking you, 2016, and Miss New York USA is an amazing way to start the year! 🎉👸🏽🗽

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About The Photo: My New Year was a little different for me this time around. 😛 I decided to trade the city bustle for the serene New England seaside and retreat to CT with my best friend for a few days. For the most part, I was cozied up by the fireplace or walking along the shore, recharging myself for the amazingly hectic year ahead. It was really nice and refreshing to try a different New Year experience. Even better, my weekend getaway was also a perfect time to really focus on other crucial areas of the pageant like walking and interview.

So excited for 2016!

Shine on,

AK

BTS: 500 To One

Earlier this month I posted my official Miss New York USA 2016 pageant headshot, but arriving at the final selection below was definitely a process. My photos were shot by the amazing David Genik who ended up giving me over 500 raw images to parse through following our incredible shoot. After rounds and rounds of paring down the list, I arrived at the six semi-finalist photos above. Still, it took days and numerous conversations with friends and mentors to arrive at the final selection. I think it all paid off though – I love the final photo and think it accurately reflects who I am, which is very important to me. Hopefully the judges will like it too!

xo,

AK

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Hair from Indique Hair and styled by my girl Sharntai Harris & makeup from the one and only Eduardo Martinez. Love this glam squad!

In The Clouds

Today I am writing from 33,000 feet up in the air! I’m headed back home to beautiful NYC from sunny Florida where I spent the holidays and got some much needed R&R.

It was great to see family and friends and it was definitely a much more relaxing week than normal for me, but with Miss New York USA just a mere three weeks away (what?!?), there is still so much work to be done – even on vacation. Over the past year, I have come to learn that preparing for a pageant is truly a full time job.

To be in my best form come pageant time I can’t afford to take days off from the pageant lyyfee :-P. That means that my meals had to stay as consistent as possible (even with SO much delicious holiday food available – homemade banana nut bread anyone?!), my workouts were modified (but they existed!) and I tried to sleep appropriately, stay hydrated, etc. Then there’s walking and interview practice and image coordination to throw into the mix. It definitely wasn’t your typical beach-and-chill type of vacation but I still had a great time and I was thankful to have some undivided time outside of my busy NYC life to prep as well.

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Sunshine State of Mind.

Of course, pageant preparation isn’t always fun or easy, but there is a tangible sense of accomplishment I feel knowing that I have stuck through this entire time. Eating clean and working out during holiday vacation is tough but pushing myself through times like that is what propels me forward and keeps my spirits high. From what I’ve seen in my life, being great at anything doesn’t come without work.

So how did I get through the holidays without being a complete recluse and without devouring my mom’s famous honey baked ham? I was able to modify meals at times such as  making a similar dish as my mom (not the ham but I wish) and replacing butter or cream with oil, for example. I brought my own food to parties – sounds strange, I know, but people are surprisingly okay with it and usually just want to support however they can. 🙂 If I was out with friends and in a food bind then I’d order a dish focused on lean protein and greens, greens, greens with as much of the bad stuff on the side as possible. Also, sparkling water with lemon or lime is my new best friend and great (kind of festive?) alcohol alternative.

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My holiday food shopping is probably a little bit different than most. 😛

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Prepping my special holiday meal on Christmas Eve. 🙂

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Power lunch.

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Some of my snacks on the plane today. Clean eating is a full-time commitment – even when traveling! 😉

As for workouts, weight training is tough for me to pull off at home so I focused on resistance training and cardio – using whatever I had available. This time around it was a swiss ball, resistance bands, free weights and a park. But a lot can be done with the basics and you can definitely make it work! More details on my quick, non-gym workout routine to come.

What works well for me is to try to make pageant prep manageable by focusing on the steps and small goals and always aiming to be even better tomorrow than I was today.

I’m not perfect by any means! But it’s about making the best choices that you can and believing in the final goal.

I believe in myself and I believe that I can be the next Miss New York USA so if I have to choose the title over the honey baked ham just one Christmas out of many then the choice seems easy to make. ❤

xo from up in the air and so excited to be back in NYC,

AK

#MissUniverse2015

Congratulations to Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015!

I may be a pageant contestant newbie but I’ve been watching Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants on TV with my mom since I was little. Of course, I didn’t quite know then that I would end up pursuing a title and crown within the Miss Universe system but that’s a story for another post! 😉

Right now, the world (and myself) cannot get enough of Miss Universe 2015, which aired just a few hours ago. I love seeing so many diverse, driven and confidently beautiful women pursue their dream to become Miss Universe and tonight the competition was fiiiierce as Tyra would say. 80 women from all over the world took to the stage of the biggest pageant on the planet to prove that they have what it takes to be the Miss Universe – confidently and flawlessly.

#MissUniverse2015 has been trending all night as hundreds of thousands of people tuned in to Fox (the pageant’s new network home) to support their countries. Miss USA, Olivia Jordan, made many proud with her upbeat and quirky attitude AND of course, her incredible 2nd runner up placement. I love my girl Olivia but I’m also so thrilled for the competition’s winner Pia (formerly Miss Universe Philippines 2015) who showed such grace and dignity, even when things didn’t seem to be going her way during the competition.

Remarkably, Pia believed that she had come in as 1st runner up, just barely losing the crown, but she kept her calm and seemed to be genuinely supportive of her fellow contestants. When it was announced that Pia actually won the pageant, she was mentally poised and ready to claim her rightful title. Pia is a living example of the importance of working hard and believing in yourself until the bitter end, no matter what happens. You just never know where life can take you.

Through watching pageants and preparing for Miss New York USA 2016, I’m realizing more and more that it really isn’t always the “most likely” candidate who wins. Sure, natural talent, luck, and many other factors are at play but there’s also the perseverance component. The girl who worked the hardest and wanted it more than anyone else may not be the tallest or the most beautiful or the “most” anything, but she can still be a winner.

xo,

AK

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It’s Go Time!

Since I was a little girl, I was never one to sit idly by and hope that good things would happen to me. My mom is one of the hardest working people I know and she has consistently taught me, by example, to work for the things that I want in life. She built her entire life from scratch, literally coming to the Unites States with nothing, and she has since worked to pay her dues and build a life for herself and for me.

My mom instilled those same hard-working values in me. As such, I never want to look back at my life and say “I wish I had the courage to do that” or “I wish I had worked harder to pursue the things I am truly passionate about.” Pageant prep has been a lot of work but now is the time to go the extra mile. I am officially just FOUR WEEKS away from the 2016 Miss New York USA pageant!! I can’t think about stopping. I can’t think about losing. Now is the time to walk, to mock interview, to go to fittings. I don’t have time to pause and let the negative thoughts in. I have everything it takes to be the next Miss New York USA – I just need to prove it! 🙂

#MOTIVATION

AK