I thought I aged out of the Miss USA pageant system in 2015 because someone told me I missed the age cut off. I did not apply to the Miss New York USA pageant in 2016 because of this, even though I probably should have anyway.
Last month, Miss USA made an announcement online that they were having a competition to choose a 52nd candidate for the Miss USA pageant. I was drawn to the computer to read the guidelines. The age parameters stated that applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 27. Well, I’m 27, and I thought, I should technically qualify.
I applied to the spot of Miss 52. A few weeks later, I received a phone call that I had been selected as one of the top 25 candidates to vie for the title. As it turned out, I was still young enough to compete.
I had three days to have a Skype interview, put together a 30-second video introducing myself, and wait anxiously as the judges chose a top 10.
I still had a shot at the Miss USA title!
This opportunity – that I should qualify for the position of a 52nd candidate when I missed the opportunity to compete on the state level of a Miss USA pageant – seemed completely serendipitous. I thought this was a sign that I was meant to be Miss USA.
I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t post about it on social media. I didn’t want to jinx it.
Monday, May 9, rolled around and I couldn’t function. I was all nerves. I went to work and kept my ringer on loud. The phone never left my sight. My boss even knew that I was waiting for this call and jumped every time my phone rang in excitement.
But, there was no call.
As the day approached its end, I decided that I probably was not going to get a call.
I reached out to the Miss USA/Universe office anyway just to confirm that there was not a mistake.
On May 10, the official announcement was made. I did not make the top 10 for the 52nd spot.
I learned a lot of important lessons from this short-lived competition.
People have told me that I have a polarizing personality. When I was in high school and college, I had a hard time pleasing authority figures and got in trouble for it a few times. I learned how to listen to authority figures and make them happy a little later than some.
This learning to please people came at a price when I did not question the woman who told me I would be ineligible to compete at Miss New York 2016. I was never told an exact cut-off age, but when someone told me that I would be too old to apply for the following year, I listened without getting a second opinion… or even being officially rejected.
I will never forego applying for anything ever again unless someone gives me an official “no.”
Since making the top 25, I have had a new inspiration for living. Although I left a full-time job in November, I was lacking the same fire that I had when I first started working towards my goals in writing, fashion, modeling, acting, and pageantry. This competition gave me back that fire.
I have a renewed vision for what I want my career to be and a new push to go after all of my dreams with uninhibited energy.
I love having a personal brand and want all of my endeavors to help me work towards growing that personal brand.
Sheena Pradhan is a 27-year-old actress, model, writer, stylist, nutritionist, fashion blogger, content creator, and self-proclaimed branding expert. She always thought she would be a buyer for a big fashion brand, but in her winding journey, she has fallen in love with acting and modeling, which she does full-time. Follow her personal journey on her blog, Tuline Tulip.