Mrs. America, Deconstructed
I finally feel like I’ve had adequate time to decompress from my Mrs. America experience, and process the emotions that have spanned years of preparation for this opportunity. I want to thank everyone who supported me on my journey of growth through the medium of pageantry, but first I have something to share.
Pageantry is a personal development vehicle, and a goal that can be a life-changing catalyst for many women. Not everyone understands the sport, and that’s ok. But from my vantage point, it has been the tool that at two very distinct times of my life has given me the latitude to blossom into my next phase of life as a stronger woman, leader, wife and mother. The late 90s for me was marked by college and the Miss America system, to which I attribute much of my academic and professional success. For some that’s team sports, school clubs or caring mentors… for me it was finding out that pageantry was the medium that inspired me to believe in my potential and learn to value myself. These past three years have been a return to that personal investment. I became a national titleholder for American Women of Service and Couto Pageants. I found delight in being on Team Georgia for the North America system. And then I was honored and humbled to become Mrs. Georgia America, competing on the Mrs. America stage… truly the apex of my pageant career.
To pageantry – and the character and determination I built along the way – I owe a debt of gratitude. No one makes any of this happen. No one will tell you what to do or put a crown on your head because of some formula followed. It truly is a journey of self-discovery where the “win” is found in who you become along the way. To not look at the entire pageant preparation process as a holistic experience is to squander the investment of time and resources. If you’re not growing, you’re failing. If you walk away not knowing you did your best and are better for it, then you haven’t done it right. To leave knowing you are stronger in mind, body and spirit is to have succeeded.
My most precious take away from finishing Top 15 at Mrs. America is knowing that my biggest fear of feeling panic and anxiety on the stage never materialized. Those two words have been my Achilles heel for as long as I can remember. As a child suffering from panic attacks to an adult struggling with anxiety, pageantry served as a sort of exposure therapy. To have complete calm and courage on that iconic Las Vegas stage, live streamed and in front of an audience of hundreds, was one of the best feelings I’ve experienced. While others trembled, I smiled authentically and enjoyed the spotlight, knowing that it took years of hard work and belief in myself to conquer those mental hurdles.
To anyone that dares to dream of making it to Mrs. America or any major life goal, you are 100% worthy of your aspirations. When we aim high, it’s the journey that can show us just exactly what our potential can be, and what kind of impact we can make on families and communities. Only one woman can become Mrs. America each year, but ALL of us can take the process and turn it into a journey of self-discovery that ends with a corps of strong women making a strong world.
Thank you to those who donated funds to help me create a stunning ad page that helped me share my #StrongWomenStrongWorld message; thank you to my parents – mom and Tim – for your unending love and encouragement; thank you to my friends and family who were there in the audience or watching the live stream to cheer me on; thank you to everyone who texted, called, sent gifts and invested your time and energy to make me feel encouraged and loved; thank you to Elaine Marmel and the pageant staff for spoiling us ROTTEN and making each one of us feel worthy of the crown; thank you Faith and Carl for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Mrs. Georgia and represent our program with kindness and integrity; thank you to the Mrs. America Class of 2021 for being not only remarkable professionals, leaders, wives and mothers, but for being so kind and authentic; thank you to my children who very patiently waited for me to return home after a 10-day pilgrimage at the pageant; and, most of all, thank you to my husband Juan for your unconditional love and support. Not a day goes by that I do not feel enormous gratitude for the marriage we share, acknowledging that many couples do not have the harmony (and fun!) that we enjoy every day. God blessed our broken road, and we are all the better for it because we have each other and this wonderful family. I was so proud to introduce you on stage! Being Mrs. Lt. Col. Juan Castro is now, and ever shall be, the most important title and badge of honor I could ever have.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Peace be with you, friends.
Mrs. Georgia America 2021 Darcy Castro