My reign as Miss Nevada

Dear 2013…

Dear 2013,

Hilary outside Glam Factory

I didn’t know what to make of you when I first met you as a disco ninja. I’d never spent an evening dressed in a mirror-covered costume before, frolicking about a party. It was my first evening in Las Vegas as such a character. I should have guessed that was your way of foreshadowing my wacky and unbelievable year, but I didn’t have the foresight then to understand. Besides, it was hot in there.

Hilary disco ninja

January would follow with unexpected opportunities… including my first speaking role in a film called Love in the Big City 3. Granted, the movie is in Russian, but it also starred Sharon Stone. I’d never really considered myself an actress and didn’t know what to make of my casting, but it was a new adventure. And I had my own trailer. So that was cool.

Hilary Love in the Big City

I would also get a small part in the Israeli version of my favorite show and build a patio deck as a demonstration model for a Las Vegas convention. I guess I learned that I was capable of more than I thought. I also learned that not all adventures looked the same, even though I still longed for one involving a backpack.

Hilary on Strip

February brought doubts and insecurities during my downtime. Inner demons questioned my brand, my purpose, and when that dream book deal was heading my way (wasn’t my story good enough?) Battles over whether or not I should call myself a traveler or writer left emotional casualties. So I took off to California for some much needed surf-time with an old friend. Together we worked on an article that would be featured in Women’s Surf and Style Magazine months later.

Hilary and Helina

I also learned how to ride a horse standing up and backwards, and that seemed to set me straight for a bit (go figure).

weird hand standing close up

But the waves could only console my soul for so long and by March, I’d lost my mind. By chance, I saw an invitation to enter international tourism contest on Facebook and made a video. Little did I know out of 600,000 people, I’d become a semi-finalist.

You would exhaust me in the best of ways in April, as I took part in the two-week long Tourism Australia social media contest, hoping to vie my way into the finals. I traveled over 1,000 miles gaining help and support from Strip headliners, Academy-award winners, and a few furry friends.

hilary and shirley jones

Hilary and lion cub

May dashed my Australian dreams and I didn’t think there was much hope left for the year. But the following week brought vindication almost a year in the making. I competed in the Miss Nevada United States pageant in an effort to overcome my self-confidence issues about the burns I’d sustained on the Fourth of July the previous year. (I was hit with a malfunctioning firework and suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my chest and stomach).

On stage 1 copy

I walked on stage in a bikini, undertaking quite possibly the most terrifying adventure EVER. I was happy enough with my journey through the system and conquering my first (and last) beauty pageant. But then I won.

HillarySash&Crown

June was a blur, full of photoshoots and interviews. I spent most of it prepping for the national pageant with my best friend and Miss Nevada USA 2010, Julianna Erdesz. I didn’t blog much. But I thought a lot about how my readers unquestionably supported my choice to enter the Tourism Australia contest, and even got their friends to join the efforts. While I worried about what they would think of my latest journey, I kept moving forward. I wasn’t sure I was meant to be a beauty queen, but I was going to nationals regardless.

Hilary at Lincoln Memorial

In July, I competed in a national bikini preliminary a year to the day after I was initially injured. While I wasn’t a top contender for the Miss United States title, I did get to spend an incredible week with family and friends. And I even learned I was named Las Vegas Weekly’s Best Blogger for 2013 the very night of the bikini preliminary. It didn’t seem like I had much to want for, except inner peace that doing all of this random stuff was okay.

Hilary flies home

But August presented me with bold opportunities I never expected, including a chance to work with Earth Wind and Fire.

EWF & Hilary

Then a call and proposition from USA Today Travel sent my world into a tizzy. Suddenly I was in a trial period, proving my worth as a ‘real writer.’ I didn’t know if it would work out, but given so much had happened by chance already this year, I had to trust.

USA Today piece

In September I attended my first red carpet for USA Today, interviewing celebrities I’d watched for years on stage and screen. They paired me with their Nashville music correspondent, Brian Mansfield, who had been with the national paper almost as long as I’d been alive. While he intimidated the crap out of me, his kind demeanor and encouragement got me through the strenuous weekend. I learned that kindness and sincerity were more important than anything in our line of work, and I liked that.

Brian & Hilary 2

And it wasn’t until about two weeks later that it hit me: I interviewed RYAN SEACREST. And I held my own. And according to my editor, I was good at it.

Ryan Seacrest

October would bring my 25th birthday, which I appropriately celebrated at another music festival, representing both USA Today and the Miss Nevada title. Bands sang me birthday wishes, and I got to indulge in food prepared by some of the best chefs in the city. I also walked in my first LA Fashion Week for Bettie Page Clothing.

Hilary 3 Original

My life was almost unrecognizable by November, filled with headlines and deadlines. Not leaving me much time to enjoy my quarter-century landmark, I received another phone call. This time by the Life section of USA Today. They needed someone to finish covering an assignment on Ringo Starr and his now infamous “Kids in the Car” photograph. The reporter who had uncovered the mystery, found the kids, and coordinated with The Today Show for their meeting with Ringo was going on Thanksgiving vacation. I hadn’t been with USA Today for more than three months and I was quite possibly given the biggest interview of my lifetime.

Hilary Ringo Starr Piece Screen Shot

After the initial freakout, subsequent meltdown, and all-nighter, I submitted the piece. My first byline in the physical paper ran Monday and I got to meet a BEATLE. The cool part was that I got to share this moment with my Dad (and now official USA Today cameraman).

Hilary byline in USA Today

I wasn’t sure December could bring much more excitement and honestly, I was scared of its arrival. Because with December came a New Year, and with a New Year came new uncertainties and changes and everything that I’d already worked on. But then the commercial I shot with one of the most prolific screenwriters and executive producers of our generation, Jonathan Hensleigh, started running. And I was reminded that echoes of what I’d done months ago would continue to reverberate for many months (or possibly years) to come.

Hilary Billings & Jonathan Hensleigh

I attended holiday parties, rubbed elbows with some very beautiful and bright people, and got to spend much-needed quality time with my family.

Hilary and Nieces

I interviewed celebrities, bands, and met some of my favorite country superstars, all in just a matter of weeks. And that was pretty cool.

But I guess the most important thing is I still feel like me. A lot has changed for me this year, but how I approach life hasn’t.

dolphin kisses 1

I still want adventure and to meet great people. I want to be inspired and to inspire others. This year made me confront a lot of my insecurities about what ‘label’ I fell under and confronted my fears of what others thought about me. As much as I’d like to pretend I didn’t care, I felt expectations and pressures, just like everyone else. Sometimes I did okay, sometimes I cried.

But the best thing you taught me, 2013, is that the minute I start defining myself is the minute I start limiting myself.

Hilary & Parmalee

So what if I’m a sash-wearing, red-carpet interviewing, Australia park ranger wannabe who also models for Bettie Page Clothing? Yeah, there hasn’t been a person like me before and maybe I’m a lot to take in. But it’s my life, so why not be all of it? Time for a new chapter with new roles and adventures.

Thanks for the memories, moments, laughter, and lessons, 2013. I will miss you, although I know it’s for the best.

Hilary signing on red carpet 2

Signing off,
Hilary

PS- Tell 2014 that I’m about to kick its ass.

32 Comments

  • Reply

    Lythya

    January 1, 2014

    Wow, you sure did do a lot of wonderful things this year! :D Your life is such a thrill to read about. I love how you break down the frames of stereotypes. You’re like a shooting star – going up, up, up!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Thank you so much, Lythya! I love being able to break those glass ceilings and share a different perspective, regardless of what adventure it is. I’m very appreciative you’ve been so dedicated to following the journey.

      I still owe you that piece on my working with USA Today. It’s coming, don’t worry!

      Let’s keep rising high together! How will you make 2014 memorable?

      Happy New Year!!

  • Reply

    Jordan Hoggard

    January 1, 2014

    Go You! It is great to see you develop your multiple talents into proven abilities without defining yourself. All similar, each unique, and there’s no-one like you. Keep rockin’ your way. It’s saWEET the way you are fluid your way without going with the flow.

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Thanks so much, Jordan! I appreciate your encouragement. You can only ride the wave in the direction it’s going, right? Hopefully 2014 will continue to be fluid and exciting!

      How do you plan to make 2014 memorable?

  • Reply

    Les Petits Pas de Juls

    January 1, 2014

    A beautiful, bountiful and surprising year, indeed, Hilary! but you deserved it all and I’m sure 2014 will bring you even more fabulous times!

    Keep on sharing, your life is taking on a fairytale look and I love fairytales!

    Happy New Year!
    Jul’

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Thank you so much for the validation, Juls! I hope 2014 will bring more excitement and opportunity and fun and happiness.

      I love that you say it’s sounding like a fairytale. I love fairytales too! I always hoped to one day be a part of one, but wasn’t sure how. Who knows what will happen, really? I’m sure yours resembles a dream and epic saga also!

      What are you hoping to accomplish in 2014?

  • Reply

    Brenda

    January 1, 2014

    What an AWESOME year for you! Looking forward to all your adventures in 2014. Love You, Hillary…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Thank you, Brenda! It was certainly quite an unexpected adventure! I am looking forward to (and slightly fearing) what could come next! But I’ll embrace whatever comes with enthusiasm. :) What are you hoping to accomplish in 2014?

      Happy New Year to you!

  • Reply

    Felice

    January 1, 2014

    I am so proud to call you my friend! You are so inspiring!! I can’t wait to see you this year!! Let’s kick 2014’s ass.

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Aww, thanks miss Felice! I’m so excited to share in the journey with you and have such an amazing friend/roommate/Miss Nevada Headquarters affiliate to share it with ;).

      And let’s kick ass! In stunning shoes :).

  • Reply

    Gene

    January 1, 2014

    Looking back, it was a great year. (And I never knew you could ride a horse standing up.) I can’t wait to see what happens this year!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Yes, looking back it was a great year. In the moment, I think the only thought I had was, “Ahhhhh! What am I doooinnnngggg?!” But I survived the New Year so all is well :).

      I can’t wait to share in the new adventures! What’s on your list for 2014?

  • Reply

    Erica

    January 2, 2014

    Finally! I get to see what a disco ninja looks like ;)

    Oh how things have changed since our conversation in a Mediterranean restaurant. It’s so awesome watching you really own that sash and taking Vegas by the… whatever you take Vegas by.

    All the best in 2014!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      HAH! I FORGOT I never showed you a photo. So much for a lag in delivery time. Man, I’m worse than the post office! Sorry about that, haha.

      And it’s strange how they have! Thanks so much for embracing the journey with me. And yes, let’s crush this life with as much enthusiasm and determination as possible!!

      What are your goals for 2014? Looking forward to sharing in them with you!

  • Reply

    Hailey

    January 2, 2014

    You had quite an amazing year! Congratulations Hilary! So glad my girls made your post :)

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Thanks, Hailey. And what would a year wrap-up be without them? Being an aunt is one of my favorite adventures :).

      Happy New Year!!

  • Reply

    Brittany

    January 3, 2014

    That was an amazing post!! You’ve accomplished a lot of things and it’ll only get better!!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Thank you so much, Brittany! I really appreciate your kind words.

      What are some of your favorite moments from 2013? What are you looking forward to in 2014?

      Thanks for following and commenting!

  • Reply

    Mike

    January 3, 2014

    “So what if I’m a sash-wearing, red-carpet interviewing, Australia park ranger wannabe who also models for Bettie Page Clothing? Yeah, there hasn’t been a person like me before and maybe I’m a lot to take in. But it’s my life, so why not be all of it? Time for a new chapter with new roles and adventures.”

    I absolutely love this part.

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Haha! Thank you so much, Mike. I try to choose my words carefully. I’m glad it’s appreciated! :)

  • Reply

    Crysta

    January 3, 2014

    Hilary you are the definition of an amazing woman and I have no doubt that your 2014 will be filled with adventures you can’t even imagine yet! Looking forward to making more crazy memories!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Thank you so much, Crysta! That is so sweet. I hope I can continue to rock that definition for as long as I live (but I guess I’ll just start with 2014 ;).

      Sending you lots of love and happiness in this new year! Can’t wait to see what comes next for all of us.

  • Reply

    Lynn

    January 3, 2014

    My dear sweet friend
    When we see ourselves fully human, in divine searching for our course and for the impact of our lives to be one of lifting we will find our compass.
    You have had the honor of “soul searching young.” In that great journey of self you have seen dimly in the mirror and known your insecurities. You risked in ways that most people are incapable of doing and in doing so you were given wings. Those wings have opened you to new and unknown faces. You are an open armed girl and thus the world returns your embrace.
    I treasure that the girl who sought me out a few years back, full of searching is finding her wings, but more I rejoice that you are still you. Your heart is still one of kindness and respect for the feelings of others. Your spirit is one of love. I cannot wait to see where your next flight will take you! I celebrate you Hilary, Celebrate your gifts and your intentions and I will treasure you always as my friend.

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Thank you for such sweet and powerful words, Lynn. I really appreciate you sharing them. They really mean so much to me.

      I’m so glad you’ve been able to watch my transformation but also recognize my determination to keep purity of heart. It’s of utmost importance to me and I’m grateful to surround myself with people of similar mind.

      What are your goals and plans for 2014? How do you feel about your year?

      Looking forward to sharing the next phase and adventure with you! Happy New Year!

  • Reply

    Julianna

    January 3, 2014

    You’re so inspiring. This made me tear up because it’s been such an honor and pleasure being a part of your journey and watching you grow into an (even more amazing) young lady:)))
    Love you to pieces. Can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      :) Stop it!! You’re going to make me cry reading your comments. All this sappy talk can’t be good for us. ;) But really, thank you for being a part of the journey and being so supportive. Love you so much.

      And I can’t wait either! Hopefully it will be amazeballs.

  • Reply

    Crystal

    January 5, 2014

    What commercial were you in?!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      January 12, 2014

      Hi Crystal,

      It was a statewide commercial for Nevada healthcare. We shot it a few months ago and it’s now airing. I’m the official spokesperson of the company. :)

  • Reply

    Gry Ranfelt/Lythya

    February 1, 2014

    Hi, Hilary, hoping 2013 is nice to you so far :)
    I’m planning a trip to America soon and decided I want to do some solo-traveling. Do you have any advice on some cool spots on the east coast?

    • Reply

      Hilary

      February 3, 2014

      Hi Gry!

      Thank you, 2014 is going rather well! Busy, as always but I’m sure you could say the same :).

      That’s so EXCITING! Congratulations! And yes, of course. While I recommend the West coast (since that’s where I am), I have spent a little time on the East coast. Of course, you have to visit New York City, see a Broadway show, eat some pizza, go to the Empire State Building, talk a walk through Central Park (do some yoga at Strawberry Fields), visit museums and galleries, etc. You should also go to Boston, as there’s so much history (and great coffee) in that little town. Tons of shopping, scenic tours, good bars and seafood. Take some time to go to Maine and have some lobster. And of course, people love going to Miami and having some beach time in Florida :).

      Feel free to contact me as you start solidifying plans and I’ll help however I can! Happy 2014 to you!

  • Reply

    Brittany

    March 16, 2014

    Hey Hilary sorry for the late response, 2013 it was a pretty rough year due to a lot of SETBACKS however I think it was one of my profilic year because I learned so much and grew up so much. I’m also stronger with some karate skills thanks to youtube. But everything I’ve learned from last year, has brought me amazing results for this year and I am 10 times blessed now! Experience is indeed the best teacher!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      March 20, 2014

      No worries! I know all about setbacks!

      I’m so glad that you’ve found ways to be able to grow and learn from your challenging experiences. Here’s to always growing and learning! And a bright 2014!

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About Me

About Me

Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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