My reign as Miss Nevada

That Time I Entered a Beauty Pageant

I can already hear you now. And yes, I am aware how out of left field that sounds. After all, no-one pictures the girl who loves volcano boarding, saltwater hair, and living in villages entering a pageant.

But there it is. I, Hilary Billings, world traveler, adventurer, and part-time lion tamer decided to compete in the Miss Nevada United States pageant.

Clark County Sash

Lost? That’s okay. Let me explain. 

Over the course of the last year (though I can’t tell you why or how), my path crossed with a multitude of pageant queens and delegates. In fact, one of my now best friends is a former Miss Nevada America and Miss Nevada USA queen. Not only was she beautiful, but she was driven, kind-hearted, giving, witty and—could it be?—smart.

Off roading

In fact, the more women I met who were part of the pageant circuit, the more flummoxed I was. Why are these girls nothing like I thought pageant women were supposed to be? And then I started wondering…

What would it be like to be in a pageant?

How would I do?

Would I ever want to be a title-holder and use the system as a method to travel, share my platforms, and connect with people?

And the more questions I asked, the more curious I became. And one thing became very clear.

The thought of being a part of a pageant terrified me. It was so unusual, so foreign, so uncomfortable, just picturing myself on stage in a bikini made me want to pass out. I had NO idea how I would handle a situation like that. And I was terrified of showing my body to a panel of judges.

Why?

Because even though I got my degree in body image, I’ve had my fair share of body image issues.

Last summer, over Fourth of July, I was in this freak accident. I was at a friend’s family party and we were just starting our firework show. But the first firework malfunctioned. It blew up, and a piece of debris traveled 30 feet in the wrong direction, hitting me in the chest and stomach. I’m lucky my clothes didn’t catch on fire.

I suffered second-degree burns, but the emotional scars ran deeper. I wrestled with my self-image. How could I be considered beautiful and feminine with these scars? And what kind of hypocrite did it make me that I couldn’t just ‘get over it’ when I’d been educated on helping other women with their self-confidence?

This pageant not only gave me the perfect opportunity to work on my confidence, but also show other burn victims that you don’t have to be ‘flawless’ to feel beautiful and go out there and strut your stuff.

Hilary swimsuit copy

And that’s why I did it.

Life’s all about once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It’s about finding a way to reach your goal, even if it means pursuing avenues you never previously considered. It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone, trying something new, and having an adventure.

It seemed all too clear that regardless of the outcome, this would be an amazing growing experience. And my goals in life to inspire, motivate, and support others along their journeys is something that fits well with the core values of the organization. I felt we could all benefit.

So I became the Sandra Bullock of the pageant world… navigating my way through the dress acquisition, opening number rehearsals, and meeting my competition all-the-while staying true to me and my cause. I anticipated it being difficult, even unpleasant. And I expected my fellow competitors to answer questions like this.

Describe perfect date

What I didn’t expect was to enjoy the journey so much. I did not expect to admire and be inspired by my competition. As it turns out the reasoning for my fellow competitors signing up is no different from why any normal girl does anything— everyone just wants to grow and reach out. They were beautiful and smart. And I ate a GIANT slice of humble pie (turns out it’s low in calories ;).

Sunday night I stood in front of a Las Vegas crowd, holding hands with my competitors, thanking myself and the universe for allowing me to have this opportunity. I was leaving this competition a better person, having had a new adventure, and with a new found respect for pageantry and what it does for young women.

Final 3

Then something unexpected happened.

I was crowned.

Hilary getting crowned

So now a new adventure emerges. I go to Washington DC this July to compete for The Miss United States title, ironically one year from my freak accident that got this ball rolling, representing burn victims and adventurers everywhere.

After my crowning, my director just looked at me and smiled. Hugging me, she whispered congratulations in my ear and then laughed to herself. “And to think this all started because of a blog.”

Queens copy

25 Comments

  • Reply

    Gene

    May 30, 2013

    Thanks for posting this. I was wondering why you entered a beauty pageant. From what you written, those viewing these pageants really miss out on the true depths of the women behind the banners and what they are all about.

    I had no idea you had burn scars from an accident. That had to be painful. Wearing that swimsuit shows great courage.

    You are right, this is an adventure. One unexpected. I can’t wait to see where you go from here.

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 1, 2013

      Thanks, Gene! The great thing about this pageant is I now have the opportunity to support and work with Camp Beyond the Scars- The Burn Institute’s camp for children who are burn victims. I’m looking forward to volunteering at their camp, bringing awareness to their cause, and hopefully being a good role model. =)

  • Reply

    Erica

    May 30, 2013

    Congrats!! That’s so awesome! And really, no one ever said that you had to leave your city to travel or adventure. Sounds like this is just the beginning of a whole new adventure to add to the mix :)

    • Reply

      Hilary

      May 31, 2013

      Thanks so much, Erica! It’s true, there are all SORTS of different adventures to be had! =)

  • Reply

    Robert

    May 31, 2013

    Congratulations! I can now say that I know “Miss Nevada”!

    All kidding aside, I have a very close friend who is a little older than you who entered her first fitness pageant at 45+ and felt the same way!

    You’ve got the spark, passion and courage – Don’t let anyone set their limits on you!

    Awesome! I hope your inner strength inspires others!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 1, 2013

      Thank you so much, Robert! I appreciate your support!

  • Reply

    Megan

    June 2, 2013

    Damn girl, you fine…inside and out! ;-) I’m looking forward to reading more about your experience. As a fellow adventurer (and overall outdoorsy person who thinks jeans are fancy & spandex is suitable for any occasion), this will definitely be outside of my realm of knowledge!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 4, 2013

      Hahaha! Thanks so much, Megan! I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. I’m with you though- surfboards and cut-offs are just as sexy as heels! This will be an out-of-comfort-zone experience for BOTH of us. But I’m excited to push myself and share my different viewpoint within this organization. I think there are great opportunities abound!

      Have you ever been a part of an experience that you never pictured yourself being a part of?

  • Reply

    Andrea

    June 3, 2013

    Hi.. Congratulations! What a surprise. I’m curious what would you have done if you were Miss Nevada AND working as a tourism rep in Australia simultaneously??

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 4, 2013

      Thank you Andrea! Yeah it was a surprise for me too! =)

      I thought about it a couple of times, but honestly, I had no idea how either would play out. I just kept telling myself I would LOVE to have that problem and welcomed the opportunity to figure it out. As a realist, I didn’t want to get my hopes up to have my great expectations fall short. And they did with Tourism Australia, but because of THAT experience, I walked into this pageant adventure incredibly humbled and just looking to enjoy the experience.

      Have you ever been a part of an experience that you never pictured yourself being a part of?

  • Reply

    Caroline

    June 3, 2013

    Wow, it’s incredible the lengths some people will go to in order to promote themselves.

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 4, 2013

      How do you mean, Caroline?

  • Reply

    J. Scott Harden

    June 3, 2013

    Good luck, at the next level. I’ll be rooting for you.

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 4, 2013

      Thank you so much! I am so grateful to have you in my corner!

  • Reply

    larkycanuck

    June 4, 2013

    Miss Nevada! wow, now i never imagined this as surprise adventures to discover as a blogger. well congrats. a new journey begins.

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 7, 2013

      I know. It was kind of a surprise adventure to me too! But just another adventure. Luckily, I was crowned being myself and I intend to be myself through nationals as well. Just a different form of travel and opportunities!

      Have you ever been involved with something you never in a million years thought you would do?

  • Reply

    Allie Lyle

    June 4, 2013

    Hilary, I am so proud of you for having the courage to do this! You are so inspiring! I have my fingers crossed for you for the next pageant!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 7, 2013

      Thank you so much, Allie! It was definitely an uncomfortable adventure for me, but I’m excited for the next leg of this journey! Thanks so much for your support!

      Have you even been a part of an experience that you never pictured yourself being a part of?

  • Reply

    This is just absolutely fantastic! You’re just a rock star, Hilary! for your words, for your strength, for your perseverance and for the example you set for other people. What an unexpected adventure! this is going to be wild! I’ll be watching what’s next! Keep us posted! and Smile, you’re beautiful!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 7, 2013

      Thank you so much, Juls! Yes, this is a VERY unexpected adventure, but I’m glad that I did it! More wacky adventures to come, I hope!

      Have you ever been a part of something that you never thought in a million years you’d be doing?

  • Reply

    Wow, that’s amazing! Congratulations! You’re going to have a ball at Miss USA. I actually used to do pageants as well–it’s how I put myself through college (I earned over $12,000 in scholarships! crazy!). I was in the Miss America organization and won my local title and competed at Miss California. It was quite the experience! Some girls took it way too seriously and wrapped their bodies in saran wrap at night and said mean, catty things, but several others were smart, down to earth people who just wanted to have fun and promote some kind of good cause with their platform. Good luck and enjoy the ride! :)

  • Reply

    […] DC in July for the Miss USA finals!  Once again, you can find the story from her side here, and here. This lady has completely changed the minds of many  (myself included) who thought pageants were […]

  • Reply

    Adam Ross

    June 25, 2013

    Now that’s one Gorgeous traveler, adventurer, lion tamer (SLASH) Beauty Queen! Can’t wait to read more of your coming adventures. Good luck on your newfound career and enjoy the life!

    • Reply

      Hilary

      June 25, 2013

      Thank you for your kind words, Adam! Looking forward to sharing this adventure with you! I hope you enjoy what you read!

  • Reply

    […] fellow adventurers. Over the past few month’s you’ve put up with my zany pageant adventures, social media Tourism Australia campaign, and radical mood swings (well I mean, that’s […]

Leave a Reply

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!

As Seen On

As Seen On

Subscribe to Blog via Email

We're all busy being awesome. This way you won't miss a post! Enter your email below and I'll send you post updates.

Join 3,457 other subscribers

Not what you’re looking for?

If you were looking for my hosting website, or just wanted to troll my resume, photos and hosting reel, click here.

Follow Me