Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"The Doctors" TV Show

At the end of February I was whisked away on an airplane one Sunday evening to Tampa, Florida. Just a few weeks prior I had been asked to interview on CBS's "The Doctors"!

Once I walked outside the airport in Tampa, I was welcomed by the warm Florida weather!
My mother served as my travel companion for this trip, and we were picked up from the airport and then taken to our hotel where I met with the producers of the show to plan for the days ahead! I was invited to film a segment about Alopecia. Once we began conversing about the segment in the weeks preceding the filming, I suggested we showcase the effects of Alopecia not only on your head, but inside as well. I didn't want this piece to just be about the "bald beauty queen", but rather the impact we can have as members in this organization.

My business manager had received a letter from an employee of a school in Plant City, FL. In the letter, she shared about Brooke, one of her students who happens to also have Alopecia. She has been isolated and bullied in school, and can't seem to find her way. Brooke, a twelve year old fifth grader, has had Alopecia since she was an infant.

Apparently, this school worker heard about a Miss America contestant who also had Alopecia, and so she did some research and brought in a handful of news articles for Brooke to see. Brooke became enamored and really wanted to meet me. So, the school wrote in to "The Doctors" about me, and how much Brooke looked up to me and within weeks, I received a call inviting me to film a segment with her!

Little did I know, I would be in on one of the greatest surprises of my life! Brooke had NO idea I was coming to see her. Her little sister was even in on the secret! The plan was for me to surprise Brooke at home Sunday evening, with the cameras behind me and without the wig. And just as I rang the door bell of her home and walked through the doors, she saw my face and knew exactly who I was, even without the crown! The expression on her face was priceless; she was speechless. I felt like I was witnessing a celebrity siting! It was then that I realized the true power of the crown. This young girl idolized me for being brave enough to be on national television and show people that it is okay to be different- even in the world of pageants.

That night, Brooke finally warmed up about fifteen minutes later and found her voice. And once she did, we talked all night. And when I had to leave to get some rest, she asked if I could just stay in her room that night! It was so sweet to see how easily she warmed up to me. We both talked about going around without a wig, and she asked about how I explained Alopecia to my friends and people I meet. She asked if I ever had a boyfriend, and if people cared that I was bald. Answering those questions are so important because I wanted her to know that her hair, or lack thereof, should never hold her back from being the girl she wants to be.

The next morning, and the second surprise, was that I would be visiting Brooke's school with her and giving a presentation in front of the whole school about respecting others. I met with Brooke to ask her what exactly she would like for me to talk about, and whether or not I should wear my wig. She decided that I should, and so as I spoke to her peers about the fact that each of us are very different, and if we were all the same, the world would be a boring place! Then, I asked Brooke to join me at the front of the hall, and I announced that Brooke and I have something very unique in common- and I took my wig off. From the looks on their faces, none of them knew I had Alopecia until that moment! It was priceless!

After taking off my wig, I educated the students on Alopecia and let them know that it is not contagious and it is not terminal. And when I opened the floor for questions, over half of them raised their hands. Some of the questions were very similar to Brooke's, and as an effort to get Brooke to open up to her peers and hopefully feel comfortable sharing her own story, I asked her to answer some of the questions. Over the three days I was in Florida I saw her gradually open up and feel more comfortable with herself, and this was the start of that process.

That afternoon was the third surprise of the trip! One of the two wig designers I work with happens to be based in Tampa- not far from Plant City. Bobbi Russell, owner of Hair Therapy for Women, creates one of a kind hair pieces for women with all types of hair issues, from patchy balding, to thinning hair and of course, total baldness. Bobbi designed some of my hair before the Miss Delaware Pageant, and later I referred Miss Nebraska to her before the Miss America Pageant. Bobbi still provides Theresa's hair to this day.

I called Bobbi and asked if she wanted to be involved and possibly show Brooke a few replacement options. Brooke loved my hair so much, but her family could not afford a natural hair piece. Bobbi said without hesitation that she wanted to help in any way she could. So, Brooke, her mother, the cameras and I visited Hair Therapy for Women and Bobbi surprised Brooke with a free wig of her choice! And the funniest twist of all, was that Brooke selected the same piece Teresa and I wear!

Brooke lit up the minute she tried on the wig- it was like she was a whole new, confident girl! Not often do I suggest wearing a wig to young girls with Alopecia, but I do believe it is a personal choice, and if it makes you feel more confident, then why not?

All in all, the trip to Florida was beyond successful- it was life-changing. I feel blessed to have been a part of this segment and cannot wait to be a part of Brooke's life from here forward. She has been text messaging me and staying in close contact. And while I was in Florida I learned that the teeny-weeny little town Brooke lives in is also the hometown of my good friend, Miss Florida, Jaclyn Raulerson. Ironically, her father is even the Mayor of the town! In all the towns throughout the country, I was sent to her hometown. So thankfully, we were able to get together and catch up. I have been missing my Miss America sisters, so I loved every second of our visit!

Brooke and I were excited to learn that we would be reuniting in Los Angeles March 4th for the interview segment with the stars and hosts of "The Doctors". When we made it to LA I called, Jennifer, a friend of mine from the National Alopecia Areata Foundation who has had Alopecia since she was an infant. I knew that Brooke had never met another person who had Alopecia before she met me, and so I wanted to introduce her to someone else who could relate to what she is going through.

Ultimately, the finished product was incredible. I loved watching the piece when it recently aired. I cannot thank the Miss Delaware and Miss America Organizations enough for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of this segment, and also to CBS and "The Doctors" for inviting me to be on the program. After quite a long month of not so great news from my own doctor, this piece renewed my energy and my spirit to continue my year with so much love and grattitude for this experience.

Thinking about it much later and really reflecting on the impact I made in Brooke's life, it brings me tears of such great joy. THIS is why I love my job. Is it always easy? No. Is it always fun? No. But, is it rewarding? Yes.

February 8-February 20

Hello Friends!

February was quite a busy month! And by far, one of the most interesting yet! It all began with a few exciting appearances, like the Rotary Club Meeting in Hockessin where I was asked to visit and speak about my platform, and my Miss America experience. Anyone who knows me, knows that 5:30am wake-up calls are not my favorite thing in the whole world, but this appearance was completely worth it! Thank you to the Rotary Club for being so welcoming and sincere! I had such a wonderful time.

That same afternoon was one of my favorite appearances of the year- the Miss CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) America Pageant at our local Children's Miracle Network Hospital. Every visit to CHOP always warms my heart, and reminds me of how grateful I am to not only be Miss Delaware, but also to be healthy and have the opportunity to give back, and change the lives of others. While at the Miss CHOP America Pageant, I had the fortune of reuniting with my Miss America sisters and friends, Miss NJ, Ashleigh Udalovas, and Miss PA, Courtney Thomas. The three of us performed our hearts out and absorbed every moment of that day. There were two parts to the competition- on stage question, and talent. The pageant was even broadcast live throughout the hospital so that all the patients who were not able to attend, could still enjoy the show!

Wednesday, February 9, I visited one of my favorite sponsors, Carrie at the Hockessin Day Spa. I was definitely in need of a facial and until this year, never fully understood the importance of upkeep for your skin! Carrie and I always talk the whole time and catch up on everything we have going on, so it's like productive girl-time! The rest of the day was spent running errands- yep, Miss Delaware's have to-do lists, too!

Thursday, February 10, I performed and spoke at the Milford Senior Center for a group of lively and welcoming seniors who LOVED my dancing. Thank you, Doris, for inviting me to visit that day, and allowing my father to be a part of the audience as well. I hope they all enjoyed the show!

The next two days were filled with meetings and even... Wedding Planning! After nearly five years together, Kevin proposed and so that weekend we were excited to start exploring wedding venues and options! Then, on Sunday I was delighted to spend the afternoon with the Miss Delaware's Outstanding Teen Contestants at their Contestant Orientation. Katelyn, MDOT 2010, spoke beautifully about her experiences during her reign and at the Miss America's Outstanding Teen Pageant, her mother then spoke, and I was lucky enough to shed some light on the preparation process and the competition itself. It was important to me that the contestants know how much they will gain just from being part of the MAOT program. I competed in the very first MDOT Pageant in 2005, and placed 1st Runner-Up to the talented and lovely, Carly Economos (who led on to be selected as 3rd Runner-Up at the Miss Delaware Pageant this past year). Even though I was not selected as MDOT, the experience afforded me the opportunity to better understand our program, and get a jump-start on my preparations toward becoming Miss Delaware one day!

That week I was honored by the Insurance Commissioner's office, interviewed by FourPoints Magazine, and had a fashion show wardrobe fitting. But, I also experienced a medical emergency and therefore spent several hours in doctor's offices. I am on the road to recovery, but please do keep me in your prayers.

Saturday, February 19, was the start of a VERY busy week! I was starting to feel a little better but still needed to take it easy. That evening I co-emceed the Southern Lights of Life Event at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition! This is truly one of my favorite appearances every year! I have volunteered with these ladies for a few years now, and always leave this event very inspired. I usually visit the ladies during rehearsal and back stage without my wig. They all know my story, but it lets them know there are people out there who appreciate their bravery for sharing their experiences as well. Chris Saltalamaccio, Mr. Delaware 2008 and my dear friend, co-emceed the pageant with me and we had the time of our lives. To know these women (and one male) are all breast cancer survivors just brings me to tears each year when I see them confidently walk the same runway we, as contestants, walk at the Miss Delaware Pageant each year- it just warms my soul. I left feeling blessed for the opportunity to even share the stage with them, and completely renewed in my joy for my job as Miss Delaware.

Sunday, February 20, I visited the Bridal Show as a guest of Lady's Image who offers a discount for Miss Delaware. It was a beautiful show, and I loved seeing all of the dresses, and of course, cake testing! I got some great ideas for my own wedding!

Thankfully, Debbie from Lady's Image was understanding with time, because I had to leave rather promptly to get to the Philadelphia Airport to catch my flight to Tampa, Florida. Be sure to read the next update to hear all about my trip!

God bless you all, and thank you for continuing to be a part of this year in my life.

With love,

Kayla

January 16- February 7

Hello everyone!

Life has begun to calm down a little, but I have been keeping very busy! Miss America was such an incredible experience, but life after has been just as rewarding. On our flight home from Las Vegas, I was recognized by a stewardess and congratulated repeatedly. The text messages and emails just kept pouring in, and I felt the love and pride overflowing from our state! Thank you all for supporting me on this journey and for wanting me to become Miss America as much as my family and I did.

After I returned from Las Vegas I spent about a week catching up on rest... I'm serious! I didn't read a single news article, I didn't spend half a minute in the gym, or at the dance studio. And, I loved it! The next week, I spoke at North Georgetown Elementary School representing the Miss Delaware Organization's Platform- Character Counts and also at East Millsboro Elementary speaking on saying "No" to drugs! Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love children- so this was the perfect way to get back into the swing of things!

That weekend I was in Washington D.C. for my other job with Barbizon, USA to be a part of my students' graduation from the program. I never realized how maternal I had become toward my students until I felt an overwhelming sense of pride seeing them walk the runway that day. After days of rehearsals and the culmination of the runway show, I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with one of my Miss America sisters, Stephanie, Miss District of Columbia! Stephanie and I became great friends in Las Vegas (along with a handful of our other favorite states!) and I can't wait to reunite when I move closer to her in the Summer!

The first week in February was my ultimate catch-up week. I had been avoiding my to-do list which included the hundreds of emails pouring in, and many important phone calls- and it was finally time to return to business! I had a teleconference for my new position on the Marketing Committee for National 4-H Council, and met with my Executive Director and Business Manager to refocus and talk about what our goals would be for the latter half of my reign.

Then, it was back to business-as-usual on February 4th at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Newark as I read to the first and third graders my own personal favorite book from childhood to celebrate "I Love to Read" month! From there I left immediately to model in the "Go RED for Women Fashion Show"! I sported my favorite red dress and shared with everyone how important awareness and support has become.

Saturday Febuary 5th was also an exciting day as I had the chance to meet with my favorite Celebrity Stylist, Christie Maruka of FashionFixNJ! Christie was kind enough to drive down to Delaware with her super fabulous store on wheels and restock my wardrobe for all the important upcoming local and national television appearances! Christie has been a god-send this year, and has sent me beautiful designer clothes to wear not only while at Miss America but also for most of my TV appearances and magazine photoshoots!

The next day was not about me at all, and I loved it! We were celebrating the college graduation of my best friend, Julie Gravatt and could not possibly be any prouder! Julie is now a full time educator and I am proud to see her achieving her lifelong goal!!!

What a month! All sorts of exciting things were happening and were in the works. Looking back on my schedule like this just warms my heart, and reminds me of how important my job is, and just how blessed I am to be in this position.

Thank you for supporting me throughout this year, and I hope to continue to make you all proud.

With sincere grattitude,

Kayla

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