5 LIFE LESSONS from our First African American Miss Asheville
Hearing ‘’your new Miss Asheville 2016 is contestant number 4, Kahlani Jackson” was life changing. Everything else after those words went quiet. I remember thinking to myself “please don’t pass out”, but before I knew it I was crying with tears of joy. It was the first time ever in my life I felt the power of something bigger than me. In the pageant’s 67 years I was the first woman of color to win; I knew I opened the doors for women of color everywhere. The road to becoming Miss Asheville was difficult, but well worth the blood sweat and tears. Honestly, my year of service was so beautiful and fulfilling.
Here are 5 life lessons I learned, and maybe you can apply them to your royal lifestyle.
1. “It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.” -Ellen DeGeneres
I won the title of Miss Asheville on my second attempt, the first time I went in as a newbie having no prior knowledge of the Miss America pageant system. When I competed in 2013 I was not ready. I remember my opening number ensemble being 6 inch fuchsia block heel platform shoes which should have been worn for a disco night. My interview was dreadful and my onstage question answer wasn’t as polished as it could’ve been. I lost the pageant. At that moment I decided to become a student of the game and soak up as much knowledge as possible. My failure to win that year prepared me to be a force to be reckoned with. When I came back to compete two years later, I was on fire. I had over-prepared and the judges had no choice but to crown me.
2. As an African American woman, you have to be 150% to be seen as an equal.
It’s a reality that I hate to admit, but it’s true and will always be true. I was the first woman of color to win the title of Miss Asheville, so I had immense pressure to not let my community down, I worked tirelessly the entire year. I knew that I might be the closest thing a person comes to meeting Miss America, and I wanted to represent my title with grace and honor. There were times I went to appearances and knew that there were preconceived notions due to me being that of black girl magic, but best believe by the time I left I was giving hugs and kisses to everyone. I was on at all times; why, you might ask? Because I knew I was a change agent.
3. Meet people where they are.
Asheville is an amazing city with people from all walks of life; with the title of Miss Asheville, I learned to love and comfort all. The majority of people all have the same common needs, which are to be loved, comforted, connected and supported. I remember one of my favorite appearances was going to the VA hospital to pass out valentines; I met the sweetest veteran who pulled me in his lap and rode me down the hallway on his wheelchair. My first inclination was to fuss him out, but after talking to him I learned he was a Purple Heart recipient who was passionate about the country he served. The sentiment he expressed was a major lesson for me. Everyone has a story, meet them where they’re at so you learn and understand.
4. Shine your light, big and bright.
The divine created you, yes YOU, for a specific reason and purpose; walk in that purpose. My year as Miss Asheville forced me to be confident and speak up. For the first time in my life I was public speaking, lobbying, and advocating for various projects around Asheville. I learned that my light was the one thing that got me through the door. My energy also attracted many towards me for love and light. I was invited to many social gatherings, and I tried to always come in with a pleasant spirit and change the atmosphere if it was heavy. Simple ways you can change the atmosphere are being encouraging, optimistic, and productive.
5. Keep your heels, head & standards high- Coco Chanel.
Never settle, and stay true to yourself because if you don’t, you’ll ultimately be unhappy. Most pageant winners get caught up in this ideology of how a pageant queen should act and behave. Soon, I realized that I’m one hell of a country, lip gloss wearing, hippy free spirited tomboy fashionista and I wasn’t going to fit the beauty queen standard. I learned to advocate for myself and never settle for what others wanted. I was in control of my destiny.
I hope that these 5 life lessons encourage you to live life to your fullest potential. My year as Miss Asheville was historical and life changing for me. Asheville really embraced me and still loves me. I’m forever grateful for those who helped me blossom into the woman I am today. There were so many angels that came during my year of service to lend a helping hand; that’s why I continue to uplift my community. Asheville, I love you so much and I can’t wait to connect with you even more.