Love Never Fails to Unify Women
I have many stories about girlfriends, but one of my favorites is how my daughter, Lex was welcomed into a unique sisterhood that most women never get to experience.
My pregnancy with Lex wasn't planned. Pete and I were completely surprised. Ok, well, I guess not completely, but you get the idea. Throughout her life, she has continued to present us with many surprises.
As a new mom I watched this three week early, five pound, three ounce tiny baby start sleeping through the night at five weeks-WOW! Now she’s 5’10’ tall. Classy by the way she walks, talks, listens, and knows how to adjust depending on who she is with. Disciplined. A good student-is very teachable. All attributes that I do not possess.
One of the biggest surprises thus far was the day she called Pete and me and said, “I’m gonna compete in the next Miss Nebraska USA pageant.”
Pete and I looked at each other and silently laughed, but with our best straight face said, “Wow really, how did this happen?”
“Lauren competed last year and said it’s an awesome organization. She thinks it could help me catapult my nutrition business, even if I don’t win, which I’m sure I won’t.”
“Great, go for it!”
We are eager to allow both of our kids to expand into unknown areas of their life. This particular area was unknown for sure. The closest she has ever been to the pageant lifestyle was on Halloween when she dressed up in a burgundy satin gown with a cheesy white sash that we wrote “Miss USA” with sparkle glitter across the front. She was 11 that Halloween. 13 years later she’s competing at the Miss Nebraska pageant.
The crowning was on Saturday, but I didn’t want to miss out on any of the pre-pageant happenings so I left on Thursday and Pete planned to come down the next day. (Our son Kole had the flu, so had to stay back.) I boarded my Delta flight ,and ironically, ended up sitting next to Jody, a friendly, 50-something woman who was also a “pageant mom”—something very unfamiliar to me. On our hour flight to Lincoln, she told me about every single contestant. Almost all of them had been competing since they were very young and she knew them because her daughter did the same. She had two in mind that she thought were probably going to win. She said her daughter wasn’t competing that night, but she would be glued to her computer to watch it online.
Now, you may think pageant stereotypes are true. The production, makeup, cattiness, selfishness. I’m here to tell you that some of it is, but in our experience, it was a great adventure overall with not as much drama as expected. Lex was never a dramatic type of girlie girl. She is better defined by pick-up trucks, sports, and a beer in her hand. Beauty? Yes. Beauty queen? Not so much. So we were very curious to see how it was going to play out.
It was a cold, rainy, almost sleety January evening and we had to be at the venue early because the seating was first come, first served and we wanted to be as close to the stage as possible. As newbies, we didn’t get any preferential treatment. So there we stood, looking at all of the friends and family of the contestants. To pass the time, I kept my program in my hand and tried to match up which moms and dads went with which contestant by trying to find resemblances.
The line finally started to move and Pete, Lex’s boyfriend, Devon, his parents, his friend Aaron, and I scanned for the dark but elegant theater for the best seats that we could find. We ended up about five rows back. The stage was lit up with lots of sparkles—very “girlie”. I’m texting Kole with pictures of everything, trying to give him the feeling of “being there”, despite being about 380 miles away.
Soon, the lights dimmed even more, and Brad, the Master of Ceremonies, started the show in his beautiful, natural radio-style voice. The girls on stage came out in two different phases. One phase is Miss Teen Nebraska USA and the second is Miss Nebraska USA. I have my winners picked early on. I am also texting back and forth with Jody from the Delta flight because I am so curious what she thinks. She comments how beautiful she thinks Lex is, and I get a big smile knowing she is a straight-shooter.
We go through the swimsuit competition, Lex nails it. Next up, the evening gown competition. The gowns are gorgeous, but again, Lex nails it. We are all beaming watching Lex absolutely crush the competition.
Unassuming, kind, no experience, and no concept of ever being Miss Nebraska USA. She was just trying to make a name for herself with her nutrition business as Lauren suggested. She spent the prior three months getting her stage swimsuit body in perfect shape. She saved her last dime for the most beautiful gown. Her ambition was driven by her wanting success after graduating college. Lex has no idea that her friends and family sitting in the fifth row think we know exactly how this will end.
Brad starts announcing the awards. “And the winner for most photogenic is (long pause) Lex Najarian!”
We scream, I whistle like a cheerleader and we are thrilled.
“And the winner of the People’s Choice Award is (another long pause) Lex Najarian!”
We’re dying! She just got two awards!
“And the winner for best interview”-yep you guessed it-”Lex Najarian!”
A broom couldn’t have swept that stage any cleaner than our Lex!
So now we are all in some weird fantasy state of mind and can’t believe this is happening. Suzy, Devon's mom, and I are sobbing. My eyelashes are falling off and I don’t care at this point. I get a text from Jody and she is dying too.
Now for the finale! Brad announces the top five girls. The girls have to stay in the hotel together, two to a room. Lex’s roommate, Rebecca gets called first. We are thrilled for her. Three other girls get called and we are shocked that Lex is not up there. She has won all those awards. She showed on stage like a true veteran. How on earth is she not beside these other girls. Now I’m starting to have the mentality of a “pageant mom!”
We are on the edge of our seats waiting for Brad. “And the final contestant in the top five for Miss Nebraska USA is (a pause that lasted for eternity) LEX NAJARIAN!”
You’re with me right?! Sweating, crying, fixing my eyelashes, all of it!
Then Brad announces the top three. Lex is the first called. We are relieved and still in awe.
Now it’s time for him to eliminate one and announce the top two. Lex is on stage with the two girls who Jody said would “probably win”, so my heart is pounding.
Brad announces “Terra Young and Lex Najarian!” Jody really thought Samantha Washington was going to win, but she came in third runner-up.
So now it’s down to two. Terra and Lex are standing center stage. Here’s the surprise, Lex. She has done this all of her life. Full of surprises like I said in the beginning. Now she is standing on stage, part of a whole new world that no one would have ever have pegged her to be a part of. Win or not, Lex told me that she already had an incredible experience with a new group of women. All of this because Lex Najarian is all about the love. She fit right in with all of those girls and showed them that they can all be unified, no matter the competition. The ones who got past the jealousy could find their way to love our beautiful daughter.
As you may have guessed, Lex was crowned Miss Nebraska USA 2019. When her name was announced, we all screamed. It should come as no shock that I peed my pants. Not a lot, but enough. Do all pageant moms pee their pants and cry off their eyelashes? Jody confirmed, “Yes!”
From there, Lex went on to compete in Miss USA in Reno, Nevada the following May, but didn’t make it all the way. That’s ok because her journey with these girls proved to her that the love she has for others and the love they have for her will last a lifetime.
My daughter, Lex. Mallory, Sydney, and Michelle. These are just a few of the reasons why I’m building My Girlfriendships: so that all of us have the chance to experience the love of having a unified sisterhood.
I love that you were with me today. See you tomorrow!