Letter to My 13-Year-Old Self: Wisdom from the Miss Hooters International Pageant

July 17, 2017

Dear Mary:

As I stand here, gazing at you from the future, I am so incredibly proud of who you are and who you will become. It’s challenging when so many people are asking what you would like to be when you grow up, though you are still not even sure who you are right now. That’s okay. There are people here who will love you, encourage you, and inspire you. You will believe in the beauty of their dreams as much as they believe in yours.

I know you often have the feeling that you don’t really fit. You are a fish out of water. I would love to tell you that the feeling subsides, but I still don’t know if it will ever go away. But I can assure you that you will gain a sense of ease about being different. It will become your greatest strength. You will be the fish who grew lungs – a mermaid!

The world you will grow up to live in is one where war and peace, poverty and abundance, hate and love all continue to exist. There will be moments that remind you to always remain hopeful. I spent some time at the Hooters World Wing Eating Championship and Miss Hooters International Pageant last week. It was one of those moments. There is more to the restaurant than chicken wings, as delicious as they are. It’s called “comfort food” for a reason.

Here are a few words of comfort from the future to carry you through time, until you can meet your friends in person.

As you venture into the big, wide world, Miss Albuquerque, Brenna Stever, would like to encourage you to “Step out of your box. Don’t let anything hold you back. Try something new. You can do anything if you try.” Don’t worry about getting it right or perfect the first time. Everyone starts somewhere, unless they are among those who never start at all. You can choose the kind of person you would like to be.

As you try new things, remember to, “Be yourself. Only you can shine your light. Sometimes it might seem dark, but get through the tunnel. People will be asking about what you are doing on the other side if you let your light shine.” The words of Miss Nashville, Destinie Willis will take you back to the moment in time when you lost yourself in other people’s dreams. That, my dear is an experience you will never forget. You will get through it. I promise. Press forward, keep shining because the tunnel will have an end.

When you get through to the other side of the tunnel, you will understand what it truly means when Miss Fort Lauderdale and Miss Hooters International 1st runner-up, Amberly Hall says, “To reach a goal is life-changing.”

Geoff Esper will become one of the many friends you will eat alongside at Major League Eating. He devoured a record-breaking 250 Hooters chicken wings in 10 minutes. His advice for success at the table and in life will determine the goals you are able to reach someday. “Never give up”, he says. “Never give up.”

You have an exciting adventure ahead of you in the coming years! You will experience love, loss, joy, pain, victory, and defeat – these are all part of being human. Welcome the humanity in yourself and you will empower those around you to embrace the humanity in everyone.

In the words of Miss Hooters International (Miss Hollywood), Chelsea Morgensen, “Love your inner-self over anything. Your personality is what makes you beautiful. Follow your dreams. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish something. Outer beauty only gets you so far; inner beauty takes you all the way.”

Keep shining. We believe in you. We’ll see you in 2017.

XO, Mary Signature,

Brenna, Destinie, Amberly, Geoff and Chelsea