Monday, July 1, 2013

That's a Wrap!

After a lot of back and forth, I decided to end this blog. Many of you on Facebook encouraged me to keep it going because "I will always be Miss Georgia 2012." While that is true, I don't feel quite right continuing with a blog that originated around Miss Georgia. We now have a new Miss Georgia (Carly Mathis!), and it is her time to share with you all her experience! However, because I love to write, I started a new blog. Instead of Miss Georgia updates, my posts will now be.... random? We shall see what direction it takes. This specific blog is not getting deleted; I just won't be posting on it anymore. There is a time and place for everything.

I do want to apologize for never posting during Miss Georgia week like promised. I will just say Jameson (Miss Georgia's Outstanding Teen 2012) and I were far busier than we thought we would be! Emceeing the pageant, performing a different dance every night, performing a Bollywood production number every night, having five-seven wardrobe changes each show, and still having "Miss Georgia" duties meant I was in the theater all day, every day. While it was downright exhausting and overwhelming at times, Jameson and I both agreed we would not change it. We really enjoyed being behind the scenes with the contestants all day and seeing how the production comes together. As a contestant, we show up to rehearsal and everything just works. Being on the "other side" during Miss Georgia week gave me a glimpse of production I had not yet seen. You have to appreciate gaining a new perspective on things!

The week was bittersweet to say the least, but again, being so busy was a blessing. It did not allow me the time to sit around and get upset about my year coming to an end. I was beyond impressed with every single contestant during the week in one way or another. Whether it was being respectful in rehearsal, helping another contestant, being sure to smile to those around her, taking a nap when needed, taking care of herself, and even checking in on Jameson and me, each girl did something impressive without trying to be impressive. (I am a big people watcher if you have not yet noticed.)

Other than meeting some great news friends (our two phenomenal guest dancers from Atlanta and our other emcee, Sam Holder), performing with little Tori, and getting my hair and makeup done by Kirsten White all week, one of my favorite parts from the week was my farewell luncheon on Saturday afternoon before final night. It was a great time for reflection as well as fun surprises. My local board (Miss Capital City) gave Jameson and I an all-inclusive, 5-day trip to Cancun! They thought "we needed a break." On top of the Cancun trip, the Miss Georgia board gave me a beautiful silver tea service, and I also found out I got to keep my KIA Optima I drove around during my year. Surprises all around!

I attached my farewell speech I gave to everyone who was in attendance at the luncheon, and really to everyone involved in the Miss America Organization.

At the end of the week, and at the end of final night, I was glad to pass this job on to Carly Mathis, Miss Atlanta 2013. Carly was my first runner-up last year, and I will say time and time again she was probably the most gracious first runner-up anyone could ever have. I think the picture below says more than words ever could. I know Carly will be an admirable Miss Georgia, and I truly look forward to watching her grow throughout this year! I won't lie; "retiring" on Facebook and changing my Twitter/Instagram names was slightly strange. Follow Carly on Twitter @missga13; Instagram @missga2013; Facebook- Carly Mathis.
Carly, it's YOUR time!! Enjoy, my friend.

I leave for Arkansas tomorrow to judge Miss Arkansas's Outstanding Teen, and then it's off to NYC for the Miss New York pageant. Not quite done with having to fix my hair and makeup yet! ;-) 

-Love in Christ,

My new blog:
I transferred a few posts from this Miss Ga blog to the new one just to get it started!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Recap of Miss Georgia 2012 Year

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." -Colossians 3:12

As I went to bed this past Sunday, I realized in two weeks I will be back home from Miss Georgia week and entering a new phase in my life. A phase focused on finishing my nursing degree; a phase centered on slowing down my life a little; a phase dedicated to friendships and relationships; a phase devoted to discovering life without doing a million things at once; a phase committed to full recovery.

We are frequently given fresh starts in life, and we have the choice to take full advantage of these "reset moments," or not. It is so easy to stay in the mundane routine of life and continue living within the comfort of your "normal." Seeing hundreds of pictures from high school graduations brings back the reality that my normal hasn't been what most would consider normal. I didn't go to 8th grade socials and high school homecomings and proms. I didn't wake up Monday-Friday and head to school, spend Friday nights at the football stadium, then spend the weekends being lazy with friends. I didn't have a high school graduation and a typical "move-in" college experience. Instead, I spent all day Monday-Saturday at a ballet studio. At 15 years old, I was living on my own and getting my own paycheck. I danced and performed in many different states; trained with some of the best ballet teachers out there; traveled to China alone with my ballet director to represent America at an international ballet competition in Beijing, China. I was responsible for grocery shopping, car maintenance, my schooling, a career, and things most 15 year olds aren't thinking about. Then at 17 years old, I had to face the reality that the main thing to which I’d dedicated my entire life and sacrificed a "normal teenage life" for would no longer be what it was. I finished my high school credits a year early; began college at 17 years old, maintaining a 4.0 GPA; and won Miss Georgia at 19 years old. Now, at 20, I have traveled over 35,000 miles attending various appearances all over the state of Georgia, met people from all backgrounds and all walks of life, shared my life stories with large crowds, fought through nine months of treatment for an eating disorder I lived with for eight years, and am now getting ready to go to a school that offered me a full ride, four year scholarship to continue my education.

I am so appreciative for the life experiences I've lived thus far. Are they normal? Most would say "no." Are they memorable? Definitely.

Now, in just four days, I leave for Miss Georgia week. This year has been so much more to me than just being Miss Georgia. Never did I think I would have so many mixed emotions about it coming to an end. Not only has it been a year to positively impact those with whom I came in contact, and to build relationships I wouldn’t otherwise have; it has also been a year loaded with “stuff.” Just as people do when a new year rolls around, I have been flooded with memories, regrets, laughs, tears, and shock when I truly take the time to look back on these past 12 months of my life. In the big scheme of life, 12 months is nothing but a blink, but I must say this “blink” might be one of the longest, most significant blinks I will ever experience. 

Here are some bullet points to recap my year:
  • · Favorite appearance: Not sure why I tortured myself by having to narrow it down to one! After a lot of back and forth, I would say the Springer Special Needs Christmas Party was my favorite appearance. As God would have it, after my worst days in recovery, it seemed I would go to a really meaningful appearance. The Springer Opera House party was just that kind of event. Being in a theater packed with special needs children and having the opportunity to love on them and talk with them might stay in the front of my mind for a long, long time.
  • · Worst appearance: Maybe I should clarify and say, “I did my worst” at the Miss Cobb preliminary. It was the first time I had to speak in front of a pageant crowd as Miss Georgia, and I was beyond nervous. The fact I was Miss Georgia had not yet sunk in, and I think it was obvious! Live and learn. :-)
  • · Funniest appearance: Keep Columbus Beautiful! It wasn’t so much the appearance that was funny as it was my chaperones -- Billy Kendall (Miss Georgia executive board member) and Tate Sasser (my beloved business manager). It started with Billy saying the craziest things I’ve ever heard, and it ended with Tate trying to stand up but falling into my arms because her ankle rolled.  Not to forget to mention this happened in front of a big ballroom full of people! Fortunately it ended in laughter.
  • · Scariest appearance: Columbus White Water Rafting. All year I thought it would be the Rattlesnake Roundup, but after being flipped out of my raft, getting caught under it, and not being able to breathe, I don’t think anything could have topped the rafting experience.
  • · Best memory: Praying over the Miss America Class of 2012 every night at Miss America (and the Miss America experience in its entirety).
  • · Worst memory: A set of mock interviews mid-December!! For all mock interviews I had throughout this experience, I would consistently get some 8s, mainly 9s, and some 10s. Well, this one time I BOMBED it! Two of the judges were former Miss Georgias, Christina McCauley (2010) and Emily Cook (2009). I was mortified at how poorly I did. Not to make excuses but to be fair to myself, I had gotten no sleep for the two nights prior, was really struggling in recovery, and just wasn’t having a good day at all. I’m human!
  • · Easiest moment of the year: Second and third week after I won. The first week of shock had worn off and I was caught up on sleep and unpacked; yet the business had not quite started.
  • · Hardest moment of the year: Finding a balance between Miss Georgia appearances, Miss America prep, treatment time, family, me time, etc.
  • · Chaperone Who Became Family: The Miss Georgia Organization is SO lucky to have so many willing and giving chaperones all over the state. This was very hard to decide, but I have to say Mary and Ray Walker took me in like I was their own child. I will always be grateful to everyone who similarly took me under their wing this year.
  • · Best advice I was given: From Galen: “Just be Leighton.” Simple, I know, but something I so desperately needed to hear.
  • · Longest time in the car for an appearance: Nine hours. I drove down to Savannah for an hour-long event and came home right after.
  • · Most embarrassing moment: Signing the National Anthem at the Falcons game when they played the New Orleans Saints. Long story short: I was wearing close-fitting black leather pants. I squatted down to get my shoes out of my closet before leaving my house. I heard a little tear, but as is the case when I am rushing, I don’t always pay attention to things like that. I got to the Georgia Dome and situated in my dressing room. The event coordinator came to tell me I had rehearsal on the field in ten minutes. I nodded excitedly and said “okay!” Well, something just didn’t quite feel right. I looked down at my lap and realized my pants seam had ripped…and ripped BADLY. I had no needle, thread, or safety pins. I quickly began brainstorming about what in the world I was going to do. I only had ten minutes, so I knew I needed a quick fix. Thankfully I knew one of the Falcons Cheerleaders, so I stood up and wobbled (not letting my legs separate) out of my dressing room, making my way to the cheerleader’s dressing room. As I am awkwardly wobbling out my door and into the hallway looking down at my Falcons pass, I run into (and I mean run directly into) Ludacris and his security entourage. Oopsies! The security team all stood up really straight and stared at me, wondering why I was getting so close to Ludacris. I felt like saying “Uh, hello! I really don’t care about Ludacris right now. I just need some help with my pants please!” Instead I just started laughing and said “Whoops. Sorry about that!” and continued to the cheerleader’s dressing room. I walk in and introduce myself saying “Hi, I am Miss Georgia and my pants are really ripped.” Classy, right? I ended up with about 20 small safety pins lining the seam of my pants and crossing my fingers they would all stay closed. The night went on splendidly and the pants were retired immediately afterwards.
  • · Most memorable thing someone said to me: Other than people telling me I helped encourage them to seek a growing relationship with Christ, a little girl told me this after I opened up about battling an eating disorder: “I have watched you all day and thought I could never be Miss Georgia because I’m not perfect. But now, knowing you aren’t perfect, I know I don't have to be perfect to inspire others like you have inspired me.” That moment changed my life.
  • · Strangest thing someone said to me: I can’t remember all the crazy things, but I always find it interesting when moms ask me to sign pictures for their sons and say “can you write something like ‘Want to come home with me? and put a big heart on there?” Yikes!!
  • · Total number of miles on my KIA Optima: About 35,000
  • · Total number of times I was pulled over: ZERO!!! I think I might be the first Miss Georgia in years (decades?) to make it through my year without getting pulled over. If I make it to 21 years old, I will have made it six years with no police lights behind me. (Knock on wood!)
  • · Number of car incidents: One. Flat tire, and I mean FLAT. Also, no spare tire in the trunk when it happened!
  • · Best thing about being Miss Georgia: The unexpected opportunities to brighten someone’s day just because “Miss Georgia hugged me” or “Miss Georgia just gave me advice” or “Miss Georgia listened to my story.” Not that I understand it, but people (adults and children) seem to be surprised when someone in a public role takes the time to listen and engage in a conversation.
  • · Worst thing about being Miss Georgia: The pressure you constantly feel; body, hair, makeup, clothes, FB/Twitter/Instagram posts, everything we say, etc. Not only because you are in the public eye, but also because of the endless criticism that comes from some people. As I have learned, you can’t please everyone!
  • · Most stressful time of my Miss Georgia year: The month of December! I get exhausted just thinking about it. Sessions with my trainer (Stephen Smith) three times a week, individual gym sessions on the other days, talent rehearsal four times a week, wardrobe alterations and wardrobe appointments, packing, mock interviews and round table discussions, Miss Georgia appearances, and treatment!
  • · Main thing I learned about life as Miss Georgia: There are truly some really, really good people out there with no hidden agenda whatsoever. It just takes you being open to find them.
  • · Main thing I learned about myself as Miss Georgia: Just how strong I am (and I am still learning it).
  • · Most annoying thing about being Miss Georgia:  This might seem trivial, but I am tired of fixing my hair and doing my makeup! As I posted on Twitter and FB earlier, this year has taken away any and all desire to ever fix my hair again! Good thing my career will allow me to wear scrubs, tennis shoes, and my hair in a pony tail :-) (I mean this in a laughing matter)
  • · Thing I regret most: Always trying to be a better Miss Georgia and do more while not taking time to step back and just be proud of who I am in the present moment. 
As you can see, what a ride it has been! I am going to post a blog about the 2013 Miss Georgia contestants (what they are up to, how they’re holding up, etc.) during Miss Georgia week, but I am sad to say this is my last post pertaining to my year as Miss Georgia. One girl’s life is about to change more than she could ever know or prepare for, and I will enjoy sitting out of the spotlight watching her grow and take it all in.

A huge thank you to all that have made this year what it has been.

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

-In Christ,
Leighton Jordan
Forever and Always Miss Georgia 2012

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Miss Georgia update!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." -Colossians 3:17

Life has been a little hectic recently, hence the lag between posts. It is hard to believe in just four weeks from now I will be a "former Miss Georgia." I have been busy getting together four different dances for Miss Georgia week, writing my "thank yous" and my farewell speech, going through 500+ pictures from this year to make my farewell slideshow, getting things together for the new Miss Georgia, and trying to wrap my mind around going back to school in August!

I wanted to use this post to update everyone on all the media links since I opened up about my struggle with bulimia and to share some appearances I've gone to recently. 

The outpouring of love, support, and encouragement has been mind blowing this past month. It is never easy coming out so publicly admitting our struggles, no matter what they are. My hope, whether on a small or large scale, was that my vulnerability would be an example to young girls and boys that no one is perfect; that my openness would allow young girls and boys, and even men and women, to find the courage to tell their stories and to share their battles. The past month I have experienced the empowerment that comes from living in a vulnerable place. It is not easy and it is not too comfortable, but it is freeing in a way. I have received a countless number of texts, emails, FaceBook messages, and Tweets from people in all walks of life offering either support, understanding, or validation. My "hope" in all of this became reality. A huge thank you to all who have reached out! I praise God for letting me know the perfect time to speak publicly about this. His timing is always perfect....

My Dee Armstrong interview is not available online yet.

I am also working with HLN/CNN to schedule a national interview, but between the Jodi Arias Trial, other national news, and my schedule, it has been difficult to find a set date. I will keep you all posted!

I’ve also gotten to make many personal appearances since my last update:
•   Father/Daughter dance in Columbus, Ga
•   Miss America homecoming in NYC- One of the most fun things I have done all year. I am so lucky to be so close with my Miss America Sisters.
•   Heart Connections Mentoring Program in Eastman, Ga.
•   Little Miss Troup County
•   Emceeing the Miss Creekview Pageant with Tori (Mini Miss Georgia)
•   Prom Prep event in Barnesville, GA- Incredible afternoon.
•   CMNH ‘celebrity grocery bagger’ at Kroger in Rome, GA. I am terrible! I think I broke every "grocery bagging" rule possible. Oops! But it was fun, for a great cause.
•   Pumps for Pets in Atlanta – We are blessed with so many talented Local Titleholders!
•   CMNH Atlanta Hawks event - Again, not so good! My ball and hoop coordination is nonexistent. 
•   Rose Show Parade and Festival in Thomasville, GA - a lovely weekend.
•   Rally on the Runway in Atlanta for the Rally Foundation - SO heartwarming to watch children fighting for their lives strut their stuff on the runway.
•   Judge for "Dancing Stars of South Georgia" benefiting the Alzheimer's Association in Tifton
•   Emcee for Keep Columbus Beautiful
•   Miss Georgia Nursing Home Pageant!! A 95-year old lady's life advice to me was "laugh a lot. Have tons of fun. It's gone too soon." Amen.
•   Jesup, performing with Miss Georgia's Outstanding Teen, Jameson Kenerly
•   Duke of Endinburgh Gala in Nashville, TN – An amazing time with no sleep!! I never thought I would meet royalty, but Prince Edward proved me wrong. Another once in a lifetime opportunity. It was also great to see some of the other state titleholders, and so fun hanging out with Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013, and Chandler Lawson, Miss Tennessee 2012, (literally) all night long.
•   Miss America by Catalina promotions at two different Walmarts. Crazy funny moments, but also lots of very sweet opportunities to speak with children.

I will post at least one more blog before Miss Georgia week. Cannot believe it is coming so quickly!! Thanks again to all the wonderful supporters throughout the state. I am honored to represent for your love, support and kindness during the last year and especially during the past few months.

Enjoy these two collages....
                                                  Some of my favorite moments

Proof this job is so, so fun!

-Love in Christ,

"I am enough just as I am,
unfinished, imperfect, uncertain of the road I choose, 
yet, certain that I must continue. I cannot go back.
I am not enough for some, and too much for others,
I struggle with myself, I wrestle with fear, I avoid the parts of me
that are unavoidable.
Yet, I want to hide no more. I am alive, I know because I feel.
In my eyes,
I am damaged, hurting, healing, and in need of improvement.
But in the eyes of God,
And in the place where grace abides,
I know I am enough." -unknown

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Being Miss Georgia While Going Through Recovery (my full story)

*To preface this post- this is a very personal struggle I have decided to open up about. I ask with all due respect that it not be turned and twisted into anything unconstructive. This message is intended to help others who might need it. Media interviews started this week, so I wanted to make sure I got an outline of my experiences out there so people will have the full truth from me before they hear it anywhere else. (I received approval from the Miss America offices and Miss Georgia offices to speak about my story)

“Well, everybody's got a story to tell/ And everybody's got a wound to be healed/ I want to believe there's beauty here/ 'Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on/ I can't let go, I can't move on/ I want to believe there's meaning here”

Wow, have I found the beauty and the meaning while standing in the middle of a path I didn’t plan. I wondered for so long how I got to where I was, and I kept trying to hear His still, small voice. I asked Him over and over to please take this burden away from me, I asked Him to free me of this battle. It has been a battle that most did not have a clue existed, and a battle I sincerely planned on keeping quiet. It has been a battle I have fought every second of every day; a battle I wish on no one; a battle that makes me stand much stronger now than I did before.  I am a fighter for my life, for my health, for my wellbeing, and for His truth in me.

I write this blog post to inform you of something I feel is important to share. I open up only with hopes that my story will inspire someone else or save their life… even if it is just one person. If you followed my journey to the Miss America stage, you might already know I suffered and recovered from an eating disorder (anorexia) when I was much younger. That is a struggle and victory about which I have spoken openly.

What you don’t know, however, is that I only experienced freedom for a very short amount of time. I have secretly struggled with an eating disorder for many years now. When I won Miss Georgia in June, I sincerely wanted to enjoy every single aspect of this journey, but I knew that would not be possible if I did not seek professional help. I accepted that it would not just stop all on its own. I stopped living in denial and entered myself into treatment for bulimia at the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders (ACE):

Going through recovery while being Miss Georgia and preparing for Miss America at the same time proved to be the most difficult time of my life. Many of you watched me prepare for Miss America and make appearances across the state with a smile on my face.  Yet you didn’t see the battle I constantly fought in my head; the hours I spent in treatment between traveling; the tears, frustration, and confusion that filled my nights. It was easily the most exciting, yet the darkest time of my life.

After competing in Miss America, my freer schedule allowed me to significantly increase the hours I went to ACE. Between the countless number of hours I spent in treatment, and the hard work, persistence, and resilience I put into recovery, I am confidently able to say I am entering into the tail end of my recovery. It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been glamorous, but it has been so completely worth it. For the first time since I was 12 years old, I am beginning to feel free -- completely and totally free.

After taking a good look at myself and really trying to understand the magnitude of His ultimate sacrifice in giving His one and only son to forgive our brokenness, I began to understand and accept that I still needed to release some important things to Him. While I have given Him much of my life, I still held onto my body image and it wreaked havoc on me. But now, I can fully accept that I am indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made.” That I am “beautiful (PS 45:11), important (1 Peter 2:9), forgiven (PS 103:12), unique (PS 139:13), empowered (Phil 4:13), protected (PS 121:3), strong (PS 68:35), and lovely (DAN 12:3).”

I feel it is also important to recognize this eating disorder did not start because of my involvement in the Miss America Organization. Did competing in pageants help my recovery? I would say no, but it certainly was not the start of this. Eating disorders often begin when a deeper need isn’t being met: mine was the strive for an unrealistic sense of perfection beginning at 12-years old, among other things.

I write this to also encourage young girls and boys, and everyone for that matter, to be okay with who you are and where you are in your life while trying to better yourself. We often only focus on how we can be better without appreciating who we are in the present moment. I cannot begin to count the number of times people say, “You look like you have the perfect life,” or “You are perfect.” The truth is no one is perfect, and almost everyone is going through something; whether it is seen by the naked eye or not. Because I have fought an eating disorder, I indisputably know what it feels like to really hurt. To wake up every single day and work for something, yet feel like you’ve accomplished nothing. I know what it feels like to feel helpless and hopeless; to feel alone; to actually just not feel at all. Most importantly, I also know what it feels like to be lifted up after barely hanging on for so long. Glorious! Am I fully recovered? Not yet. I still go to treatment; I still battle this disorder on a daily basis, but I still hang on. I know relapse is a common part of recovery, but I promised myself months ago I would never give up, and I won’t.

To those of you currently fighting for something, those who are hurting and feel like giving up, those who are angry at themselves, God, and/or others, those who want the battle to be gone, and those who are crying out for help, you are not alone. Keep hanging on, keep fighting, and keep searching for the silver lining (even if you have to look through clouds of thick black dust). Your time of deliverance is coming. Mine took years, but wow, it was worth it. It was worth the many tears, confusing depression, and constant frustration.

To those who have an eating disorder or think you might have one -- reach out for support and seek professional help. It is not something for which you should feel shame. I waited too many years before entering treatment because I thought it meant I was weak. I felt ashamed and guilty. I am here to tell you, it is okay. We all have needs. We all struggle. Eating disorders are deadly, and they are not something you can recover from on your own. If you think you might be struggling, take this free assessment from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) website.

-Love in Christ,

“‘Cause I am found, I am Yours/ I am loved, I'm made pure/ I have life, I can breathe/ I am healed, I am free./// ‘Cause You are strong, You are sure/ You are life, You endure/ You are good, always true/ You are light breaking through”

Additional Resources:
-Eating Disorders Information Network (EDIN):
-Page Love, MS, RD, LD, CSSD, President of Nutrifit Sport Therapy Inc.: