I sit here this morning, sipping coffee and watching the sunrise. Pondering all the feelings and thoughts I have after attending my first Miss America Maryland pageant. I'm also pondering why my dog insists on waking me up by putting his paw in my face, but that's neither here nor there.
I went into this event with a few preconceptions but truthfully not knowing what to really expect. I've had the privilege to work with five of the young women competing for this scholarship and was rooting for each of them. Two for Miss Outstanding Teen Maryland, and three for Miss Maryland. I've also been lucky enough to connect with several others through social media. All of them have been a joy to work with and have shown me the next generation is full of bold, energetic, compassionate, caring people. If my generation doesn't screw up the world too much, I think their future will be just fine.
The biggest thing I took away from last night was the genuine love these girls have for each other. As a photographer, I'm an observer by nature. I was in the balcony last night with a prime spot to not only watch the event, but watch the contestants when they were not "on". As each contestant performed their talent, or walked the stage, these girls of a sisterhood would cheer and applaud. The whole crowd of parents/family/friends would cheer for whoever they were there for, but these girls would cheer for their fellow contestants with the same energy and volume that I would expect at a World Cup match. It was touching. As a man, when competing I've been told to hate your opponent and conquer them. But this was the opposite. True love for each other, and that love was palpable.
I have to mention the outgoing Miss Teen Maryland Chloe Wildman. I've gotten to know Chloe and her mom a bit over the past year. To say this young woman is someone special is not giving her enough credit. Her farewell speech was her singing and few things make me cry but her cover of "Never enough" from The Greatest Showman made this old grinch's heart grow three sizes. She walked off stage to a standing ovation. Now that's an exit.
I've had to pleasure of shooting with Kathleen Masek, the outgoing Miss Maryland, and like to call her a friend. Her grace and poise in passing the torch to the new Miss Maryland is something we should all strive for. She is the embodiment of what the Miss America organization stands for.
This was a beauty contest through and through. And I don't mean physical looks. These young women showed what true beauty is. Support, love, grace, and left me with a feeling of joy that I'm still trying to process. It is my greatest hope that I can help contribute, in my own small humble way, to the continued growth of these and future generations of inspiring young women.