Finding Worth Beyond Beauty Pageants
By Rod Thomas
The 700 Club
CBN.com -“It was so exciting, because I'd worked so hard for this goal and this dream, but so scary at the same time. I had set it as my goal and I wanted it and I wanted to be Miss America, and I was living that dream.”
Lauren Nelson was raised in Lawton, Oklahoma, where she lived a simple life with her family. In school, she developed a knack for being on stage. “Performing with show choir or musicals. I loved that kind of rush of just live performance.” For Lauren, the stage gave her a place to shine. “I always wanted to be the popular kid; I wanted people to like me. And so I think I did a base my confidence on if people were like happy with me or not happy with me.”
She never thought about being in beauty pageants until high school when some friends talked her into doing them. “I thought, ‘okay, well, it's a place for me to get to sing; maybe could win a little money for college.’ Pageants definitely feed your ego. Especially after you've won a title and then there's a circle of people that make it all about you. Just people saying, ‘yeah, you're going to win, and you're the best.’”
Lauren became Miss Oklahoma, and set her sights on the Miss America title. “I found my total identity in being Miss Oklahoma. First of all, just being successful at it, that people thought I was good enough. Just to know that people that I didn't know, those judges, had judged me all week and thought, ‘okay, she's worthy of that.’"
Lauren’s hard work paid off when she won the 2007 Miss America Pageant. It was a dream come true, but Lauren soon realized she carried a heavy burden. “People wanted to meet Miss America; they didn't really want to know Lauren. On the outside it was literally a dream come true, but on the inside, behind the scenes, it was probably the loneliest time in my life.”
As the year went on, Lauren began to have a change of heart. “When I really started get to go to children's hospitals and see kids and actually see that Miss America can make an impact and can inspire, and brighten somebody’s day; those were the parts that I just loved.”
After her reign ended, Lauren had to prepare for the next phase of her life. “In the beginning of my year I was crying because I was too scared to do it and at the end of it I was boo-hooing because I wanted them to ask me to do it another year. I really thought, ‘what do I do now?’ ‘what is life after Miss America?’ ‘Because I’m 21 and I hope I haven’t peaked.”
On the flight home, Lauren ran into a reporter, Robin Marsh. Over a cup of coffee, the two started a friendship. In time, Robin spoke to Lauren about Jesus. “She invited me to go to church with her and her family. She asked me to do a Bible study in her home with her. I really saw in Robin’s life her living out this relationship with Jesus, and I saw the-difference that it made in her life. I thought, ‘I want what they’ve got, and I need what they’ve got.’”
That’s when Lauren made a decision. “I remember just going in front of the church just broken. It was that day that I fully surrendered everything to Him. That was the day that He took all my shame and all of my guilt and that I felt true forgiveness.”
Today, Lauren is married and speaks to audiences about her time as Miss America and finding her true identity in Christ. “My identity is found in who Jesus says I am now instead of what everybody else thinks of me, because that opinion changes all the time, but God’s opinion of me never changes.”
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