“A pageant? I would never expect that from you.”
This was a common response that I got when I told my friends and family that I made it into the Miss New York Teen Pageant. I am not your stereotypical pageant girl; I rarely wear makeup, I take my medication every morning, I am not popular and I’m far from being a show-off. At first, this was nothing that I would want to take part in. The idea that I would be competing against other girls in categories like beauty, community service hours and how my body looks in a bathing suit was far from inviting. Generally when people think of pageants they imagine a blonde bombshell in a bikini talking about love and world peace. In the past, the pageant winners were made to look beautiful and set an unrealistic image for women in America, both physically and mentally.
Once I completed my phone interview with someone that works for the pageant company, I realized that this title is for someone who is smart, compassionate and confident. The pageant really looks for someone who wants to make a change. So now, I believe that my experience as a pageant girl will be different.
All pageant contestants must have their “platform.” I decided that mine would be suicide prevention and mental health awareness. This topic is a special interest of mine because I’ve always been an activist for mental stability and the process that goes along with healing.
While this is an incredibly sensitive subject, and one that no pageant girl has openly dealt with before, I believe that I can inspire many people that struggle with mental illness. I am open about my battle with depression and anxiety, and it’s not something that I want to hide. My diagnosis does not define me, rather, I let my actions define me. By taking part in my community and reaching out to fellow teens who suffer from similar mental illnesses, I feel that I can inspire others.
By being open about my struggles, I can see changes in others. As a “pageant girl” I am supposed to have a perfect image, but I will be the first to say that this doesn’t benefit anyone. I care about fixing this problem that we have in America, and around the world. Teenagers need to have a role model that is real, and authentic, and part of that is being open about what living life is really like. Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health is something that I am incredibly passionate about.
Incorporating a pageant and an unconventional platform into my life has taught me that I don’t have to fit into one metaphorical box. I don’t fit the pageant girl stereotype that says that I’m supposed to be pretentious and self-centered, but I also don’t fit the stereotype that smart, well-rounded girls don’t have mental illnesses. I want teenagers look at me and think, “It’s okay to struggle.”
My name is Lillian Potter, I am 17 years old and a senior at Chatham High School.
When I was looking for an organization to collaborate with, my older sister, Maya told me about Twill. I am so excited to be working with such an amazing and passionate team to help raise money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Mental Health should be something that we talk about more, and by raising awareness with Twill, I believe that it can be accomplished.