Miss Volunteer America Week has come and gone and it was a whirlwind of celebrations and sparkles and an incredible class of young women that made us ALL so proud as they represented their states with such grace and poise! It's so rewarding to see all of their hard work along with the dedication and effort from our board all come to fruition in one incredibly glamorous, exhausting and oh-so-worth it week!
I loved hosting our inaugural #CrownClub Presented by Sherri Hill for our live Pre-Show with our beautiful contestants as well as our Live Post Show with the preliminary award winners! We were able to also share social media wrap ups on our feed from the #CrownClub to give snapshots of the preliminary winners and what to expect in the next night of competition.
Congratulations to Hannah Perrigin from Mississippi, your new Miss Volunteer America 2024! Be sure to follow along at @missvolunteeramericapag to see what she's up to next during her reign and for updates from her and the Miss Volunteer America Pageant family.
I can't wait to see everyone next year in June 2024 for the Miss Volunteer America pageant and in March 2024 for the Miss Teen Volunteer America pageant!
All my love,
The last 24 hours have been a total whirlwind and I am so humbled and thankful for this new opportunity — I truly don’t even know where to begin describing my gratitude!!
Rodney Hullender, I love you so much and wouldn’t be the woman I am today without your love, guidance and support. Thank you for letting me be your girl long after our chapter with Scenic City and for always being in my corner — you are so much more than a director, you’ve become one of my dearest friends that I think of as family and I wouldn’t trade you for the world. You are truly a God send in my life!
Mom & Dad, I feel so blessed to have two of the most supportive parents on the planet and I love you both so much. Thank you so much for Travelling to support me and for being the loudest cheerleaders EVER!!
Lu Sierra, thank you so much for being an amazing host and coach! I love you dearly and I’m so grateful for you! Thank you so much for always being
Keith Pittman & Lasting Impressions, thank you for your generosity and sponsorship, I am so thrilled we get to work together this year!!
Paige Dennis & Joann’s crew, thank you so much for making sure my wardrobe is as fab as always! You always make me feel like a queen!
Neely, Delaney & the AIM team / Volunteers, I am so thrilled to be a part of this crazy ride for the next year and that we’ve already hit the ground running! I can’t WAIT for all that’s in store— after we catch up on our sleep this week 😂
To All of our incredible sponsors, thank you SO VERY MUCH for donating your time, resources and energy in an effort to make this the best year for each of the 6 queens — we promise to use every part of what you’ve given us to make this the most successful year possible!
I’m so thrilled to be your FIRST ever America’s Ideal Miss! Follow my journey at @americas.ideal.miss on Instagram and on Facebook, and stay tuned for updates on what my five new little sisters and I are up to next!
I can't begin to express how much my heart is overflowing with gratitude for all of your love and support!
All my love,
P.S. see below for the full crowning moment!
I posted about this a few years back but I thought I would re-post this as a way of sharing my heart and where my name come from for my friends & followers that may not know! I hope you enjoy the read!
All my love,
A question I get from quite a few people through the years is "Is your Name Really Christine Electra?'
Why yes, yes it is! Thank you for asking!
It's not a stage name, it's a family name. (That question cracks me up!)
I often get asked this question with attitudes of disbelief and speculation, so I thought what a better way to clear the confusion than to thoroughly explain my middle name.
If you've ever met my dad, Steve, he's one of the few people that calls me Electra, like it's my first name, or Christine Electra, like a double name.
My family takes great pride in the fact that I was chosen to be named after my Great Grandmother, Mary Electra, also known as "Mimi Lec".
Mary Electra was a matriarch of our family, from what I've been told since I was born.
I never had the chance to meet this incredible woman.
She passed away before I was born.
Dad always describes Mimi Lec as the woman everyone wanted to be around.
Everyone in my family describes her a as a class act, the definition of a true lady.
The whole neighborhood wanted to come over to the Williamson's house after school because Mimi Lec made her home welcome to everyone. I'm told there was always a crowd at her house. She wanted to feed anyone that came through her front door and wanted her entire family to feel loved.
You couldn't walk in the Williamson House without hearing someone say "I Love You!" at least four or five times. Mimi wanted her family to know they were always loved.
Mimi was very religious. She took her faith seriously and wanted her relationship with Christ to be as real and as intimate as her relationships with her family was.
Mimi Lec could barely say the name of Jesus without crying.
That's how real her relationship with Christ was.
The men in Mimi's life took care of her out of love and respect.
My grandfather, Papa, bought her one of the nicest cars she had ever owned, a Cadillac, because she wasn't able to afford one. Papa wanted her to have one. He wanted his mother to have only the best. Her husband made sure she always had everything she needed and lived a comfortable life. Her husband wanted the mother of his children to have everything she wanted. My dad, her grandson, adored her and spent as much time with her as he could. Hearing him tell stories about her is always so heartwarming. His eyes light up and he could go on for hours about his beloved Mimi Lec.
One word my family always uses to describe my great grandmother is "precious."
She was selfless.
She was kind in her words to anyone and everyone.
She was classy and poised.
She was elegant and carried herself with grace.
She was loving to everyone she met.
I'm proud to carry her name as my own now and honored my family chose this name for me.
So yes, my name is Electra!
I hope I make my family proud every day that they chose me to carry on this incredible woman's name.
And I hope I make my great grandmother proud. I hope she's smiling down at me from heaven.
I hope I can be half of the woman she was one day.
So yes, my name IS Christine Electra, and I am so glad you asked!
The Miss Tennessee USA 2021 pageant will take place on
Friday, March 12th & Saturday, March 13th at Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Mississippi
— to purchase tickets & for more info visit misstennesseeusa.com!
If you are attending we would love for you to be in the #CrownChristine section!
Tag me in your photos and pictures and comment on this post if you are coming!
If you can’t make it, but still want to watch you can Stream Online at Home at pageantslive.com - just click on the webcast link for Miss TN USA!
The competition will take place March 12 & 13-
on Friday, March 12th the Preliminary Competition will start at 9:00 p.m. CST / 10:00 p.m. EST And the final competition will take place Saturday, March 13th at 5:00 p.m. CST / 6:00 p.m. EST.
I cannot WAIT to get to Tunica for the pageant— I hope to see y’all there too!!
I'm overwhelmed with all the love and support I've already received and I can't begin to thank you all enough for your encouragement and kindness!
I'm so excited to get back onstage and I hope to make you all proud!
All my love,
I can’t believe these are really sitting in front of me —
I am so beyond grateful for the chance to have pursued and obtained my two post graduate degrees!
I’m writing this with tears in my eyes and my heart bursting with appreciation and gratitude for this achievement. Some days the assignments and courses felt overwhelming and impossible, but the encouragement and support from so many wonderful people definitely kept me going! I love the saying that “You won’t always have motivation, but you can decide to have the discipline.” — this experience has definitely given me a new appreciation for just what kind of discipline it takes to achieve my goals. To everyone who believed in me and made this achievement a possibility and a reality, you have my undying gratitude and inexplicable thanks!
The Miss Tennessee Volunteer Scholarship Pageant gave me this opportunity and I am so grateful for the almost $50,000 in scholarship to be able to graduate debt free! And of course for the incredible team behind @sceniccitypageants that made all of this possible!
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga gave me the support, flexibility and standards of academic excellence in each and every class. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding experience in pursuing these degrees!
My mom was the first in her family to obtain her Master’s Degree - you’ve taught me to not just be the exception to the rule, but to be exceptional in the first place. I Love you so much mom.
My dad was the first in his family to attend college and receive his bachelor’s degree. He’s always been there to encourage me and push me to be my best, even when its hard.
This still doesn’t feel real. I can’t wait to get these frame and hung ASAP!!!!
I can’t believe That it has been two entire years since the night my life changed forever. In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday that I was crowned Miss Tennessee 2018, and in other ways it feels like a lifetime ago!
For those of you that have followed me, you know that I had a completely unprecedented year.
There was a change in leadership within the Miss America Organization (that I represented as a state titleholder) and a large shift in structural organization within the organization that didn't sit quite right with many people, myself included.
Many of you know that while I competed in the Lifestyle & Fitness (also known as "Swimsuit") competition at Miss Tennessee 2018, the National Pageant of Miss America would decide that they would not have that portion of competition. So rather than delay the shift or announce how the scoring changes would happen, they chose instead to implement the changes for state titleholders at the national competition.
That was probably the smallest part of controversy I dealt with during my year-- but that's not what I want to reflect on in this post. (We can talk more about that another time!)
Instead, I want to reflect on what my year truly was. I was able to have a year of meaningful service.
I was able to have 365 days of making an impact and inspiring people and intentionally setting out to accomplish the goals I set for myself so that I could look back and know I gave my year of service my everything.
It’s hard to put into words just what a priceless opportunity my year as Miss Tennessee was, and how grateful I am for all the moments that changed my life forever. I am still so honored to have been a part of the incredible sisterhood and to have held two incredibly prestigious state titles with the support of so many wonderful people that made such a phenomenal year possible!
Reflecting on what my year, I looked back at some of the goals I set for myself, and some accomplishments I didn't consciously decide to work towards and attain. But this position is so unique and incredible, it genuinely changes you for the better in more ways than I can put into words. I also wanted to reflect on some of the lessons I learned during this time and how grateful I am for the 365 days of the most amazing year I could have ever asked to experience!
(1) Traditionally, Miss Tennessee visits roughly 50,000 students during her year of service.
I'm proud to say that with a lot of planning and a tremendous amount of help executing those plans with my business Manager Rachel Nall & my Executive Director Allison DeMarcus, I was able to break that record and speak to OVER 70,000 Students!
That's something I will always be proud of and would do all over again in a heartbeat- without question!!
The impact you are able to have on students in this incredibly unique position is hard to put into words. More than that, I will always treasure each moment from my school visits — each one of the thousands of children I met left an impact on my heart that I will take with me forever.
What an awesome responsibility, an incredible privilege, and an even greater honor to get to impact the lives of so many little ones and to teach them about respect — from Memphis all the way to Mountain City!
One of the most powerful things I found, was sharing my story about going through my education through college being undiagnosed with ADHD, Dyslexia, an Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyscalculia (think Dyslexia with numbers). One of the things I loved the most was seeing students’ eyes light up when they realized I wasn’t perfect, and they understood that because of sharing my vulnerabilities and shortcomings.
I loved sharing with them how I failed math three years in a row, and had to take summer school. for the longest time it felt so impossible for me to share this “failure” that if felt so ashamed of for so long.
But what I found that was in sharing my vulnerabilities and struggles, and sharing how I overcame them through asking for help… I was able to see how these students realized they didn’t have to be perfect to succeed. I feel as though I’ve left a piece of myself in each of the schools I visited. I would end up leaving every ounce of energy I had with those children at the end of the day and be exhausted by the time school was over! But I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I would drive every mile, visit every school and give every hug I could all over again and then some!
(2) I was able to travel over 80,000 miles across our state and to discover new and beautiful parts of Tennessee I never would have otherwise discovered and experienced!
It was incredible to get to see beautiful parts of our state I would never otherwise get to see.
(3) I was able to visit all five Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in Tennessee!
I loved my visits to each and ever hospital. I always brought a crown so that the patients could try them on it on if they wanted to and I loved having "coronation moments" and letting them wear my sash along with the crown!
I brought crowns and scepters and tiaras for patients that wanted them and superhero capes / masks for all my little heroes as well as stuffed animals for patients that needed a cuddly buddy. I loved getting to sign autographs for each and every patient and seeing their eyes light up when they saw I would make sure I had it addressed individually with their name(s)!
(4) I was able to promote my platform of Alzheimer's Awareness as a National Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Association, a Captain for state wide teams for the Walk2EndAlz and even having the chance to Visit Retirement Homes across the state.
(5) I was able to make history by being the first woman in Tennessee to hold two prestigious state titles simultaneously. While I chose to accept the position of the first Miss Tennessee Volunteer, I still retained the title of Miss Tennessee America 2018. Even though I chose not to use the name and marks of Miss Tennessee America any longer, that did not retroactively remove me from history or take away my rights to use the name and marks or to take away the title, name and privileges that I rightfully earned and was selected to use and execute.
That said, while I may not agree with the way MAO leadership handled things, I do support each woman that continues to be a part of the organization of her choosing, be that Miss America or Miss Volunteer America,
whatever she deems as what is best for her personally and what will help her reach her goals!
I am so thrilled for Kerri Arnold, Miss Tennessee Volunteer 2019 to continue serving and visiting schools during these unprecedented times and so admire her for her poise and grace during this crazy time in our country.
You can follow Kerri's Journey on Instagram and Facebook by clicking these links in the post.
I also am so thrilled for my friend Brianna Mason, Miss Tennessee America 2019, who made history by being the first ever African American Miss Tennessee (America)!! Brianna has always been so kind when we have competed together in the past and I am beyond thrilled for her to continue her year of service- You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook by clicking these links!
(6) I learned a lot about loyalty and trust.
treatment from MAO
You can read more about that in my previous blog post
Treatment from Allison, Jane & Amy and the entire board that I was originally crowned with and have known for years
(7) I learned that I'm stronger than I ever realized.
My year as Miss Tennessee was the most difficult and most rewarding year of my life
I wanted to use every moment of my year to the fullest and to know that I gave every part of myself to a year of my life that means so very much, but more than that, (I hope) means just as much to many more people.
What an honor to serve my great state of Tennessee — I will always be grateful for the chance to make a change for good, because every moment of this journey changed me for the better too.
To tell you a little bit about my journey that led me here,
I want to explain what the last few years have been like.
I began competing for the title of Miss Tennessee six years ago, as a seventeen-year-old high school senior. I never could have imagined that one day, I would obtain two prestigious state titles in one year! I had never competed in a pageant before and had no idea what I was getting myself into… but after my first competition, I was bitten by the pageant bug and fell head over heels in love with this amazing program.
I competed in 6 preliminary competitions until I won my first title of Miss Memphis, when I had just turned 18 and was a freshman at the University of Mississippi.
My first year at Miss Tennessee, I didn’t even crack the top 15—it was a huge learning curve and I had a lot to understand before I could handle the job that this title requires!
The next year, I won a preliminary title in Johnson City, more than 8 hours from my hometown in Memphis. My mom and I didn’t even know where Johnson City was when we found out about the pageant—but we found out there was a $5,000 Scholarship involved and a massive prize package, so off to Johnson City we went! That year I learned so much about what it was like to travel from one end of Tennessee to the other, what kind of planning and commitment that takes, and learned so much about what the job entails and how much preparation is involved with a responsibility like this.
That year I placed 2nd runner up to Miss Tennessee, and was even able to go to the Miss America pageant to cheer for Hannah Robison as she placed in the top 7 and represented our state that year.
The following year I held another title in the Johnson City area, returned to Miss Tennessee, and placed 3rd runner up. I was devastated that year – I felt like I’d gone backwards—I thought I’d still worked hard, what had I done wrong? I took some time to reflect and make a decision, and decided that I wanted this job. And I my desire to achieve my dreams was stronger than my fear of failure.
So that year, I won the title of Miss Scenic City and represented the Chattanooga area at Miss Tennessee. That year I was able to graduate from College debt free, because of the more than $49,000 in scholarship I’ve earned thus far from participating in Tennessee’s program. That summer, I came back to Jackson and placed 1st runner up.
As a new college graduate, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, and I’d known that I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree, but I didn’t think I’d be pursuing it immediately – but thanks to the $10,000 I won that year, I was able to go on to my Master’s degree that fall. I made my decision, took the GRE, called UT Chattanooga’s admission office, found an apartment, and moved two weeks later after making that decision, all the way to Chattanooga – 5 hours from my family – and began in the Master’s of Business program as well as the data analytics certification program.
I knew about five people when I moved to Chattanooga and it was, by far, one of the biggest risks I have ever taken. So while I’d made the decision and applied to UTC’s graduate program…I was really going on a whim, in some sense. I remember getting the email that I had been accepted as I was at a stoplight before getting on the interstate to drive to my new home—talk about a leap of faith, haha!
That year I grew more than I knew possible.
I earned the title of Miss Chattanooga and worked day and night to understand and execute the job of Miss TN (Volunteer) on a local level, so that I could know day to day, what it takes and know that when I entered the state competition, that I was ready and I could handle it. I visited our local CMN Hospital of Erlanger Children’s ever other week, I interned with our local Alzheimer’s Association office, I worked part time and went to class, and I prepared every single day so that I could be ready for this job.
This past summer, I was so excited that work finally paid off and I was chosen to be Miss Tennessee. Now a lot has happened between last June and now, but I am so thrilled to be back in Jackson with the same people I began this journey with, and with more pride and faith in this program than ever.
Jackson, Tennessee has truly felt like home to me this year. I have felt so embraced by the community here, by the people I see when I’m out running an errand, or when I’ve been appearing in an official capacity, it’s always felt like coming home. I am a proud West Tennessean, but grew up about an hour down the road in Memphis--
and I love my hometown, but I have been so overwhelmed by the compassion and kindness I’ve been shown in this city.
I don’t know of any other city that could have embraced this program quite like Jackson has. The volunteers give up their vacation time to help run the dressing room, or zip us into our gowns, or to make sure we’re safe and taken care of… I have truly felt so embraced over the last 6 years and so welcomed every time I came to Jackson.
Pageant week was and will always be something I’ve looked forward to,
because I knew I could always find a friend or familiar face, no matter where I went or what I was doing in Jackson.
To those of you that sponsor and support our program,
I want to thank you for all you do by supporting and donating to this program.
You all know that you change the life of one young woman who is chosen to wear this *FABULOUS AND NEW!* crown each year as the new Miss Tennessee (Volunteer)...
but you change the lives of each of the young women sitting in here today.
More than that, you enable them to change the lives of communities in our state.
You enable them to better their own lives… but to better the lives of the people they live with and work with and go to school with…
By believing in the education and mobilization of young women,
you are believing in their future and in our state’s future.
By touching just one life through your support of this program,
you are impacting hundreds, if not thousands, more. I can attest to that in my own life, after this last year on my statewide school tour where I spoke about “RESPECT” as the Governor’s Character Education Spokesperson.
By believing in me and supporting my year of service…
This year you allowed me to speak to more than SEVENTY thousand children across our great state.
(70,381 to be exact!! ... but who's counting?)
This year, I travelled more than 80,000 miles to speak to students all across our state about the Character trait of respect, and why that’s important in their own personal lives and relationships.
We talked about the importance of respecting our friends—to stand up for our friends and to treat them the way that we want to be treated, to be respectful to our families, even when that’s hard, and to respect ourselves by making good choices.
I talked to them about the decisions they make day to day, and how they are the only people that truly live with the consequences of their actions—and that they are the only ones who can decide what choices they will make for themselves.
I remember one time, I had a little girl yell out, after we’d talked about outcomes of actions, at the top of her lungs, “YOU MEAN LIKE KARMA?!!!”
It’s REALLY amazing what they pick up at such a young age?? She isn't wrong!
I’ve had some hilarious experiences this year when I speak at our schools – I usually speak about respecting our Friends, Our families, and then ourselves.
Every now and again I have a student ask “But what about respecting God and Jesus?” which is the cutest thing EVER.
But I have also had countless experiences that remind me why this position matters so much, and why this program matters so much. Not just to me or the volunteers you see here today, or even just to the women competing, but to the thousands and thousands of people that are impacted by this position every single year.
In Claiborne County, I had one little boy, at my very last presentation of the day—I think it was a six school presentation schedule on that particular day—who sat off to the side in his teacher’s lap during the presentation. And I noticed him off to the side, he didn’t raise his hand when I asked for volunteers, and didn’t raise his hand again when I asked if anyone had questions…
but at the end, as the classes were dismissing he came down to the front and sat on the edge of the bleachers.
So I looked at him and gestured for him to come over, and a couple classmates said “no, Matthew, don’t bother Miss Tennessee!” but I asked little Matthew to come over to me. I crouched down on the ground so I could look him in the eye and asked
“Matthew, did you have any questions for me?” He shook his head no, so I asked again “are you sure? Nothing at all?” he shook his head no again and said “I just wanna go home.” So I said “I’m sorry buddy, do you not feel well? Can I help you find your teacher to tell her?” and he looked up at me and grinned – and said
“No …I wanna go home with YOU!”
and before I knew it, he had put his arms around my neck and jumped into my lap and had his head nuzzled under my chin.
I didn’t expect that reaction, so I was a tad thrown off balance, but I picked up Matthew and walked over to the bleachers and he stayed in my lap for a little while, and told me about his classes and how he liked to play soccer and that he loves dogs that are as big as he is…. Eventually Matthew’s class was dismissed, so I held his hand and walked him over to his teacher where they were lining up.
Matthew squeezed my hand and said “So you’re gonna come back soon, right?”
At this point I want to adopt this little blonde angel so I choked back the tears I felt coming on and answered him, “No sweetie, but I promise you I’m gonna send you a great Miss Tennessee to come visit you next year. And you’re gonna love her! And I promise she will come back to give you hugs and listen to you, I promise.” Matthew nodded and gave me one last hug before running off with his class.
I took a deep breath to keep the tears from escaping, and sat down on the bleachers before it was time to go.
One of the teachers came up to me with tears in her eyes and told me that Matthew was a special needs student who was also a foster child.
He really did want to go home with me. He had gotten in the habit of asking teacher at the school to take him home…until one finally did.
She is now his adoptive mother and Matthew is in a stable, loving home environment.
But that those few minutes of listening and hugs and a very important promise … that meant more to him than she could explain.
And I say all that to say, to whoever is crowned next, whichever one of you sitting in this room that I have the honor to crown…I need you to help me keep that promise.
Because there are thousands of children out there just like Matthew that need you to believe in them.
That need you to hug them and stay later than you expected and longer than you probably wanted—but Miss Tennessee Volunteer – whoever you are—they need you. They might not have anyone at home that is telling them they matter. And that they love them very much. And that they believe in their dreams. I need you to tell them those things and to truly, TRULY believe in them! Because I’ve promised lots of little ones like Matthew that you’re coming.
They’re counting on you. And you have this amazing opportunity to let little boys and girls all across our state know that they can do anything they set their minds to, if they work hard and believe in themselves…because you believe in them.
By believing in me and providing so many opportunities, this program has helped me to develop a vision far beyond what I thought I could achieve. This program has helped me realize what I want to do with my life. That I want to pursue a career in lobbying for healthcare initiatives and educational standards.
You have helped me realized my passions and my purpose by allowing me to excel in this program and the opportunities it has given me!
This year has not only given me the tools to realize my dreams and aspirations, but opened my eyes to the “why” behind it and given me a passion to fuel those dreams and aspirations. You’ve given me the tools to believe in myself, so that I can encourage our children to believe in their dreams too.
By believing in this program, you all are choosing to believe in the young women sitting at your tables today.
You are choosing to believe in the communities they impact through their service.
You are choosing to believe in the children of Tennessee and in our state’s future.
This program is truly the first time I believe in myself and realized what I was capable of achieving, and I do not know where my life would be without this program.
Thank you for helping me believe in myself and my dreams.
But I also want to say Thank you so much for being a part of helping not just me to achieve my dreams, but supporting each and every girl in here to achieve hers, as well.
It feels so good to be back home!
A lot of people have asked me "why" I decided to join the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Program and to not continue the use of my Miss Tennessee America title. I had the chance to share a large portion of that "why" behind my decision at the parents' luncheon last week at the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Pageant and I want to share that in a more public setting on this post with you all.
I decided that the time was appropriate as to not take away attention from the girl that would be crowned Miss Tennessee Volunteer and so that I could adequately put my thoughts together and reflect on what I wanted to share publicly with my personal struggles due to decisions made by MAO leadership without thought or regard for me personally.
I cannot tell you why they chose to blatantly ignore me or why they have not communicated with me since February. I cannot tell you why I felt so disregarded and discarded by the organization I used to admire for so long.
But I can tell you how I was treated by MAO leadership.
I can tell you who has supported me.
I can only tell you what my experience has been and what lead to my decision.
Hopefully, by sharing this, I can lead others to making the right decision for their own journeys as well.
All my love,
I came to this program unsure of who I was and not entirely certain of my life’s direction. This program has helped me find purpose and passion and motivation and so much more. I was 17 when I started competing… I never knew that this program could do so much more than just help me polish my speaking and performing skills. I can honestly say that I do NOT know where my life would be without this program. I do not know that I would have had the opportunities that I have been given, that I would be as motivated and focused as I am, or that I would feel so welcomed and loved and really, just right at home.
One of the "Why's" - My Family
I wouldn’t have been able to survive this year without my amazing family. You have gone above and beyond for me, far beyond what I ever could have asked of you. I never could have imagined that I would face this kind of adversity this year—or that I would have a family that would rise to meet the challenge and be there to catch me when I felt like I was falling. You have helped me guide the most incredibly challenging year of my life-- you have supported me when I needed a shoulder to cry on or a hug or even helping me find and pay for an attorney! I am so grateful God gave me such an incredible family that loves me unconditionally and has supported me each and every day since embarking on this brave, new journey all the way until its completion. I love you all so much!
But one of the main reasons for "why"....
This (Miss Tennessee Volunteer) organization has truly become a part of my family. I see so many familiar faces today when I look out at all of you, and I know that I wouldn’t be able to stand up here today and speak without your support of this program. I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the more than 70,000 children I spoke to this year. I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the more than 80,000 miles I drove or the experiences I’ve had that have truly changed my life forever.
To the parents (Of Miss Tennessee Volunteer Contestants) sitting here today, to the girls competing this week sitting here…I want to be completely honest with you about this year. I owe that to the girls sitting here today to know what kind of a year you’re walking into, and who you will be walking into it with. I owe it to the families I see sitting here today, so that you know how to support your daughter, if she is chosen tomorrow night or if she continues to chase this dream like I did until she gets it. I want you to know just what it is you’re about to experience.
I love this job and I love this organization—more than I can ever possibly begin to describe! I love this job so much I gave every fiber of my being to chasing the opportunity to have this job and I poured every ounce of myself into this year of service. And I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I love this job so much and worked so hard that it LITERALLY almost killed me. But I never could have made it through this year without the support of so many people sitting with me here today. So many state titleholders experienced the exact same thing that I did this past year, but none of them had an organization to turn to that defied the odds, that was the only state out of 51 entities that stood strong and said NO and chose to persevere for the sake of giving women the chance to pursue their dreams and giving them the tools to do it.
Allison, Amy & Mrs. Jane, I will never be able to fully or adequately express how much I love you all. Your family has taken me under their wings like another daughter or a little sister. You have loved me and been there for me during the most difficult time that I’ve faced in my 23 years and I will be forever grateful for you all and will ALWAYS think of you as a part of my family!
I Don’t think many people know just how supportive you all have been. We have laughed through the fun times and cried through the turbulent times, but you have never once wavered in your loyalty and support. That is something I will always be grateful for and will never be able to repay your kindness and generosity to my family and I. To give you a few examples to illustrate just how incredible these people are, I want to share with you a glimpse into this last year. This year has without a doubt been the most difficult year of my life. You could not have explained to me how much adversity I would face this year, I wouldn’t have believed you! But the love and unwavering support of the people sitting at this table with me…. I have never met a more fiercely loyal or unconditionally loving group. I never knew that when I competed in my first pageant, that this journey would lead me to find family and friends that I never knew I would have. When it comes to the values my family raised me with, I’ve always been taught about loyalty and honesty. And that you stay loyal to the people that you love and are loyal to you. And that you never turn your back on family
This is my family.
And I want to share with you some really important ways that they have been there for me this past year.
In August of last year, just four days before I left for Miss America, I lost my one of my closest friends to a heroin overdose. Even more tragic, my best friend, Katerina was the person that found him. When I got the news of my dear friend's passing, I was in the dance studio with Allison and Mrs. Jane working on talent, and I collapsed into a pile hearing about the news. They picked me up off the ground and carried me when I could barely hold myself up—they wiped my tears and held me through the grief and sorrow like my own mother would. They listened when I tried to make sense through the grief and loss and supported me like I was one of their own.
Later on that day, we had an evening gown fitting and a mock interview. They protected my privacy (during this instance and beyond) and helped me stay calm and collected through the afternoon and into the evening, and were there to hug me and hold me when I started uncontrollably sobbing after the day was over. They helped me process the grief while keeping my whole life together and simultaneously prepare for this much anticipated competition that I’d been preparing for, for six years. They met my confusion and sadness and frustration with patience, understanding and compassion. They helped me work through the incredibly upsetting time and have for months following my friend's death to make sense of it all, so that I could find peace with my emotions and work through the feelings I experienced.
At the Miss America National Competition in Atlantic City, I became incredibly sick and lost my voice. I had two award interviews in addition to my private interview along with being a singer for my talent-- so, I really need my voice. I went to the nurse and the hostesses and asked if I could go to a doctor. I felt horrible and I needed to get better. For three days they said "no", and gave me vitamins or Tylenol. I finally felt so sick by the third day I told them that I needed to go to the doctor immediately, or I would be booking my flight home. They finally took me to the doctor, where I had to receive a steroid shot and take a steroid pill pack because the illness had progressed to a point where aggressive medication was necessary to put me back at peak performance. This many stimulants put my heart at risk, and could have potentially contributed to issues I later experienced.
In addition to feeling like my health was an after thought at the national competition, I don't know that I ever had a fair shot at said competition. Gretchen Carlson was in my private interview with the judges, and told all of the state titleholders on Sunday in the dressing room before we went onstage that she was in all of our interviews. (A practice that I am not accustomed to. I have never had a state board member outside of the judges' chair in a private interview during my 6 years of competing.)
It's sad to say that I don't know that I ever will know if I had a fair shot, based on the treatment by MAO leadership.
When Miss America sent a letter threatening to take my title back in January of 2019, I was on the phone with Allison Demarcus as we read the news. The panic and shock I felt were met with the level headedness and calm, collected response from Allison that I never could have put together in that moment. I couldn’t even think straight and was trying to figure out what’s next and Allison calmly and collectedly told me to talk to my family, and how to go about making the right decision to retain the title I had worked so hard to obtain for so long. I went to my parents and they helped me find the best legal team available to protect my interests and the achievements I had worked so hard to obtain! From January to May, there were many unpleasant surprises and challenges that came our way. Throughout it all, Allison, Amy and Mrs. Jane always kept my best interests at the forefront of their minds. They always put my interests and my future at the front of their decisions.
This year, from the constant stress and anxiety I experienced, I knew that my body was taking the hardest toll of all. I had ignored my own body’s needs, until friends and family were repeatedly bringing my health to my attention.
Allison helped me find a doctor to evaluate the problems and pain I was experiencing.
I will never forget the day when the doctor looked me in the eye and said that I was at such risk that they wanted to consider hospitalizing me immediately. The problem had grown to the point where they said I would have a heart attack before I turned 24… that I could potentially become diabetic before the fall, or even experience kidney failure… or worse, lose my life. At that point, the doctor explained that my heart had been put under so much stress that it was not strong enough to pump blood to my hands or feet and often my blood volume was dangerously low, and could ultimately have permanent damage if we didn’t take immediate action. They said my health was so fragile that they wanted me to refrain from flying or stressful activities because it could push my body over the edge if I continued.
I had to stop my entire life and put this job that I love so much on hold because the issue had grown so serious. I had to put myself and my health before the job, which was incredibly difficult to decide, because I did and do, love this job SO much.
No young woman, or anyone really, should be under that kind of pressure or be pushed to a limit like I was.
But in the turbulence, the crazy… in the eye of the storm, I found a support system that I never knew existed. Not only did my family rally around me in ways I never could have asked them to, but Allison, Amy and Mrs. Jane came to my rescue in an unfathomably heroic way. Anything at all I needed, they were there to help.
Now, I am healthy and back at a stable point thanks to the incredible care team that was there for me and from the support of family and friends. I finally feel like myself again!
So to the girls deciding to compete in MAO or in Miss Tennessee Volunteer,
I can't tell you what is "right" for you to decide.
But here is what I can tell you-
(1) I have not heard from the Miss America Organization / its national leadership in any official form since February 19th.
(2) They (MAO) have not voiced concern for my well being, health, or how this stressful situation has impacted me, personally.
(3) The Miss Tennessee Volunteer Organization has always chosen to put me at the forefront of their decision making process and to use what is in my best interest as their guide for what to decide.
(4) the Miss Tennessee Volunteer organization has always had a vested interest in my health and well being and they have gone above and beyond to look out for my best interests at all times.
The Miss America Organization made me feel silenced and like I did not have a voice. They attempted to take away all outlets for me to share my opinion and made me feel disregarded and ignored. I did not feel my interests were taken into account in any of the decisions they made during my time with them as a state titleholder or at the National Competition.
The Miss Tennessee Volunteer Organization chose to ask me what I wanted and helped to guide me through this difficult journey so that I could achieve my goals and so that I could walk away from this year with my head held high and be proud of the legacy I left behind.
I can't tell you what to decide or what the best decision for you may be.
But I do encourage you, don't trust what people say.
Trust what they do.
'Twas the night before pageant week, and all through the state, not a creature was stirring... just kidding, everyone was doing their pre pageant rituals and spray tanning themselves to perfection!
I was so elated to be able to sing the National Anthem at the Annual statesmen's dinner in Nashville the night before Miss Tennessee Volunteer check in -- here's a few snaps from the event below!
I am so honored, humbled and elated to have been crowned the first Miss Tennessee Volunteer! I have to say a LOT of thank yous to so many wonderful people for helping to make this possible!
First of all, I want to say a tremendous thank you to everyone for joining us at the coronation and for sending so much love on such a special day! I feel so loved and welcomed, and I am beyond honored to be the very first Miss Tennessee Volunteer!
The past few months have been filled with joy as I’ve traveled as the Governor’s Official Spokesperson for Character Education across Tennessee. The children I have spoken to in the schools and the precious patients in our CMN hospitals, have forever changed my life for the better.
Some of you may not know this, but I have spent the last six years of my life, from ages 17 to 23, in pursuit of this dream. That’s basically my entire adult life so far! I competed here in Jackson every third week of June for four years in a row until I was fortunate enough to win the Miss Tennessee America crown. I worked year round annually raising moneyfor Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and for my personal cause, the Alzheimer’s Association, because four of my family members have passed away from the fatal disease with no cure. Those years of effort, hard work and the integrity of our state organization are among the reasons the position meant so much to me.
I’d also like to thank Mr. Tom Hensley, Mr. Jimmy Exum, Ms. Jane Alderson, Mrs. Allison DeMarcus, Mrs. Amy Otto and the dozens of other volunteers who have stretched themselves beyond reason these last few weeks to build this program from scratch.
I will never be able to express how grateful I am for the countless hours you have dedicated to helping me be my best self this year and to prepare me for each and every moment of this journey—thank you for always believing in me and giving so much of your own time and effort because you support and believe in what this program does for young women like myself…I truly wouldn’t be the woman I am today without you all! I am so grateful to have leaders with such integrity forging this new path.
This executive leadership has always preached to the contestants about the importance of loyalty and love and commitment and family. Well Mr. Hensley and Mr. Exum, I was listening!
You see, those values are the exact ones my family believes in, and my parents have raised my sister, Christal, and me to believe in their importance! So I want to take a moment and thank my mom and dad and Christal for their unconditional support over the last six years, but especially over the last few months when I needed them the most. I love you guys and I hope that my decisions this year have reflected everything that you have taught me, and that I have made you proud. I love you from the bottom of my heart!
So I’ve warned everyone that after June, they will have a very hard time getting rid of me?! Someday, this unbelievably fabulous crown I’ve just received may lose some of its sparkle. It may tarnish and my banner may yellow, but my friendships and respect for the people here today will always remain true.
I hope you will join me in a couple of short weeks back in Jackson— June 19 through the 22nd—as I cherish the opportunity to crown my successor the next Miss Tennessee Volunteer 2019. Between now and that time, I promise to continue working hard to build this program and to represent you in the way that you deserve.
Thank you all so much for being a part of this journey!
All my love,
Christine Electra Williamson
Miss Tennessee Volunteer