I did not always know I wanted to become a broadcast journalist, but sometimes when you are busy making other plans, life decides to hit you on the head with a neon sign saying “choose this path.”
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ll be attending grad school next year for broadcast journalism. It’s quite the departure from my previous education and career in opera, but it turns out, not so unrelated. I actually first became interested in broadcasting not from an interest in journalism, but from discovering I loved public speaking.
Initially, I attended Pacific Lutheran University to follow my dream of becoming an opera singer. My freshman year of college, I decided to run in the Miss Pierce County Program, a local affiliate of the Miss America Program, to earn college scholarships. Once I joined the Miss Pierce County Program, I learned it was so much more than a scholarship. Every contestant must choose a community service platform. They advised that we choose something close to our hearts, as we would be spending much of our time volunteering for our platforms. I knew right away what I would choose: domestic violence and stalking advocacy. As a survivor of stalking (read that story here), I wanted to help other survivors like myself. This was the perfect opportunity for me to transition from being a survivor to being an advocate.
I started out as a volunteer at my local YWCA domestic violence shelter. Quickly, I realised that just guiding victims in their time of need was not enough. One in four woman is a survivor of domestic violence. When you stop to consider that these numbers are real women, not just statistics on a spreadsheet, you realize that women’s lives are far too precious to be affected by this situation so often, or even at all. I decided I needed to prevent the problem, not just treat the symptoms. I thought about it and realized that I had never learned about domestic violence in school or in any of the community clubs I attended. When I was experiencing my own situation, I only learned the gravity of it from internet research and from a close friend who recognized things were “off.” I decided the quickest way to prevent domestic violence and stalking was through education and female empowerment. To stop domestic violence, we need to teach the early warning signs of a domestic violence, and how to maintain a healthy relationship.
I reached out to a local business group and asked if I could speak to them about domestic violence. They took a chance and sent me an invitation. For weeks, I diligently put together a thirty minute presentation about domestic violence causation, prevention, and solutions. Going into this speech, I had no idea how I would be received. To my great surprise, two women and a man publicly acknowledged they too were survivors of domestic violence during the question and answer portion at the end of my presentation. After returning to school, I opened my email to discover two more people had emailed me to thank me for speaking about this topic, as they were survivors as well. Since then, I have expanded my presentation and have served as a keynote speaker for over 30 organizations. Throughout this journey, I have found that survivors come forward at every meeting, including my smallest group of five rotarians where three were survivors. Most frequently, I receive comments from people about how little they knew about domestic violence and how much they underestimated its impact. I still receive emails monthly from former PLU students, Facebook friends, business professionals, and people I have never met seeking guidance to escape their domestic violence situations.
I may not have won the national title of Miss America, but I came away from that experience with a new passion for public speaking and a thirst for world betterment. My service in the Miss America Program and background in opera performance gave me immense confidence in speaking for audiences small and large, virtual and real. I wanted to speak more.
My day job is in marketing for a local insurance agency. I’m the so-called “master schmoozer,” so I get to be the face that attends all of the local business groups and chamber of commerce events. I started approaching the professional keynote speakers at these groups to ask how they got their start in speaking. After chatting with several speakers, the commonality between all of them became too striking to ignore. The vast majority of them began their careers as broadcast journalists! Once I found this common thread, I started to research broadcast journalism.
I believe that a career as a broadcast journalist would allow me to use my voice in a new way as an educator and public figure. I believe journalists hold an immense responsibility to the public to objectively report information and current events. Information is power. A journalist’s job is to empower the people through information.
Opera and Miss America removed any sense of stage fright I once held. While opera has taught me how to physically use my voice effectively, how to prepare well, and how to interact on a stage, Miss America has reinforced those skills and in addition has taught me how to research, interview, speak, and exhibit grace under pressure. As an artist and as a public servant, I’ve developed a deep sense of compassion and ethics. All these skills I learned through opera and pageantry mirror skills I would need to do the job of a broadcast journalist.
Funny - it turns out I’ve been preparing to be a broadcast journalist my whole life, and I didn’t even know it.