Affectionately known has Tai, Taiesa Lashley is a former Miss US Virgin Islands and US Army Veteran. Career savvy and determined, Tai worked her way up from an internship and into managment at a Fortune 500 Company. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, volunteering, cooking, reading, and red wine.
Pageantry is a sport. I train and prepare for competitions so that basically makes it a sport to me. I have been competing for years, and I have lost more than I have won. To say that I haven't been devastated at times would be far from the truth; especially since I have a knack for being 1st runner up.
To be so close but not win is not easy, but in hindsight I know that all of those losses prepared me for life itself. For my destiny.
I know you must be reading this asking yourself, "What the heck is good about losing?" Well, I'll tell you. Here is my point of view:
You learn to identify your areas of opportunities:
Most people call them "weaknesses" but I am not fond of that word. "An area of opportunity" has a much better tone. It is something that you need to work on to become better; to be what you see yourself as. In identifying your areas of opportunities, you can develop a plan to improve and be better prepared for the next attempt at any goal. From my experiences, I have learned to be honest with myself about my strengths and areas of opportunities. I do not wait for others to point them out, I seek them out myself and make a solid effort to make improvements. Outside of pageantry, this has helped me immensely in my career and with my personal relationships as well.
You develop "haters" and you learn to ignore them:
I come from a small island – 32 square miles to be exact. So it didn't take long for me to get wind of what people were saying. After placing first runner up three competitions in a row, I knew people were wondering why I just didn't quit. And for a brief moment, I actually cared about what people thought. However, it did not take long for me to realize that those were the exact same people that never attempted to accomplish anything, ever. They were quick to chastise people who tried and were content with being lackluster.
At that moment, I realized that I was not to give up on a passion for those who had none.
Besides, quitters NEVER win! fast forward a few years later, and I am an international title holder whose accomplishments have also allowed me to be recognized by one of the biggest and most respected entertainment/hospitality companies and assist in fast-tracking my career. If I had given up, I would probably be where my naysayers are now – right where I left them four years ago.
You realize that you may not win but other opportunities may present themself:
Each loss came and another door opened! I met important individuals who would play an integral role in future opportunities. I made great friends and gained supporters along the way. I met future sponsors and was able to gain valuable work experiences. I learned the value of networking (a huge aspect for my career) and the importance being kind to EVERYONE, even those that won over me. A crown and a sash is cool but being respected and gaining character development is much more important and a much bigger prize in the end.
You learn to handle disappointments gracefully:
Writing this doesn't mean that I like losing. I don't. Nor do I encourage anyone to compete to lose. I do however know that losing happens and when it does, it truly shows the character and maturity of an individual. It sucks to be known as a sore loser or bad competitor. I recall one particular pageant that I had made a lot of personal sacrifices for and did all that I could to be flawless in each category. There were many signs that the directors were rooting for another contestant but I ignored it and kept my focus on me. That evening, when we were the last two standing and I was called the runner up, she was in complete shock. In that moment, I wanted to scream and needed to get away fast but couldn't.
I had to maintain my composure and be happy for the opportunity that was given to my competitor.
More importantly, with all eyes on me I had to ensure that I accepted my loss with tact and pride. I posed for pictures, thanked my supporters, and left the stage. Like a baby, I cried only once I was alone with my mom (I promise it wasn't long). Then I gathered my things and went out to party with my friends. Over the next couple of weeks, the pageant was a hot topic amongst people that attended the show and I was asked about it more than once while out and about. My answer was simple: "The judges' decision is final and I respected that."
Did I have more to say? Yes! I was still very hurt but I knew that only my family and friends should hear my true anger and disappointment. Those feelings in public could never be revealed. It was a tough loss, very tough loss, but I survived. And not only did I survive, but I mustered up the courage to try again and I finally got the BIG title: Miss US Virgin Islands World 2012.
Life is not fair and everything happens for a reason:
I learned this lesson quickly. Sometimes you are the best and deserve the victory but it still won't work out in your favor. This is life – situations are not always fair. Let's take a look at a slightly different scenario other than pageantry: You have been working hard to earn a promotion at work. Your work is flawless, you come in on time. You look the part and spend long hours and yet, a slacker is promoted to the role that you have been working extremely hard for.
Is it fair? No, but this scenario happens more often than we like to admit. Should you be disappointed? Yes, it would be a natural feeling, but I would encourage anyone to continue working hard. A lot of the time, something better - something you may not have plan for - works out in your favor. Then you realize that what you thought was a setback was actually a set up for something greater! You must stay positive and realize that everything happens for reason. It's just that you almost never understand the reason until later.
Stay positive. Learn from your errors. Don't give up. All cliché but all are very true.
*Featured image by NatashaSmithPhoto