• Emily Pierce

Contestant Number 100

I have a confession to make: I didn’t want my daughter to win. Before you get upset with me, please give me a chance to explain.

We spent weeks looking for the perfect dress. Not too big, not too revealing, just the right color. Then came the shoes. Good for walking, proper height to make her taller, not matching but coordinating with the dress. The spray tan, the manicure, the make up. Hours together, she and I some of the time, with family and friends the other times. Shopping and looking and talking. Making memories.

We practiced. She had always practiced but this year was different. She is older and wanted to step up her level of preparedness and really feel the confidence all the way from her dress to her make up to her walk. She worked on facials and pauses. She worked on walking and speaking.

We always encourage memories and friendships made. That is not the easiest thing to have in a fast paced school environment. It is also not easy when you spend days upon days and sometimes weeks upon weeks in the hospital, disconnected from every day life with girls her age. It is a challenge to make and keep friends. This Pageant brings a unique opportunity where girls from different schools and different neighborhoods can be together, nervous and excited with a common goal. Competition here is stiff but you wouldn’t know it backstage. She talks about what friends she saw and who she sat next to, how they touch up lipstick, fix each other’s dresses. All of these girls are in competition but they support and lift up one another in the best way. At least that’s how she feels about it. For a girl who doesn’t really do pageants, this one means a lot.

She has competed four times in this pageant.

Her second competition was 2 days after finishing chemo.

Her fourth competition was the night before a 7am flight to NYC for scans to track her cancer.

She tries to live as normal a life as possible and when the time comes to deal with cancer, she deals. Then turns ‘normal’ life back on as soon as she can.

Pageant season is such a fun time of year, a time when I can pamper her just like every other girl, we can do what the other girls do and share the kind of experiences and memories that the other girls share with their moms.

The night of the pageant, the moment they called number 100 for top ten, I almost fell to the floor. She worked so hard. She walked so beautifully. Floated across the stage. Radiated confidence on a stage in front of hundreds of people and WITH NO HAIR. I couldn’t have been more proud or more excited for my girl to get what I felt she deserved. A top ten.

If you make top ten, you get to answer a question onstage. We worked on her answer, practicing and practicing: she has hearing loss and sometimes loses a consonant or runs words together when speaking. She made her answer her own, she thought long and hard about whether to bring up the elephant in the room. She doesn’t want any special exceptions for her situation, she wants so desperately for that part of her life, the cancer part of her life to be hidden. But she cares SO MUCH that so many kids are fighting cancer, and she has lost SO MANY friends to cancer that she decided to speak about them if she had the chance to speak on that stage. And she did. And she nailed it.

Fast forward to the top five…..number 100 was called and I started getting nervous……is this real? What is she thinking right now? Is she enjoying the moment and letting all the emotions, excitement, fear, gratefulness and love run through her? Or is she worried she was called back because: SHE HAS NO HAIR.

It’s something we talked about a lot in the months preparing for this one special night. We know people think it. We know people notice. You can’t see a bald child and not think about cancer. It’s the only thing that bothers her about going bald. Everyone knows. She is different. She knew when she entered the contest that she may be starting more chemo and she may lose her hair. I asked her in November if she was bald during the pageant, would she want a wig? A head wrap? She thought about it for just a minute and said, I want to be brave like Natalie (another local cancer fighter) and go as I am. If I have no hair, that is how I will walk the stage. She knew she could handle whatever came her way. I wish I was as smart and as brave as her.

So, as the emcee went through announcing the runners up and the first maid, my nervous mind was filled with the anxiety of all that could go wrong. Will she be able to handle all the events, the standing and walking, will she be off treatment for the fun stuff, what happens if she misses an event, will it break her heart? Would potentially negative words and reactions of others (thinking she received special treatment) torment her?

I didn’t want her to win. I couldn’t bear another heartbreak for my child. She has had too many in her short fifteen years.

Goodness, I was in for a shock! Number 100, Morgan Pierce, called the winner of the pageant. My girl, who withstood more pain, more fire, more hurdles, more heartache than any child or adult for that matter should ever know, much less endure. She won. And goodness, she showed me. She took this blessing with grace, head held high, only hearing kind words and happy thoughts. Honored to be chosen and represent. Excited to share a year with new friends. She deserves this as much as any other girl. And she earned it. She knows that. I know that.

This year brought many friendships, and many, many happy days representing the festival that she has loved all her life. A festival that loves her right back. She has had the opportunity to grow in public speaking, the chance to meet new people, see old friends. She has sister queens for life, special girls who mean the world to us.

I wouldn’t trade one moment of the past Junior Royalty year and consider myself fortunate to be given the opportunity to learn from this amazing experience. Morgan winning this Pageant has taught me to live in the moment. Being yourself and working hard towards a goal are the rewards. It doesn’t matter what others think, it’s what you think of yourself. I’ve learned to let the other stuff go and enjoy today for what it brings.

No, I didn’t want her to win.

But I am so thrilled she did.

Morgan Pierce - Contestant Number 100

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