Joy Thieves with Tiffany
I’m so excited about today’s post. When I thought of who I wanted to write with me about Joy Thieves, I immediately thought of Tiffany. I admire her tenacity, strength, and grace both now and in the midst of what she is sharing with you today. Tiffany has kindly opened up about a hurtful experience in her life that was on display for all to see. I heard of Tiffany before I ever actually met her, and everything I heard was absolutely false. I was amazed at her kindness, generosity, and wit; Even to some no name hometown pageant winner like me. While she and I have never grabbed a coffee or gabbed over cheesecake, I consider Tiffany a friend. I enjoy her style, honesty, sarcasm, and love of sweet treats. A coffee addict, history buff and wannabe jet setter, Tiffany is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can follow her on Instagram @ttolbert and on her blog www.brkfastattiffanys.wordpress.com.
Please welcome her to Kindness and Chaos!
My story as a beauty queen isn’t all rhinestones and smiles. My crowning moments were often overshadowed by drama and controversy. My dream of becoming Miss America didn’t come true and it was often bitterness and hurt that seeped through the cracks of my perfectly painted on exterior.
I started competing when I was 15 years old in the teen system in Oklahoma. I was 1st Runner Up in my first pageant, Miss Teen Oklahoma, what is now Miss Oklahoma’s Outstanding Teen. The next year I was 2nd Runner Up. I was disappointed in the outcome but ready to move on to the big leagues.
And just for the record, pageants are no joke. I credit much of my stamina as a Nurse Practitioner, working 24 hour shifts in the NICU, to pageant prep. It was hard work and often required 18 hour days driving into to the city for appointments, scheduling, paperwork, doing school assemblies, voice lessons, two-a-day workouts and keeping up with current events all while in nursing school full time. If pageant girls are known for one thing it’s hard work. We get stuff done and we do it right.
I competed in Miss Oklahoma for the first time at age 17 and made the top 10. At that time it was unheard of for rookies to break the 10 and that year a rookie went on to sweep the pageant becoming Miss Oklahoma and then Miss America 7 months later.
Long story short, I would go on to compete three more times being 1st Runner Up two years in a row and then finally 3rd Runner Up at the end of my career in pageants. I never wore the crown, but that wasn’t my ultimate disappointment. Sure, I was hurt, rejection is hard on any level, but I had a shadow following me for the last 4 years I was involved in the system (I sat out for a year after I was 1st Runner Up twice).
I was bullied incessantly on an online voy forum by an anonymous poster. They called me ugly, said I had no talent, followed me around town and took pictures of me to provoke conversations about me so they could spew their venom. They called me a liar. Said I didn’t go to school where I said I was going to. Said I would never be Miss Oklahoma because I went to a less than prestigious Community College (I just graduated last August from Vanderbilt University with my Masters in Nursing. #boom) and I couldn’t be a role model because I was rude and condescending. I had gone on this forum multiple times pleading with them to reveal their identity to me in private so I could apologize for what I had done to them and right the wrong only for them to twist my words even more and use them against me in future posts. It went on for four years. I had a 3 inch 3 ring binder full of pages of their posts. I even got a lawyer involved to sue for slander to no avail. There weren’t any laws regulating online bullying at the time. The judge who saw my case said I was a public figure and being subjected to judgements and criticism were apart of the job description. But these weren’t judgements. They were false accusations. Saying I threw fits backstage when I didn’t get my way and posts telling people I had multiple plastic surgeries to win a pageant isn’t criticism. It’s lies. It was an attempt to destroy my character and my reputation.
It was a nightmare and now that I am out from underneath it all I have realized becoming Miss Oklahoma for me had become a lot about proving them wrong and not a lot about being a better me. They had stolen my voice, my esteem and my joy. Every move I made had to be so calculated as to avoid them attacking me and I often questioned if competing was worth it. I was obsessed with checking the site everyday to see what they said about me. I would tell myself those comments didn’t hurt, they only made me stronger but at the end of the day there were two liars involved, them lying about me and me lying to myself.
I pressed on and surrounded myself with those who would lift me up and make me a better person. My family, friends and directors made all the difference. They spoke peace and encouragement and ultimately grace into my life.
I finally trashed that 3 ring binder. I realized letting anyone be in charge of my emotions and attitudes for the day wasn’t what God wanted for me. I wasn’t Miss Oklahoma for a reason. I know that reason now and I’m okay with it. What I’m not okay with is letting someone make me feel like I am less than who God says I am ever again. My joy comes from an endless well of unconditional love that only He can provide. I can be comfortable in who I am even in the darkest of times because I know he carries me. He bears my burdens and celebrates my victories. He is my first and His word is always last. And that, I find joy in.