Since I live in Georgia, my family and I decided to drive down to Jacksonville… and thank goodness we did - I didn’t leave any outfits to chance and our car was packed! My backup outfits had backups. Crazy or prepared? You decide. We arrived at the pageant early to watch the Mrs. International competition and get settled in! This allowed us to relax and make sure that all was in order for the phenomenal week ahead.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we were constantly on the move! From touring Jacksonville, to a beautiful dinner with a meaningful message, even learning CPR and the run for the Prelim and Final Show… the days were filled with laughter and memories. Mornings started extremely early, but with coffee and genuine friendships by my side… even 3:30 AM wakeup calls were enjoyable. On Wednesday, we were able to pour into the young women at the Pace Center. This service opportunity was my favorite event from the week. The Pace Center is so closely aligned with my organization, True Beauty Movement, and the young women we met with fueled the second half of my week. It was a privilege to meet with them and my group spoke about “Public Image”. We had a dynamic group of representatives from a myriad of backgrounds lead discussion and provide the young women with tangible strategies to shape their image in a professional way.
Saturday was finally here and I knew that in just a matter of hours… my life could change forever. The day flew by and I was so thankful to have my fellow competitors and friends by my side to ease the stress and keep my mind focused on having fun until it was game time. We were constantly laughing about the fact that I am always smiling in candid photos and have a hard time taking a selfie without making a ridiculous face. Laughter was the constant music throughout the week and I am forever thankful for the genuine friendships I made.
It was 7:30p and the curtain began to rise. My heartbeat racing and mind saying “Be the best Amanda”… I stepped on stage as a competitor for the last time with my confidence in Him. The opening number went off without a hitch - I didn’t fall while attempting to move multiple limbs at once… so to me that’s success! Our emcees then began to call the Top 11. They called 1.. 2… 3.. all the way to 8 and I still had not been called. Mentally giving myself a pep-talk, I tried to smile through the nerves. Finally, I was called as number 9 in the Top 11! Now it was time to prepare to “fight for my life” in the upcoming competition. Scores are wiped clean once making Top 11, so now was the time to step it up! Each phase went by and I was able to walk off the stage confident that I had given it my all. Before I knew it, I was backstage with my friends waiting for crowning.
Before we all went back on stage… I looked around and found myself at a peace that I had never experienced. I texted my team and said, “I was the best Amanda I could be. It’s all Him.” I put my phone away and took a photo with a young woman who was one of my best friends throughout the week and someone I had taken under my wing as a little sister. Little did we know what was about to happen.
As I watched the emcees begin calling the Top 5… I could feel the anticipation building.They called the beautiful court for both Miss Teen and Miss. Then… they named my little sister, Garin Harris, as Miss Teen International! You would have thought I had won by my reaction. I was so proud of her and the look on her face when she made eye contact with me will forever be engrained in my heart.
I looked out to the audience one last time as the emcees began to call the new Miss International… and all I could say in my mind was “Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity. My identity is in You and I am thankful for all that You have done and will do. I trust in You.”
“And your new Miss International 2016 is…”
Time stopped. It was the most surreal experience. I looked into the audience and realized that the dream I had as a 9 year old girl had finally come to fruition. As the crown was placed on my head, I began crying out of pure joy and thankfulness. When we turned around, I saw all of my friends with smiles as they embraced me and my running mascara. I kept saying, “God is so faithful. He is so faithful. He is so faithful!” Never in my life have I experienced the presence of God as much as I did in those few moments. I felt Him saying, “I’ve loved you from the beginning, my Princess. The moments you gave up on yourself… I always believed in you. I let you face the challenges so that you can lead and inspire others through True Beauty Movement and now as Miss International 2016. You’ve been prepared for such a time as this.”
Miss International 2016