Why a Pageant Queen is one of the Bravest People I know.

Never have I thought the terms Pageant Queen and Brave would be synonymous to me (unless I was watching Miss Congeniality - great movie). But for real, courage is not what comes to mind when I think of pageants – big hair, makeup, sparkly dresses, super high heels, yes. Bravery? Not so much. However, my guest from episode 23, Krystian Leonard completed flipped my perception of beauty pageants on it’s head with her incredible and super honest story.


Basically, Krystian is one brave bada** babe.


To make a long story short (if you want the long version go back and listen to Episode 23!) Krystian grew up having surgeries, which resulted in several huge, visible scars on her body. Instead of letting the physical pain of her scars and emotional trauma of being relentlessly bullied break her, Krystian turned her struggle into fuel that led her to win beauty pageants, start a non-profit foundation at the age of 15, write an award winning children’s book by the time she was 16 and give an inspirational Ted Talk.

But none of this makes Krystian brave. To me, enduring all that makes her resilient, what makes her brave is that she chose to tell her story.


“Courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning heart – so the original definition of courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” 

  - Brené Brown
Krystian's talk at Contagious Optimism Live

Krystian's talk at Contagious Optimism Live

Krystian didn’t just do beauty pageants for fun. They were a platform that gave her a voice when no one else did. They were a place where she could finally open up about who she really was and learn how to embrace her imperfections instead of wishing they would go away. This might sound ironic for an industry that seems to judge women based on their looks, but for Krystian, Pageants were the vehicle that allowed her to stand up against stigmas and find the strength in who she was.


“It wasn’t based on my hair and my makeup, it was based on my one on one connection with the judges…they gave me the chance to use my voice, so I wasn’t afraid to be who I was.” 


Telling her story raised awareness of the daily struggles people with scars go through. It created space for others with similar experiences to not only share their stories and feel accepted but realize that they too could transform their struggle into positivity and see themselves as beautiful and worthy. We cannot shake our stories. They aren’t freckles that appear when its sunny but go away as soon as winter hits. They’re like a scar, they’re permanent. We all have some sort of scar, whether it’s physical, emotional, mental – these are the things that have shaped us. They’re a part of us, so we can’t pretend they’re invisible or wish they would go away. If we want to live a fulfilled life where are glasses are full to the brim, we have to truly accept ourselves and embrace all of our imperfections. They’re what make each one of us unique and different. Krystian’s scars are beautiful because they are a symbol of who she is, they tell a story of overcoming setbacks, amazing resiliency, empowerment and bravery.

Krystian's story in 'American Scar Stories' 

Krystian's story in 'American Scar Stories' 

So, the point of all of this is being vulnerable and sharing your story with someone - whether it's a crowd of people, a group of friends, your parents, a stranger on the bus - is a good thing. Sometimes we need a reminder of that (at least I do) because society can make it seem like opening up is weak, lame or a burden to people…but it’s not. Sharing your story is brave. It has the power to transform not only your life, but someone else’s too. So I invite everybody listening to this right now to share what you’re going through, or what you’ve been through even if it’s just something small. Call your mom, text a friend just have a meaningful conversation and let someone into your life a little bit more than you usually would. You’ve got nothing to lose, so to quote Brené Brown again:


“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process, is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”