Imagine me, Christy Bates, competing in a Beauty Pageant. Well, it is true. It really happened and not once but twice, in 1995 and 1996. I was 19 and 20 at the time. The pageant was called the Miss Illinois American Coed Pageant and it was held in Chicago at the Marriott O'Hare Hotel. Someone recommended me to the pageant and they sent me information and invited me to compete. One thing about pageants, they keep you very busy and you get very little sleep. Every day we were kept busy with interviews, dance rehearsals, dance competitions, and evening gown competitions. My mom helped me a lot with practicing my interviews and rehearsing my dance. My parents always believe in me and help me reach my goals. My talent was dance and I performed an interpretive dance to "A Whole New World" in front of several thousand people. It was very exciting. My dad was my escort in the evening gown competition. My blue evening gown was hand made for me by a friend of our family. I also got to wear a tiara with my gown. I won two awards at the pageant. One was for Miss Photogenic, and I won a really big trophy for the runner up for the Hostess award. The pageants were a wonderful experience for me and I will never forget them. I learned a lot and it gave me many more opportunities to do modeling and dance. Today, I travel around and tell my story and encourage others to reach for the stars and to be all you can be.