Love Is Not Abuse Ambassador, Natasha Johnson, talks about using her talents to raise awareness and make change with her passion: pageantry.
As a Love Is Not Abuse (LINA) Ambassador and reining Ms. Woman North Carolina, I know a thing or two about fusing my passions together to make a difference. I did my first pageant in the 5th grade when I was approached through my elementary school after placing on the Honor Roll. I’ve enjoyed pageants and the competition ever since!
One of the aspects I enjoy most about pageantry is the personal platform we bring awareness to throughout our reining year. My mission to bring awareness to the very important issues of teen dating violence and domestic violence was one of the biggest factors in my decision to compete in pageants again. I knew that through pageants, I would have an elevated opportunity to make my voice heard - not only in my community, but across the nation.
I did just that a month ago when I competed at the Miss United States pageant in Las Vegas. During my 8 day journey, I listened to 212 girls, young ladies, and women from across the United States share their passions and motivations for competing. By sharing my passion as a teen dating violence and domestic violence advocate, I was able to meet other women who had experienced domestic violence in the way that I had. This is one way that my role as a Love Is Not Abuse Ambassador and pageant life intersect.
The intersection is mutually beneficial as Ms. Woman North Carolina United States. The platform provides many opportunities to speak publicly about teen dating violence, domestic violence, my work with LINA, and the With One Word Foundation. My passion for pageantry has elevated my impact as a domestic violence advocate, allowing me to meet with government officials, lawmakers, domestic violence shelters and speak in middle schools and high schools about teen dating violence.
For example, just this week I spoke to a freshman health class at an area high school about dating violence – what abuse is, what the warning signs are, and how to get help. I spoke as not only an advocate with the county government, but also in my official Ms. Woman North Carolina United States sash. As I was leaving class, the students asked if I would be returning to speak in their class, and they all said, “Bye Ms. North Carolina.” Now in my opinion, wearing that sash helped get the students’ attention and participation slightly more than just speaking as a random adult visiting to talk about a difficult topic. If wearing that sash helped just one student learn a little more about healthy relationships, then my goals as a North Carolina titleholder have been successfully reached.
That's not to say that you can only make a difference if you’re a pageant queen! On the contrary – it’s to say YOU CAN. As advocates we need to use the skills, talents, and uniqueness of who we are to bring awareness and make change in our community. Each personality is different, just like each young person we are trying to reach is unique. Perhaps a football coach can reach youth that I cannot identify with. Maybe a musician can grab the attention of those more artistically inclined. Whatever your individual niche is, whatever gifts you have, whatever position of authority you are in, I encourage you to use your gifts to reach a generation in need of mentors and knowledge. How does that saying go?….be the change you wish to see!