There I was. Emerald turtle neck sweater. Paisley print vest. Jelly sandals. And on top of a nest of freshly permed hair... a tortoise shell headband keeping the fuzz of my bangs from tickling the corner of my eye. Patiently standing in line with my fellow seven year old classmates, all waiting to hear our names called for our turn at our first grade pictures. I remember standing there thinking to myself how unsatisfied I was with the style my mother had given me that morning and that I needed to take matters into my own hands. As a matter of fact, I clearly remember my mom wrapping my hair with perm rods the night before and as the night went on, it was right there at that dinner table where I spent my night sleeping as she tightly wrapped my hair for hours. See, the funny thing about life is that you never know when you're going to have an inspiring moment. A moment that could potentially set your life in motion in a direction that you never expected. My "a-ha" moment happened in 1991 at Van Dyke Elementary, standing in that picture line behind a kid picking his boogers and in front of the Bugle Boy himself. It happened when I saw that beautiful sign from God that was the box of black combs. I grabbed a comb as fast as I could and I took my identity into my own hands. A little water and that small piece of plastic was all it took for me to change my rugged, hay-like hair into a style that was mine and only mine. In an era of curls, I wanted to be the girl with the straight hair. I was that girl. 

As the years went on and my interest in fashion and beauty grew. I began competing in beauty pageants which eventually led me to the title of Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota in 1996. During this time, I was constantly surrounded by girls who all tried to fit into a mold that not only society and culture wanted them to look like, but also the close influences they were surrounded with daily. Same clothes. Same makeup. Same hair. Everyone fit perfectly into the "cookie cutter." Not me. I never felt more passionate than at that moment - to break the norm and create an identity in myself of what fashion and makeup should be. And even more so, what it could be. I went left when the crowds went right. I wanted to be Gwen Stefani when everyone wanted

to be Cyndi Crawford. I was the Courtney Love in a crowd of Kelly Kapowskis. 

Today, as I walk through this journey of life, I'm constantly learning that change is inevitable. It is a way of life. It can be a means of growth if you allow it. I've learned to pursue, persevere, and push the boundaries in every circumstance given. If you can find that place of confidence and learn to walk in it, knowing that it is what you love and have a deep passion for, it brings inspiration to those around you. It causes the people around you to see life a little differently. It takes that small box, which sometimes can get awfully comfortable, to disappear. In humanity, we have a job to resonate a spirit that inspires. My interest and identity in fashion and makeup has allowed me to live in a way that hopefully does that. This world has shown me that we CAN color outside the lines. That it's ok to get out of the box from time to time. Eyeshadow doesn't know it's not blush. Lipstick doesn't know it's not eyeliner (risky I know). The rules are meant to be broken. As my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Nix once read, "Today, you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is you-er than you." (Dr. Seuss) The fact of the matter is, there is only one you. There will never be another you. And there has never been another you. You have one chance, one lifetime to be who YOU want to be, because there is nothing else to compare to.

As we step into this holiday season, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. I challenge you to dust off that little black dress hanging in your closet. I challenge you to put the snow boots aside and dig out those cute heals you've been dying to wear. And that bold, red lipstick that you've put on a dozen times but always wipe off before leaving the house? Yea, you know what I'm talking about. Too often we say, "Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll start!" But tomorrow turns into next week. And next week turns into next month. (I think you know where I'm going with this.) But hear me when I say, "If not now, when?"

We were made to be beautiful. We were made to shine. Find you. Do you. With confidence and grace. I can guarantee it will inspire someone else.