Last updated: June 01. 2013 5:45AM - 204 Views
Linda Burchette
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In only five years of pageant participation, West Jefferson resident Lisa Patel has gained the self-confidence she felt she lacked and is looking forward to a career in modeling.

Patel made it into the top five in the Ms. United States division of the Miss United States Pageant held in Washington, D.C., in July. Although she would have loved to have won the pageant, Patel said the experience was amazing and only helped boost her confidence.

“I went in there and nothing intimidated me,” she said. “But about the second or third day I realized some of the women had their lives all arranged, they had careers or families, and I felt like I was at the bottom of the totem pole. However, after talking to someone about that, they said it was irrelevant because most of them were older than me.”

At only 26 years old, Patel was among the youngest in that division, that accepted contestants age 26 to 55, so it shouldn’t have mattered that she is single and working toward a career. She began to realize, as she said, “I am who I am and what I am and knew why I was there and why I wanted to compete. And I realized that issue [of having your life all arranged] didn’t come into play with the judges.”

Patel said she began her pageant participation only five years ago at age 21 with Elite Miss Ashe County. She said the type of pageants she enjoys competing in are not only about beauty but poise and character as well.

“You have to look good, but they’re also looking for someone with brains and poise,” she said. “It’s the whole package.”

Patel has worked hard to create that whole package for herself, with demanding workouts to maintain her physical appearance and efforts to improve her self-image.

“It’s all about confidence,” she said. “I believe confidence is something you have to work on. It’s a learning process I believe can never be fully achieved. You build and grow from every situation. And everyone has weaknesses. The most perfect people in our eyes make mistakes. You just learn from them and go on.”

She explained by saying, “The day you’re not nervous is the day you need to quit. It’s a natural feeling. If you don’t feel that, then you need to move on. I played sports since kindergarten and I’ve been nervous every game, and I feel that way with every pageant.”

When asked how she deals with that nervousness to maintain the poise necessary to complete, Patel said, “It’s the concept of pushing myself and wanting to do my best. Just me wanting to succeed at that moment because I want it that bad.”

She said she’s always had a competitive attitude and believes that has helped her with her pageant work. And hopefully it will help transition into a modeling career.

When she’s not pursuing her dreams in pageant and modeling work, Patel helps out with her family’s business, two convenience stores in Ashe County. Her family has been very supportive of her dreams, especially her mother.

“Ever since I was a little girl, she wanted to put me in a pageant,” Patel said of her mother. “It’s a girl thing. A mom and daughter thing.”

But her family members don’t follow her to pageants the way some parents and relatives do with others. She is doing this all on her own, with the help of a coach and her own self-determination.

“When I started working with my coach two years ago, she knew who I was and that I didn’t have much confidence in myself, how I spoke and presented myself,” Patel said. “I told her I was just a girl from a small town, and she said that was irrelevant to what I wanted to do. She would stop me every time I started to say that. I realized those words didn’t matter. Whatever you put forth is what’s going to happen. It’s inside you, not around you – who you are, not where you’re from.”

Whatever the future holds, Patel said she is ready for it and open to change. “If I have opportunities, I will take advantage of them,” she said. “Because I’m not going to hold back.”

“I want to focus on modeling, but I’m not going to give up on pageants,” Patel said. “I know I have what it takes. I’m going to win someday. I can’t give up. I came so close this time.”

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