April 12th 2016 was the second national finals that I had been a part of as an Australia Galaxy Pageants girl. I was competing in the Miss division, and I honestly couldn’t wait for finals week to come. A lot of preparation had been put into my galaxy journey. 20 community fundraising events, multiple media appearances and raising over $5,000 for Make-A-Wish Australia was going to get me there. Unfortunately, it first seemed as though it all went to waste when I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy one week out from the national finals.
Olivia Raffaele: photo provided by the author.
I was absolutely devastated. I felt as though I was on top of the world and then the next minute I felt worthless. Self-esteem is something that we all learn about at some point in school. That we should all be super confident and not let what others think of us bring us down. In a media and consumer driven world; that is easier said than done. I was going to have to go on stage without the greatest asset that a pageant girl requires; her face. For those of you who don’t know what Bell’s palsy is; it is the temporary paralysis of the face which causes facial drooping, slurred speech and the temporary loss of function of one eye. It was nearly impossible for me to eat properly, and I was always spilling drink all over myself. This was me for national finals week.
I get asked a lot “How did you do it? How did you work up the strength to go?” To be entirely honest with you; I did cry a lot. Mostly behind closed doors. It was a hit to my self-esteem and my ego, and it was totally out of my control. I was aesthetically not my best self in such an aesthetically competitive environment. What I did was I just kept going. I finally came to the realisation that there was nothing that I could do about it, so I worked up the energy to push on and at least try to enjoy myself.
I had fun, and I am not just saying that to say that. Without any expectation or pressure I was allowed to breathe and be myself. I was supported and I was encouraged throughout the entire experience which I will be forever grateful for, and with that, even managed to make the Top 15. During the whole journey I was able to rediscover myself and figure out who I wanted to be on the inside. I grew as a person during that week, and now that I am facing nationals again, I will be better than ever. Stay posted, I may just be your new Miss Galaxy Australia 2017!
Posted by Olivia Raffaele.