By HOPE RUDZINSKI
DUDLEY, Mass.—Working hard for what you want is nothing new to Taylor Ward, a junior at Nichols College. After all, she expertly juggles school with competing in pageants. The need to balance both helped her to quickly figure out how to efficiently manage her time, and it taught her that to succeed, one must keep trying until they’ve made it to the top—whether it’s on stage, on the field, or in a classroom.
Ward first got into pageants when she saw an online pop-up ad and thought to herself: “Why couldn’t I do this?
“I signed myself up without telling my mom,” said the hospitality and management major. “I started competing in pageants when I was 16 years old, which was different because usually it’s unheard of starting that late.”
This first step led Ward to compete in many pageants across Massachusetts. Her mother had also participated in pageants and was her inspiration.
Pageant days are hectic but rewarding in the end, according to Ward, a member of the Nichols field hockey team.
“A typical day in the pageant world is very stressful,” she said. “Competition usually lasts two days that are on the weekends. The practices consist of outfit changes, speeches, and/or learning how to walk properly. All this takes eight hours or more, depending on the day. It can be very time consuming and stressful, but, in the end, I know it’s all worth it. A good thing, though, is that the competition organization pays for a room in a hotel that you are required to share with another roommate.”
Making to the top is a hard process, and Ward has been in the top 15 in every pageant so far. Her recent achievement was winning and being crowned Miss Massachusetts Collegiate 2019 in September, during which she represented Nichols College. Ward will compete in Nationals from June 24 to 29, 2019, in Little Rock, Ark., against more than 100 women from across the country and the college they each represent.
“It was almost as if you couldn’t feel anything,” she recalled of the September pageant. “I had so many emotions as they put the crown on my head. Feeling the crown touch my head was an emotion I couldn’t describe. This is what I dreamed of, and the fact that it was happening was surreal.”
Besides competing in Miss Massachusetts Collegiate, Ward also was a contestant in Miss USA and Miss America.
Being in pageants can be a war within your head, said the Tewksbury, Mass., resident.
“You start to think about everything differently and start to get inside your head about how you look compared to others,” she said. “My pageant coach noticed that blondes get more recognized by the judges and people in general, so I dyed my hair blonde. My hair used to be brown, and once I dyed it, I realized that girls with dark hair don’t make it to the top. What’s messed up is the various stereotypes that are wrapped around the pageant world.
“Trying to be the best all the time gets to your head,” she added. “Therefore, you start to compare yourself to other people, but you must realize that everyone in the competition probably has that same mindset.”
Ward advised that one must focus on why they are where they are and strives to bring that message to light whenever when she’s on stage.
“Most of the time, I’m stressed out, but time management is a huge deal for me,” she said. “Doing all this is for my future. It’s hard sometimes to know that somedays I can’t get through everything, but I must push through. Making lists are a huge part of my life to organize everything.”
Ward proudly represents Nichols College and “Bison Pride” as she competes in pageants.
“Nichols has supported me in my journey and allowed me to be my own person, so I’m very grateful,” said Ward.
As part of being involved in pageants, she is required to attend monthly events at high schools and charities and share her story with youth there. Part of her message to them is that they could achieve anything they want if they focus on a goal.
“We go by a platform that stands for ‘braveness and building respect and values for everything.’ When I go to events, and even when I’m on the stage, I stick to this motto no matter what,” she said.
Whether she’s competing for a crown, going for a goal on the field, or studying hard for a college degree, one thing is for sure: Taylor Ward strives to be the best she can be, one day at a time, to reach the top.
- Read more about Taylor Ward in this Oct. 12 “Your Tewksbury Today” article.
Hope Rudzinski is a junior English major and communications minor, and a public relations assistant in the Nichols College Office of Marketing and Communications.