I remember last December being in Charlottesville, VA and just so happened the Christmas parade was going on at the same time. I had already booked a shoot with Ashley Greenfield (2011 Miss Teen United States) and she was actually the Grand Marshall for this event. I had never met her or her mother in person, but thought it would be neat to grab a few shots of her in the parade. As they came by, her mom came up and spoke and then introduced me to a gentleman that was walking with her. Within a few seconds, I heard this man say “walk with me.” So off I go, marching in the parade as well. As we talked, he introduced himself as Chris Wilmer, the National Director for the Miss United States Pageant. We talked briefly and he said he’d be in touch. A couple weeks after, I received a phone call from him, and the journey began. A couple months ago, after numerous phone calls and events, Chris told me he wanted to bring me on as the national photographer.
Last Tuesday morning, I headed to Washington D.C. for the 2012 pageant. I’m really not sure how to explain all the feelings that was going on inside me. I felt excited, anxious, nervous, and the list goes on. I knew this was a huge event. Upon arrival at the Doubletree Hotel, I was greeted with about 100 young ladies in the lobby from all over the nation. Over the course of the week I had the opportunity to work with over 150 young ladies and their families. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the Fourth of July than in our nations capital. From parades, fireworks, major league baseball games, fashion shows, and lots of laughs and smiles, I had one heck of a time. The week was filled with many other activities and lots of long nights. I’ve got to give it to all the girls too, it was extremely hot but they went right on and made the best of it. I’ve got to give them big props too for walking many miles over the course of the week in those heels. I’m sure most of them will be going barefoot or wearing flats the next couple of weeks.
On Sunday evening, finals night came and the week was coming to an end. There could only be a total of 4 winners, but every single young lady that competed is a winner in my eyes. They each took that stage with confidence and huge smiles and had a blast. Not only did they make me proud, but I know they made their families and directors proud as well. To each lady who competed, I say a job well done. It was such a pleasure getting to work with you all. This experience and the friendships that you made with be memories that you’ll cherish forever. Many times I’d pass by you guys and would hear, “Brad, you look exhausted.” The lack of sleep was catching up with me as the week went on, but know this, I wanted to push myself to the limits to make sure I captured every single moment for you guys. Each and every day you all brought a huge smile to my face, and it’s those moments I realize that pushing myself like I did was all worth it. Everyone of you helped make my week an incredible experience.
To our national director, Chris Wilmer. I want to say a job well done on an amazing week. This being your first year as the national director, you did an awesome job. Although there were bumps along the way, you acted quickly to try and iron them out to give these ladies and their families a fun week. I know that you’re already looking at ways to make next years pageant even bigger and better. I also want to thank you personally for believing and having the confidence in me to bring me on as the national photographer. Were there times leading up to the week that you about drove me crazy haha, of course. But I consider it an honor to have had this opportunity to work along side you and your amazing staff.
Speaking of the staff, I want to give each and everyone of you a huge thank you for everything you did this week. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with. Whether you were taking up tickets, chaperoning, or doing one of the many other task that was involved, your work was superb. It was a pleasure being on board with you guys. And for you, Katie. I know it was a very stressful week. You had lots and lots on your plate, but you did one heck of a job. There’s not too many people that could’ve handled it, but you did. A big pat on the back to you.
To our 2011 Queens, Laura, Ashley, Ashley, and Olivia. Ladies, you were the first ones that I had they opportunity to work with when I came on board with this organization. I couldn’t have asked for four beautiful ladies inside and out to welcome me. I want each of you to know that you all hold a special place in my heart. It was a pleasure working with you guys and I’m looking forward to growing closer in the friendships we developed. Just know this, I’ll always be here for each of you. I’m always just a phone call away. I’m so excited to see what the future holds for you all, and to see how the next chapter of your lives unfold. I love you guys!!
And lastly, to our new 2012 National Winners, I say congrats once again. Just spending a couple hours with each of you the following day after the pageant during our photo shoot, I know it’s going to be a fabulous year. I’m beyond excited to work with you during your reign. Enjoy every minute of it, because in the blink of the eye your year will be done. We’ve all got so much to look forward to.
Blessings to all,