The Beauty Within: The Story of a Pageant WinnerMar 06, 2017 04:59PM ● By Marisa Olson
Rituals of Transformation
Whether she is a professional model prepping for a photo shoot, a bride planning her big day, or a single gal anticipating that fateful first date, most every woman knows the importance of looking and feeling her absolute best. Every woman confronts at least one key moment when she must take the center stage of her life, and present, what she hopes, is the best version of herself.
A woman’s physical transformation from monochrome into glorious Technicolor—even if for just one magical evening—is the typical Cinderella tale, some version of which most every little girl knows by heart, and an ancient ritual in which most every woman in every culture participates. For some, the ritual is fraught with anxiety, for others, exhilaration.
Achieving the desired effect can take hours, if not weeks, of planning and preparation, depending on the grandeur of the occasion. An extraordinary event calls for extraordinary measures: flawless hair, makeup and wardrobe. No detail is overlooked, and yet, the illusion is to make the result seem effortless.
No woman is “naturally meant” to be on stage; however, accepting that challenge and conquering one’s fears is a part of almost every woman’s journey. It is also the story of Miss Louisiana USA—2012, Erin Edmiston, Lafayette’s reluctant beauty queen.
Building Beauty from the Inside Out
Few can better attest to the importance of a woman feeling beautiful than the former Miss Louisiana USA. Today, Erin Edmiston owns and operates The Skin Suite, which offers professional skincare products and esthetic services. The pageant winner turned esthetician and entrepreneur now applies her unique experience and expertise toward helping women look and feel their best.
Although eager to share the techniques and secrets she acquired in pageantry, she cautions there are no short cuts. True beauty is built from within on the principles of health: hydration, rest, exercise, and smart eating habits. Like everyone, Edmiston occasionally indulges in her favorite foods—life is meant to be enjoyed, after all—but she is disciplined about moderation.
When it comes to skincare advice, she speaks candidly: “Every woman is unique, and when asked, I tell women straight up what they must do to care for their skin. But my best advice to any woman would be to stop tanning. Limit your sun exposure, and always wear a high SPF sunscreen. Don’t cheap out. Buy quality, and wear it every day. It’s the best investment you can make in maintaining the health of your skin.”
Making Time for Oneself
Edmiston helps women meet the challenges of looking their best. Today, women have less time for themselves than ever, yet incessantly are barraged by media and advertisements that seem to impose unrealistic expectations for beauty and glamor. Women often ask themselves: Who needs this pressure? Has beauty become the enemy?
Edmiston agrees that looking and feeling great should never become burdensome. The pursuit of beauty should be viewed as a well-deserved time out from a demanding grind. Salons and spas serve as sanctuaries, where time spent caring for the body likewise improves one’s state of mind. Beauty need not be artifice, but the expression of health and vitality.
Despite her own natural beauty, Edmiston did not grow up competing in pageants, nor did she ever give it thought. Her focus was friends, studying, athletics, and making plans for college. She had always loved “playing with makeup,” but never considered pursuing it professionally. After graduating, she enrolled in the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
At UL, she was approached several times by Ross Walters, who had founded the Miss University of Louisiana USA beauty pageant. Walters also had years of experience as a pageant judge for both Miss USA and Miss America systems. When he first spotted Edmiston on campus, he immediately recognized her potential in pageantry.
Although appreciative of his encouragement, Edmiston demurred on Walter’s advice to compete. Then finally, after three years of his persistence, and with her studies nearly completed, she relented. “Why not?” Edmiston thrived on challenge, and was searching for a new direction. “I thought it would be one and done,” she recalled.
Once she made up her mind to compete for the title of Miss UL Lafayette, Edmiston applied the focus and discipline she had acquired through high school athletics. She worked out 6 days a week, and observed a “clean” diet, foregoing the salty snacks and food she adored, including boiled crawfish.
Despite her regimen, Edmiston saw herself at a disadvantage. Many beautiful and talented young women at UL with years of experience in pageantry had entered the competition. Unlike them, she knew “absolutely nothing” about professional wardrobe, hair, or makeup, and had no public speaking experience. She had to take coaching lessons, and, like her fellow competitors, begin skincare treatments with a local dermatologist to get her complexion in peak condition. It was an enormous investment of time and energy, but her hard work paid off: In 2010, Edmiston took the crown. She was 21.
The unexpected success catapulted her to the next level of competition, the Miss Louisiana USA pageant. Again, the newcomer maintained focus and discipline under intense pressure. To the astonishment of many (except Ross Walters), she walked away with her second crown, then advanced to the Miss USA Pageant, which was held on June 3, 2012, at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. There, she placed in the Top 15. She was 22.
How Pageantry Prepared Edmiston for the “Real World”
The experience brought not only accolades and acclaim, but also a newfound sense of self-assurance, empowerment and a heightened awareness to help those less fortunate. “Pageantry opened my eyes. It prepared me for the real world in ways I never expected. I grew more positive, and learned how to deal with stressful, public situations. Like so many people, I thought pageants were all about image. It’s not about that. With titles comes ambassadorship. Pageant winners represent their regions, and are held to intense public scrutiny and high standards of conduct. We travel extensively across the country, sometimes meeting with dignitaries, or promoting special causes and events. I am so grateful for the experience and the opportunities I was given. Pageantry instilled me with the confidence and courage to pursue my own path, and I love the autonomy that comes from having my own business.”
Giving Time for Others
During her reign as Miss Louisiana, Edmiston volunteered and supported as many non-profit and community organizations as her schedule would allow. Most notably, St. Joseph’s Diner, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana, Best Buddies, The ALS Association, Lafayette Education Foundation, LARC, and Susan G. Komen.
Most recently, Edmiston has focused on two specific projects here in Acadiana. Civic Side, whose “24 Hour Citizen Project” helps locals pursue their community based ideas by connecting them with experts, backers and others to bring their projects and dreams to fruition while helping make the community an even better place to live. Then there’s New Hope Community Development of Acadiana. This organization works with underprivileged children, tutoring them and teaching the organization's core values of Respect, Generosity, Self-Discipline, Integrity, Responsibility and Wisdom.
A New Direction
Putting pageant life behind her was not an easy transition. Edmiston remained uncertain of her career path, and the important life choices she had deferred were there waiting when she came home. It was a period of soul searching.
She decided to follow her passion for health and beauty by becoming a licensed esthetician, and enrolled in Esthiology at the Aveda Institute. After graduating from Aveda, she worked for a plastic surgeon at a medical spa, then opened her Lafayette business seven months ago. During this time, she reconnected with good friend and mentor, Ross Walters, with whom she has formed a partnership as co-owner of the Miss Lafayette USA and the Miss Lafayette Teen USA pageants. The winners of these events go on to compete in the Miss Louisiana USA and Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageants.
Today, Edmiston absolutely loves what she does: Helping to empower women by giving them the encouragement, information, and tools they need to look and feel amazing. “I see myself somewhat as a beauty advisor and a sounding board for my clientele. I am constantly learning and enjoy sharing that knowledge – and, each day I learn something new from my clients.”