After 4 crowns squeezed into 3 years, I’ve been, seen and done a lot. The topic of different program types is one that has been discussed “behind the scenes” and contemplated by directors, volunteers and ambassadors alike, myself included. It begs the question, which is best? Taking you through my journey that consisted of all three program styles, I want to explain the ups and downs of my experiences and share advice I have for ambassadors in any of these roles and for directors overseeing these roles.
My journey in its most condensed form:
Selected as Miss Waconia my senior year of high school, I was crowned alongside a classmate lauded the title “Miss Waconia Princess.” Nine months later, I forwent the Miss Waconia title to become an Aquatennial Princess with the Minneapolis Aquatennial, another hierarchical-structured program; I stepped into the shoes of a “runner-up,” so to speak. I was fortunate enough to be supported by an incredible ambassador family during my Aquatennial year that encouraged and allowed me to continue pursuing my dreams and goals of becoming a dairy princess. Three quarters of the way through my Aquatennial year, I was crowned a Carver County Dairy Princess–my first true experience as an equal ambassador. Four even shorter months down the road and just a month after passing down my Aquatennial crown, I was graced with the title Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
A Queen and Princesses
Not only have I participated in this program type more than once, but I’ve also served in both the “queen” and “princess” role (not to mention, relentlessly interrogated by aspiring adults half my age and size to define my title and prove my legitimacy). I believe we have Frozen to thank for vividly outlining the hierarchical royal system as we know it. Nonetheless, this program type will teach you the importance of collaboration and humility more than any other program, especially if you have or will serve in each role. It will also teach you the fragility and immense weight on your shoulders as an ambassador. Succumbing to a patronizing, “I-know-best” mentality serving as a Queen is far too easily done without recognizing it. On the flip side, becoming resentful of the queen as a princess comes almost naturally, too. However, being aware of these tendencies going into the role makes you more conscious and considerate of the way you handle yourself, use your words and take action. What brings a team together even more? Directors and supervisors–talk about influencers and transformers. Had it not been for some outstanding directors, my outlook on these programs would be completely different.
This program type fully embodies a “team” environment. It does not designate a superior and inferior position, thus avoiding any tension or resentment surrounding the topic. It doesn’t guarantee the ambassadors will get along, but certainly encourages them to work together on an equal playing field more so than a Queen/Princess program. As a county dairy princess, I was fortunate to be crowned with outstanding women, but more importantly, outstanding teammates, which made it easy to attend events together. No one had greater or more important responsibilities than other, and no one felt inclined to assume a “queen” role within our group. However, I also don’t think I was inclined to push my limits and achieve greatness during this reign. Looking back and more deeply reflecting on this reign, I can confidently say that my time as a dairy princess was the least stressful of my reigns while still rewarding, but perhaps that was the nature of that specific program.
The culmination of my three-year run concluded with my solo reign as Princess Kay. Retrospectively, everything I had done prior to this reign with Miss Waconia, Aquatennial Ambassadors and my county dairy princess program equipped me with the proper tools, knowledge and etiquette to be a strong individual ambassador. Because of this, I would like to think my year was packed with potential the night I was crowned. Having had no experience or even no diversified experience going into Princess Kay, I think I would have felt under-prepared, somewhat lost and less confident in my ability to exceed in carrying out the duties and responsibilities that came with the position. As a single ambassador, you have the perk of calling all the shots, creating personal goals and making the year uniquely you. It’s liberating, exciting and challenging. That said, every upside has a downside. My year as Princess Kay was exhausting, and unlike the Aquatennial, I didn’t have an ambassador family by my side to bring the energy up when it was low. Being a single ambassador can also be lonely and car rides get long by yourself, but if you can push through those tough moments, being a single ambassador is one of the most empowering experiences you’ll have.
You didn’t put yourself in the crown you’re in. You didn’t have the power to decide the program type offered in your area. You didn’t have the power to pick the position you’re carrying out. You do, however, have the power to change your mindset. You do have the grace and intelligence to act and speak fairly and respectfully. For queens, never say “my princesses” or “my court.” They do not belong to you. For princesses, never resent a queen for something that is out of her power. She did not choose the role. For equal ambassador, always maintain your role and remember that no one ambassador is better than the next. Equal is equal, but don’t forget to push yourself. For single ambassadors, stay strong, stay humble and stay hungry. You are your own motivation. You are the sole determinant of a successful or unsuccessful reign.
You pick the program type. You oversee the ambassadors. Ultimately, you make years or you break them. I am not going to tell you that one program exceeds another, but be sure to ask yourself and write down what you want the ambassadors to take away from their reigns. Does your program type support these goals? Undeniably, there are benefits to all program types, but there are also downfalls to each. Carefully consider and reconsider your program. I 100% believe that directors harness and sustain a positive or negative environment and experience for ambassadors in any program type. Your actions, effort and attitude will make a world of a difference. Like I said, you can make years or you can break them. Proceed mindfully.