Why I started Girls In Real Life
I am Mariah, and boy I have had a hell of a ride figuring out who I am. Most of my childhood and adolescent life I struggled with my confidence and accepting myself fully. I went to a predominantly white high school and always felt like I never fit in. From my skin color to my hair texture to my vocabulary… I was just different from the rest. Upon graduating high school, I decided to attend an HBCU (historically black college/university) and for the first time, I was constantly surrounded by people who looked like me! I started embracing things about myself that I once despised and learned to not care about how others viewed me.
In that same breath, I was also competing in pageants. I competed in my first one at the age of 18 (fresh out of high school) against my will It’s something my older sister pushed me to do, and I was very reluctant at first. In the end I decided it was the only way to get her to leave me alone and so I got very much outside of my comfort zone. I literally had no idea what I was doing, but to my surprise I got 2nd runner up in my very first pageant that I had ever competed in. I didn’t know it then, but it was the catalyst that pushed me into becoming the very woman I am today.
I’ve always called my pageant journey my self discovery journey because it was throughout my time competing in pageants that I truly found myself. Initially, when I competed, I did it through a façade. It was almost like I was outside of my body every time I was on stage; just an actor depicting what I assumed pageant girls to be like in my mind. I was constantly trying to cater to everyone else – my sister, pageant coaches, directors – that I left my true self on the backburner. I got to a point where I decided that I wanted to do things my way and shed the skin of the fake person that I once portrayed. I found people who supported my vision, did a lot of self-reflecting, and worked my ass off to finally win the title of Miss Louisiana USA 2020. It amazed me that, after all those years of doing what I thought would win me the crown, my real self was more than enough to do the job.
And this entire journey has led me here to creating Girls in Real Life. It stemmed from a place of me wanting to encourage women to live a fearless and filter free life, which simply means to go after the things you want as your authentic self. From birth, we are force fed an image of what it means to be a woman, and I am now challenging everything that I was ever taught. We shouldn’t feel pressure to live up to a certain standard in order to be “accepted” by society, men, our families, or whoever else. And we damn sure shouldn’t keep our experiences to ourselves, so this platform is to share stories, offer advice, and discuss topics that are unique to the female experience, so women out there know that they are not alone in what they are feeling or experiencing.