Miss Louisiana 2012 Shares Life Lessons with Teens
Baton Rouge Business Journal and sister site www.PassiontoLearn.com caught up with Lauren Michele Vizza, Miss Louisiana 2012, by telephone, the evening of October 22, 2012. She had just finished her dance practice for that day. Following are the highlights from our interview:
Lauren’s mother raised her with the idea that “We are responsible for what happens in our own back yard.” The idea of participating and volunteering was something she was raised with as a home school child up until her high school years began. Miss Vizza’s passion is to help, in particular, teenager’s attitudes toward volunteering.
To this end, Lauren created a program called S.T.A.R. which is an acronym for Service, Time, Attitude, Reward. In addition to sharing the lessons of the S.T.A.R. program she created she is also actively involved in holding programs in schools on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis encouraging students to say NO to drugs and to avoid situations and decisions that would bring them down.
Lauren understands that being Miss Louisiana is the opportunity to use her crown as a microphone. She loves using her new platform as a way to challenge, encourage and speak into young people’s lives, particularly young girls.
She is continually encouraging everyone to find ways to get involved. As her current volunteer project, she is the Louisiana spokesperson for the March of Dimes.
Misconceptions about Volunteering
Lauren recognizes that a lot of people don’t know what volunteering means. Even typical fourth graders can have a negative impression of what it means. Their usual definition, when asked, is that “volunteering is doing something that you don’t get paid for.” Lauren wants students to recognize that volunteering is not something you have to do every single day. It can be just 30 minutes or a few hours every month, encouraging them to replace some of their Facebook time with giving of themselves for the joy of it.
“It’s rewarding to help someone else, but it feels good to you as well because you’re giving of yourself,” explains Vizza.
Transitioning from high school to college life at Louisiana Tech, Lauren continued to get heavily involved in promoting students into volunteerism. She takes this idea seriously realizing, “People aren’t doing it.” Far from nagging, she constantly trumpets the benefits of receiving and learning by giving back to people, including those who have handicaps or disabilities.
Physical Fitness and Food
In being questioned about the importance of the role of physical fitness in her life she responds quickly that it is a lifestyle. She says she can’t run anymore after having had two knee surgeries and will likely have a third.
Miss Vizza said, “For me a healthy lifestyle is an everyday thing. It is a lifestyle, it’s not a crash diet, it’s not a starve-myself-two-weeks-before-competition, it’s an everyday thing.” Also, “I’m a very active kind of person.”
Body image is a topic that Lauren is happy to tackle with women and girls because of the importance of the way they see themselves. Lauren speaks from personal experience as a 16 year old who had an eating disorder that she had to “snap out” of. “Healthy doesn’t mean bone-skinny, healthy doesn’t mean eating whatever…healthy means having a good relationship with food where I know…what I can’t eat, what I can, how my body reacts.”
Be You, Anyway You Want
Prompted to answer, “What would you tell a 14 year old girl about themselves? She responds, “It’s OK to be you, whatever that means. If unique means you have pink hair…if you want to wear shorts and a t-shirt…go for it.” She sees the age of 14 in girls as a time when they are “really starting to come into their own,” a time when peer pressure increases. “I love talking to young girls about this stuff.” She continues, “Realizing as you’re young, who it is that you’re gonna want to be and knowing that it’s OK to change who you are.”
In high school, Ms. Vizza was “a total athlete.” In soccer, “Doing sprints was my favorite thing.” She never wore makeup, was in shorts and t-shirts all the time and her hair was in a ponytail. When college arrived at the door, she had to find “a whole new life-plan.”
Girls Don’t Have to Be “Stuck in a Box”
“Through pageants I’ve kind of developed into the woman I always wanted to be, a well-rounded person.”
“There’s nothing wrong with, you know, changing your mind and saying, ‘that’s not really who I want to be anymore. I feel like girls feel they’re locked into something.”
“I’m Lauren first and foremost, I’m not Miss Louisiana, I’m Lauren and I’m going to be the Miss Louisiana that Lauren would be.” She teaches girls that they are not stuck in a box. “You can be whoever you want to be.”
As a child, Lauren was “painfully shy.” However, it became one of her main goals to be able to have the self-confidence to walk into a room and talk to a stranger or “the new girl” at school. She points to joining a sorority as a point of change for her. Now she claims to be able to make a brick wall talk back to her,
Miss Louisiana 2012 was asked about how she stays motivated to do the difficult things. She acknowledges, “Being Miss Louisiana is a job…There is always a long to do list.” She spoke of the constant traveling that can be exhausting at times. One of her motivational secrets is that, “Every day I have to find at least one thing that I’m grateful for, one thing that reminds me of why I’m doing this and why I wanted to win so badly.”
She shared that she is very goal oriented. She sets a goal by saying to herself, “I want to accomplish this.”
Miss America Competition 2013
Very soon Lauren is to head to the Miss America competition in Las Vegas, Nevada and be involved with orientations and events that last from January 3 to January 12, finals night on ABC. She says “It’s still surreal,” that she has been selected from approximately 10,000 ladies to participate in a nationally televised and highly recognized event.
Keeping Focus and Motivation
How does she keep her focus and motivation? Miss Louisiana reads the Bible. “My faith is important to me.” She also says, “I’m a real biography person. I love nonfiction. I’m actually reading Condoleezza Rice’s book, ‘No Higher Honor’. I love her. I think she’s amazing.” Lauren mentioned author John Maxell as helpful as well. At age, 15 Lauren Michele Vizza was deeply impacted by the book ‘Gifted Hands’ by Dr. Ben Carson. From time to time she revisits that book saying, “Reading that book, I can’t complain ever.”
Trip to Paris
Recently, Lauren travelled to France and stayed ‘from Sunday to Sunday.” She drank in the visions of Paris and “ate everything in sight.”
“The architecture really impressed me,” Lauren remembers, “I’ve studied it and to be there at those places that I’ve read about and to see the architecture, it was overwhelming.”
How She Studies
Lauren was asked about the use of her memory in recalling facts and whether she feels that she has a retentive memory. She said that she does for things that she is really interested in such as history. In studying, she color coordinates all of her class notes. She says she can picture the colors and text to a large degree “in my brain” when she is taking a test that she has studied and prepared for.
Miss Vizza uses color pens and a yellow highlighter to aid her memory. “I go old fashioned with it and I write the stuff, I write it out and I break it all down color by color.” One item might be a blue header which can help the main point jump out. Every subcategory would tend to have a different color to distinguish it in her mind. “It helps you remember it,” Lauren said. “I’m studying it by writing it out and having to re-word things so they make sense to me.” She favors purple sometimes, for example, to label names. “Black and white, it starts blending together and… you can’t even see what I’m writing.”
Asked if she was mainly a visual person she said she likes cool colors like blue and, yes, purple. “Those are the colors that I gravitate toward,” whereas, neon can tend to overwhelm her if used in excess.
Advice for Teens
What is Miss Louisiana’s golden piece of advice to teens? “…to not be afraid to dream big, because if nobody dreams then we wouldn’t accomplish anything.” Also, “If you have these big dreams, you need to run to them.” She wants teens to share their talents with other people.
Outward vs. Inward Beauty
Our interview concluded with this final question, “What is the difference between being outwardly beautiful and inwardly beautiful?”
Lauren’s response was heart felt as she spoke from shared experience to women and girls everywhere, “I think inwardly beautiful is when you are completely confident in who you are as a woman and who you are as a young girl and you know what you are and what you stand for and that will shine out to the outside because things like makeup and hairspray and clothes, they’re there to accentuate the beauty that’s already there. They’re not there to create a mask or to create a whole new person and so, once you’re inwardly beautiful and totally confident in who you are then it will come out to the outside.”
Interview by Kevin Andrew Woolsey, Baton Rouge Business Journal and www.PassiontoLearn.com “Essential Knowledge Discovery”, October 22, 2012.