An Unexpected Leader

Madeline Burak, Miss Reno-Sparks 2011

Where do you find inspiration? I have spent much of my life seeking a magic catalyst for action. So far, I have not found the great discovery of a motivational quick fix, yet I find inspiration in the most unlikely places.

The other night my dear friend’s daughter Madeline, stopped by to borrow some piece of technology from my techie husband Robert. Her intended brief visit lasted over an hour. We discussed many topics including: her starting college in August, living in the dorms, possibly rushing (something I strongly recommend, by the way) and other tidbits of small talk.

Duh! Aren’t you forgetting something?

While we were chatting, I suddenly realized I was forgetting something big that recently transpired! Madeline is no ordinary 18 year old incoming freshman; she holds the title Miss Reno-Sparks. This was the chance I had been waiting for. I had to find out what drove her desire to compete in a pageant?

When I asked her what inspired her, she explained she was originally looking at scholarships and this one popped out, grabbing her attention. I have known Madeline for most of her life, and I never considered her the stereotypical pageant-girl type. She is beautiful and smart, but very down to earth and real. She is not a big-hair, fake tan (and other fake parts I wont mention) bubble head who’s deepest thought is how to win the next pageant.

Don’t hate her because she is beautiful (and smart)

Madeline said this was one of the best experiences of her life. She had to learn poise, self-confidence, and how to apply makeup. She was forced outside of what was comfortable and into a world where she was literally being judged. Without exceptional self confidence, walking down a runway flanked by judges, in an evening gown or a bathing suit (and heels) would be unlikely or impossible.

Since winning the title a few months ago, she has appeared in parades and other local festivities. As well she participated in the annual Miss Nevada Competition in Mesquite Nevada, which later feeds into the Miss America Competition.

In Mesquite, Madeline spent a week with other Nevada pageant winners who were also competing for the title. When I inquired what it was like rooming with complete strangers who all dreamed of the same outcome, she said that she made life-long friends from the encounter and she was glad to be part of it. That is where the story ends, but not really.

Lesson learned: don’t let anyone tell you who/what you are

The lesson I learned from this mature, well-spoken and totally amazing girl (OK, Madeline is really a woman now, but I still have a hard time processing it) is that leaders come in unanticipated packages. I never considered Madeline a pageant girl, let alone winner of Miss Reno-Sparks, but through determination, she became the role of the beauty queen.

The unexpected leader is far more interesting than the guy who stands up and says he wants to be in charge. The unexpected leader brings something unique to the table. Her thought process has not been tampered through group-think, and her ideas are fresh and exciting. It may not feel familiar and comfortable to become an unexpected leader, but the experience may be the best of your life.

8 thoughts on “An Unexpected Leader

  1. maddie burak says:

    This was the sweetest thing I have ever read. I have never felt so accomplished until after reading this post, and it really almost brought me to tears. You are an amazing writer, and thank you so much for writing about me on your blog!! We will have to catch up again another time, hopefully your lovely daughter can join us! 🙂


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