“Hi my name is Lyndsea Burke and I am your Miss Spirit of Indiana 2017”. These are words I have been sure to say multiple times since my crowning just two weeks ago. To say that I am excited to be Miss Spirit of Indiana would definitely be an understatement. I literally have been working for this title for the last 6 years.
After nearly 50 local pageants, multiple talents, a lot of hard work, and the right timing by God- I finally had my crowning moment on March 26th 2017. Boy was I emotional. Every picture and video of that night almost brings me to tears again because I feel like everything I have worked so hard for is finally coming into place. So you may be asking yourself, why did I keep competing for that long? To understand where my passion for the Miss America Organization began, we have to go back about 20 years.
It all started when I was around 3 years old. My Aunt Jody and my mom made it a tradition to watch the Miss America Pageant on television every year. At first I just loved the gorgeous gowns and to play “beauty shop”, which just translated to Jody doing my hair and makeup. That is where OUR dream began though. She told me every year, “That will be you someday, representing Indiana”. As I got older, I learned so much more about how these amazing women were so much more than just “princesses”.
I educated myself on how the program is the number one scholarship provider for women in the world. I became fascinated with the platform requirement and the opportunities to give back to the community. More than anything, I wanted to learn to become a well-rounded individual within the Miss America Organization.
Fast-forward to my junior year of high school- that’s when I started really working to take this dream to fruition. I started competing in the Miss Indiana’s Outstanding Teen program.
My aunt unfortunately was facing complications as a result of her obesity, and was unable to see me compete, even when I did make it to the Miss Indiana stage as a teen. But she was always more than supportive. After my time at Miss Indiana that year, I aged out and went into the Miss division. As you can imagine, things get a bit more intense as your job title requires different things from you. Not to mention that being in college while competing is a whole other conversation in itself. For two years I was soul searching.
A little lost on where to go and not placing very often made it hard to know if this would really happen. But then things took an even more unexpected turn for the worst. At the end of my freshman year of college, I received a terrible phone call from my mom letting me know that my Aunt Jody passed away. While we knew her health was not great, nothing could have prepared us for her to pass in just her early 40s.
That is where I became even more lost than before. I gained a lot of weight, I was depressed and just was bitter about never getting to say goodbye. But then it hit me. I will always believe that God had an intervention with me one day and reminded me that Jody would not have wanted me to live this way. She would have wanted to see me thrive and work to live out our dream together. That is where I found my voice and a new platform centered on helping those like her.
My platform is called Obesity: Let’s CHANGE the Stigma. The focus is on Creating Hope ANd Generating Encouragement. After watching Jody struggle with her obesity for years, I often saw people judge her for the way she looked. They did not know that she had gone to doctors to try to get help, but the solutions were not easy.
They did not know that she worked in an adult day care caring for individuals with disabilities and had custody of an amazing woman with Down syndrome. Everyone was so fixated on the outside but never took a look at her on the inside. That is why I work to educate others on how hurtful words do not encourage others to get healthy. Instead, those who are suffering from obesity need to have a support system to let them know we are here to help and cheer them on while working to be healthy.
At the same time, I am a high school art teacher who is dedicated to also spread the word on healthy living and obesity stigmas to my students and the youth across the country. I truly believe that today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders and that is why I work to give them the tools to be successful in all facets of their lives.
So yes, it finally happened! After many pageants later and a lot of hard work, I finally received the title I had worked so hard for. As I age out this year, I have lots of appearances, partnerships and memories to make up for. But the way I see it, God gave me this opportunity at a time he knew I could give everything I could, and that is more than okay with me. I cannot wait to share my journey with everyone as I work toward achieving my dreams.