Almost a year ago, Alixandra Parsons’ eyes were on the prize: becoming Miss Illinois.
But the then 17-year-old holder of the Miss Midwest Illinois crown found the lessons she learned last June not taking the state title were as important as going for it in the first place.
“I learned to never give up on your dream,” she said. “I know it’s a cliche, but it’s really true. Just because I didn’t win doesn’t define me as not a winner. There will always be people better than you. We all already had our own titles.”
The shared experience did earn her friends, she said, just returning from Chicago where she saw several of them.
“I didn’t place in the top 10, but I made amazing friends; they’re my pageant sisters.”
Alix graduated in the spring from Belleville East High School, already taking general-studies classes at Southwestern Illinois College. With the Miss Midwest Illinois title came a $12,000 grant and a $2,400 work-study scholarship from Lindenwood University in Belleville. But Alix, now 18, said last week that attending Lindenwood wasn’t a good fit and she has decided to go back to SWIC to finish her core classes before heading off to Southern Illinois University Carbondale to earn a degree in communication.
I learned to never give up on your dream. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s really true. Just because I didn’t win doesn’t define me as not a winner.
Alixandra Parsons on not becoming Miss Illinois
Life has slowed slightly.
“I can’t explain how busy my life was,” she said of her appearances, events and responsibilities as Miss Midwest Illinois — from the win in January until the Miss Illinois Pageant in Marion in June.
“I do have a little more free time. Now I can come home and cook for myself.”
Besides school, Alix works part time as a nanny for a military family and lives at home — at least temporarily.
“I’ll be getting my own apartment in Belleville in January or February,” she said. Her parents are Sam and Colette Parsons and she has a brother, Sammy, 8.
Dance was her talent for the competitions, so plenty of time was allotted for practice. But with her focus shifting now more toward school and independence, Alix decided to cut out studio work.
Dancing since she was 3, “I realized the passion wasn’t there anymore. It wasn’t the center of my life.”
She’s still a crowd-pleaser, though, and earned a rookie spot on the 2015-16 St. Louis Blue Crew. It’s a paid position where she and other high-spirited young fans of St. Louis Blues hockey make public appearances, such as at games, and events that are part of the team’s community outreach.
Alix may find herself shoveling the ice on a game night and escorting mascot Louis into the crowd. Or on a weekend, helping out with the one of her favorite events, the 2015 Girls On The Run 5K in St. Louis.
She had to audition to become a member of the Blue Crew. She and other tryouts were tested on everything from skating ability to how personable and approachable they are.
“I was lucky enough to be named Louie the mascot’s handler,” she said. “It really is the best job because I love having the one-on-one connections with the fans and Louie. It's crazy how many people love that big blue bear.”
Her contest experience helped her get the job, she believes.
“I would say that the pageant definitely helped me with the interview portion and being able to be competitive and focused while still making friends and becoming a team.”