My Superhero Origin Story

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This post was inspired by two things…I saw Fantastic Four yesterday (p.s. it wasn’t what the reviews made it out to be), and a classmate of mine from college.

The guy in the picture is my classmate King (that’s really his name, and it’s amazing). We worked on a group project together, and called me Superwoman. I can always count on King to remind me that I’m Superwoman, or to watch Orphan Black. He and his wife are two of the kindest people I’ve ever met, so this post goes out to you King.

Since I’m Superwoman, this post is my superhero origin story…an explanation of how I became the Type A, hardworking, overachieving, former jock turned beauty queen that I am now.  This is post was my business school essay for a particular Ivy, and I previously posted it on my last blog.  But two days out from beginning my next super adventure, it seemed only fitting that I shared this story again.

I remember the day vividly. I was six years old and attending my first end of the season banquet for the Kenwood Country Club swim team. I sat on the floor in front of the stage, while the parents and big kids occupied the tables scattered around the ballroom. My heart skipped a beat every time my coach picked up a trophy, announcing the winner. Girls High Point, 6 & Under High Point, Most Improved, the list continued to rattle on. I was one lone chocolate chip in a sea of vanilla ice cream.    I started to feel my little heart sink further with every name. Finally, I heard my name; it felt like I was floating, this was my moment. But, like the final scene from the movie Carrie, my award was a joke. The coach handed me an egg timer, my award, person with the busiest schedule. The coaching staff thought it would be funny to talk about how busy I’d been, juggling horseback riding, summer math emersion program, and swim team.

I watched as my dad leaned over to my mom, I’m guessing he said he was going to bring the car around, because when I looked back, after fixating on a carpet speck to keep from crying, I saw my mom. She mouthed the words “it’s okay”. When the award banquet ended and we stood at the front entrance waiting for my dad, I burst into tears. I have very nurturing parents, but in that moment my mom turned and said, “stop! Now you dry your tears,” she said through my sniffles, “don’t let them see you cry.” “If you don’t like the way they made you feel tonight, you can fix it. You can work and train, and your father and I will support you, but remember this feeling…and don’t ever let anyone make you feel like this, you shut them up with your success.”

The next year, I came back a beast. I set standards, crushed and silenced crowds with my times. I traveled the country and Australia, leaving a trail of heartbreak behind me, and competing every year at the Junior Olympics. I broke records that existed long before I, or my family would have even been allowed to set foot on some of those pool decks. I took my mother’s words to heart; I decided that no one would ever out work me. If I had to lose it would be only if I had done everything I could and left it all in the pool.

That night twenty years ago has stuck with me. Whenever I’m faced with what feels like an improbable task, I look at it as an “egg timer moment.”

In 2006, I was defined by my athletic prowess for more than a decade of my life before heading to college. My identity came from what I did in the pool. However, while juggling a learning disability and a double major my first year of college, I realized I could either major in swimming or focus on school. I walked away from the sport that defined and molded my character. I had a panic attack as I cleaned out my locker. I had to relearn and meet the new “MacKenzie.”

I took my passion and focus to University of Miami TV station. I had been a dominating force in the water; I figured it was only logical that on UMTV, I would be the next Robin Roberts. My first segment was an in-depth piece on then injured Pittsburg Steelers’ Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the perils of concussive injuries. To say I was a hot mess is an understatement. At the end of the segment, as the cameraman counted down, I signed off, and the red light atop the camera when blank. I felt the same pitiful, judgmental gazes I’d felt sitting on the floor at Kenwood. I walked back to my dorm and threw myself across my bed, drained and marinating on what the producer said, “not everyone is cut out to be on-air, and you might just be one of those people. Maybe you’d be better on radio.” My egg timer moment returned.

I was relentless, I was ready to silence the snide remarks and questioning glances towards the girl in a “boys’ club.” I became a repository of sports trivia; I filmed myself constantly refining my on camera appearance, and practiced incessantly reading stories out loud to my roommate. Next semester I nailed the audition but was assigned commentary segments, round table discussions and sideline segments instead of anchoring. I did not let that deter me; I was determined to be the best-prepared member of the team. I eventually sat behind the anchor desk for not one, but two shows. I was nominated for three SunCoast Emmys, and won two. I even had the distinct honor of being elected, by the Executive Board of UMTV, to manage the station. As manager, I was tasked to create and oversee content for eight UMTV shows. Additionally, I worked on the renewal of the station’s contract with Comcast South Florida. The same boys that mocked me, worked for me.

As my 20th birthday approached, I wondered how I would even begin to top what I’d done at such a young age. I wrote out a list of everything I wanted to do in my 20s, my bucket list. First, was a full marathon, I hadn’t run more than a mile during swim dry land training. I systematically broke down the task, found a training plan, all the while handing my daily tasks, and 5 months later crossed the finish line at the Walt Disney World Marathon.

Over the years, growing up with a mother, who was a former runway model, pictures of her gracing Parisian and Italian runways surrounded me. Ever year, we watched Beauty Pageants and I dreamt of gracing a stage – but I could barely walk in heels!

So my second bucket list item, I wanted my Cinderella moment. I decided to compete for Miss USA. I had no experience and didn’t know how to get started. I didn’t grow up a painted baby competing in the Toddlers and Tiaras pageant system. My time outside of school was spent either in swim practice, or mucking stalls and washing horses. Growing up my classmates complained I reeked of either chorine, or hay and horse manure. I researched and developed a spreadsheet of all the elements it would take to have my Eliza Doolittle transformation. I convinced a world-renowned pageant coach, she coached seven girls to Miss Universe titles, to take me on. I trained, practiced, and pushed myself to give my best effort. In seven months I transformed, I’m proud to say that on my first try I won the Miss District of Columbia title and headed to Miss USA in Las Vegas. There are a wealth of skills I learned that translate to the world of business, poise, confidence, professionalism in all situations. I honed my oral presentation skills, thinking quick under pressure, and adapting to all sorts of social situations. I’m a statistical anomaly, because parents are more likely to have a son play in the Super Bowl, than they are to have a daughter compete in Miss USA.

My father, Ernest Green, was part of the landmark group The Little Rock Nine, the nine black students that integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. My father was the lone senior and thus became the first African American to graduate from a segregated high school. I grew up looking at countless magazine articles, newspaper clips, and presidential letters. I sat through his Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, statue unveiling, the issuance by the US Mint of a silver dollar and US Postal Service commemorative stamps, in honor of the Nine.

“To whom so ever much is given, much is required,” is a motto I’ve heard repeatedly. I’ve been given a lot, and I expect a lot from myself in return. I have grown up with a man who left an indelible mark on the world, and that’s what I want to do. I’ve been given an incredible legacy, and I want to use it to give be a history maker, a game changer, and inspire generations to dream bigger.

I have faith in myself, and my abilities to step out and into the role of my full potential, and to follow my dream. I am not afraid of the challenge that lies ahead, but excited by the opportunity to grow and learn in a new environment. If given the opportunity to do so, I will not disappoint those who take a chance on me. I am a fast learner, hard worker, dedicated, and a team player. It is ultimately about potential and the ability to lead, that I believe is one of my qualifications. Above all, I am honest, poised, confident and focused.

Why me? Because there is no one better.

Why now? Because there is no better time.

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