Former New York Teen USA Lisa Drouillard on Beauty, Developing Confidence, and Being a Feminist
Former Miss Teen New York USA Lisa Elizabeth Drouillard has never fallen from the spotlight since her triumphant 2011 crowning. Drouillard, a student at John Jay College studying Criminal Justice, hops at schools and all over the nation to speak to teens. And that’s when she’s not at local events hobnobbing with community leaders.
The beauty queen sounded off to Kreyolicious.com on developing confidence, her roots and her plans for the future.
Tell us about growing up as a New Yorker with Haitian roots. I am the only girl and the youngest of four, so growing up I was very sheltered. I learned to speak and understand Kreyòl from my grandmother who is bilingual. Growing up as a Haitian-American, my household was and still is so much fun but very disciplined. You know when it is time for fun and time to be serious and respectful. The only challenge was not being allowed to go to any of my friends birthday parties without being chaperoned…Forget about slumber parties. That was an absolute no.
What would you say is your definition of beauty? My definition of beauty is simply being content with yourself. If you are comfortable wearing your hair back, short, kinky or straight, you do that. Once you are comfortable in your own skin, your true beauty will radiate wherever you go.
Going with this definition of beauty you gave me…is that pretty much how you saw things in high school, or is this something you’ve come to learn? This is definitely something that I have come to learn. My look is continuously changing. I am seeing things that I once disliked about myself become perfected as I mature both physically and mentally.
Beauty contests have been around since the beginning of times, practically. But they still get the thumbs down from some people, who feel, that well, they are sexist. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I respect that. Pageants involve an array of different women. Every woman has a main topic and that would be to win the crown of course, but they also have bullet points and that just may be to get fit, overcome stage freight, or accomplish something people say they couldn’t. The list goes on. It is more than just parading a woman’s body on stage in a swimsuit or a gown, it is truly the lessons learned and the hard work that goes into even competing. It may seem easy, but in all actuality it is far from it.
Do you think of yourself as a feminist? Having experienced and observed so many things in this industry and throughout my life, I can firmly say that I am a feminist. I feel like women can do anything we put our mind to and we should not be exempt. I am in favor of equality in every sense of the word. However, in my opinion I feel like once we can come together as women and collaborate instead of competing as far as who has the better occupation or the better texture hair etc, we will be respected and more will be given to us.
Think back to that night when you were elected Miss Teen New York. And when you heard your voice announced. What was going through your mind? I knew whoever won that coveted title [would get] to go to the Bahamas and compete for the national title of Miss Teen USA, so that was all that was going through my mind, me actually being the New York representative going to Bahamas. The best moment of my life by far.
When was the last time you went to Haiti? I have not been to Haiti, but I am going this summer and I cannot wait to be there. I am sure that I will have a great time.
I remember coming across this article once. It was basically about women in their 30s, 40s, and as old as their 60s and so on, giving advice to younger folks. And one of the things that the author wrote was that “However pretty we think we are, we are three, four, heck even eight times as pretty.” Of course, that’s a paraphrase of what was said, as I can’t locate this said article at the moment. Sometimes, according to this same author, it’s not until years later when we look back at photos of ourselves that we realize how pretty we were. What are your thoughts on this? That is a really beautiful perception however, I do not agree completely only because we are a work in progress and continuously changing as humans. I know my childhood self looks nothing like who I am today.
Definitely. Now as a beauty queen, who carries herself with such confidence, what advice do you have on developing confidence in one’s self, one’s looks. Having a great self-image, too. We have to love ourselves first. If one does not love what he or she sees in the mirror—that is a problem. Not only does it cause major insecurities, but it also makes you needy for compliments—as well as [makes him or her] a very easy target to get picked on. It is not always easy to feel so confident with yourself because—lets face it—we all have that one thing that we probably wish we could change about ourselves, but it starts from loving the beautiful person that you are and leaving no room for anyone to tell you otherwise.
Who did you look up to growing up? There were so many women that I looked up to growing up such as Halle Berry, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Gabrielle Union just to name a few.
You’re a sought after speaker on the motivational speaker circuit. Do you ever get stage fright? Or—freeze out? All the time! My heart is racing because you do not want to be boring or forget to thank the people who invited you and most importantly, you do not want to forget what you are there to speak about. [Laughter]. Trust me, the mind wanders when you are put in the hot seat.
What would you say is the most rewarding thing about going out there and speaking with youths? I am older now, but when I was in my reign as a teen and I started doing these speaking engagements, it was really difficult showing these young girls and boys that I am just like them. They would look at me like I am this little princess whose job it is to pretend to care. So, the most rewarding was to leave most of my speaking engagements knowing that I made a positive impact and they understood me, Lisa, not Miss New York Teen. I still continue to do public speaking with the youth around Brooklyn and New York City and it has gotten a lot easier, they come up to me and want a picture or ask me questions that they were afraid to ask out loud.
When you go on your public speaking tours and events, do you tend to formulate your speeches according to your audience and from the feedback you received from previous speaking engagements? Yes, I do. The fun fact about my speeches is that they are never written or rehearsed. I always ask the person who invited me two things and those are: What is the demographic, and what is the mission statement—if the organization has one. Keeping those two in mind, when I arrive to the event that I am scheduled to speak at, I am ready to go! After my first few words, I am able to feel how receptive my audience is and from there on I know in which direction to go.
With this in mind, what advice do you have for girls out there who may not have the confidence at the moment, who may not believe in themselves, whether their intelligence or beauty? How can they develop that, like now, as opposed to looking back and thinking, “Man, I was pretty fine then and didn’t know it.” We are human, so we will always doubt ourselves no matter what. But, it is important to surround yourself with people who love you and want to see you do well. A healthy surrounding is a healthy mind set.
What advice do you have for those who are pondering on entering beauty contests? If beauty pageants are even a thought, then they should absolutely give it a try. If you have to question yourself about something then there is a curiosity. The only way you will know if that is for you, is to give it a try. Now, I am not saying go out into the world and try everything that you are curious about, but be logical and make the decision that is best for you!
What do you appreciate the most in Haitian culture? The food and the music! I have never been to Haiti and every time I hear Konpa or eat diri ak djon djon, I feel like I am home.
Your parents enrolled you at the Barbizon School of Modeling in Manhattan, and you’ve been modeling and entering pageants since you were 14. Of course when you’re out there, there are times when you don’t win. Or get the crown. How did you deal with those moments of disappointment? I did not complete my session with Barbizon, I remember the third week I just wanted something different. When I started competing I lost 3 times but that was for other systems, not for Teen USA. I would cry when I lost a pageant because so much goes into it, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I would also vent to my family who are biased so that balanced everything out [Laughter]. Miss New York Teen USA was my first try at that system and I ended up winning. But it was from the lessons learned from the previous pageant systems that have helped me get such an incredible win.
You’re studying Criminal Justice at John Jay College. How is that coming along? It is coming along great! I love it, one more year and I am finished.
So many young women have turned pageant wins into even bigger dreams. What are your plans? I have the acting bug now so my plans are to act and definitely continue modeling and hopefully do major ad campaigns. Magazines are fun but it is time to take it to the billboards and big screen! I am ready!