MISS SL ♛ 2016 is wearing the “Ivyana Gown” by United Colors, especially created for her appearance at the MISS SL finale and the “Her Grace” Jewerly set by Moondance Boutique, also special created for the occasion, complimenting the The Victorious Crown of Grace and Honour by Chop Zuey, which is exclusively held and worn by the past and current MISS SL winners only.

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The farewell speech that Ivyana Szondi, MISS SL ♛ 2016 gave at the climax of the MISS SL 2017 Grand Finale, before results were announced:

Thank you, everyone, for sharing in my final moment as Miss SL ♛ 2016. This has been an incredible journey. I have learned a great deal from my fellow candidates, Marcus Lefevre and the Miss SL Team. I cannot say enough what being MISS SL has meant to me.

Special thanks to the love of my life and husband for six years, Doug. He has been the very foundation that keeps me grounded. His love knows no bounds. I cherish that Doug chooses to fill my life with his love, care, and presence. To my sponsors, I am truly grateful for the custom items designed for this special night. Kathrin Dassin of Moondance Boutique for her lovely set, ‘Her Grace’. UC from United Colors for this exquisite gown named after me. Both have made this a moment even more memorable. It is a fortunate thing that I do not have to read this speech on voice. I would have great difficulty getting through it.

Two years ago, I was a candidate in MISS SL 2015. It was a rough year due to having a surgery during the competition and another after. Despite this, I made it to the Top 12. Though I was happy to place, I started to question my abilities. Thinking I had reached my ‘peak’ as a model and competitor in pageants. Regardless of those thoughts, a part of me didn’t want to give up my passion in Second Life. After taking a small break, I decided to only focus on working as a model and blogger instead of competing.

A year later, the announcements for MISS SL 2016 auditions began. Soon after, my dear friend and Second Life sister Shazneyvalentine sent me a message on Facebook. She said that I had to apply for the audition. At first, I told her no because I was afraid to take another chance. Thinking the result would be similar as the year earlier. But she continued to encourage me through many Skype calls with kind and nurturing words. Embolden by Shazzy’s kindness, I applied to audition. Knowing that Marcus was happy to see me enter again will always hold a special place in my heart.

Going into this, I felt it was better to try to enjoy this experience and not focus on winning. To take the journey as it is and to put my skills to the test one last time. There were some intense competitors that year. Their intensity motivated me to take more risks in my styling and posing. A few times, I thought my ideas were too weird or very awkward but decided to try them anyway. Miss SL has given me the confidence to push through my insecurities and be myself. In the end, Marcus called my name as the winner of MISS SL 2016. That moment felt unreal. My IMs exploded with friends congratulating me. Everything felt so massive yet sublime; my head was spinning.

Since 2008, the fashion industry is one thing I have always come back to. It is the one community where I have felt the most at home. The friends I have made along the way and those who gave me a chance when others would not have kept me here for over nine years.

The concept of being whomever you want to be in Second Life is quite magical. Yet, being a representation of your real life heritage, nationality, or ethnicity within Second Life is monumental. As an African-American woman, I am proud that I can be who I am here. Over the years, I have experienced the ebbs and flows of the fashion community. When I started out, there were few models of color and even fewer black titleholders. To have been one of those few means more to me than I could ever express. I am forever grateful to have been given such an opportunity.

Two key pieces of advice I would like to give to the lovely candidates and to the audience. The first is to find your own path to greatness. If you are willing to work hard and trust in your abilities, no one can stop your progress. Strive for your own ideal of success; don’t be afraid to stand in your own spotlight.

Second, a Queen is not built or defined by her crown alone. She is born through her achievements, failures, tenacity, patience, but most of all, her heart. Whether tonight is your time to shine or someone else’s, doesn’t make you less worthy. You can (and will) go on to do many great things. Another chance may be waiting when you least expect it.

Before I announce the Top 3, I would like to say a few words to MISS SL ♛ 2017. May your reign be a fruitful one. Make the most of your time; a year goes by so fast. I am counting on your fellow candidates to give you their full support. Each of you has shared this journey with her, putting in just as much effort. Don’t let envy, pride, and indignation be the feelings you take away from this experience. There can only be one winner. One day, it could be your night too. Again, thank you all for being here tonight. It has been a major honor to be MISS SL ♛ 2016.

Thank you, Ivyana for this wise and advising words. We do understand your speech as milestone in yours and ours journey, but never as a farewell – we are the more happy to know your continued support to MISS SL Organization. MISS SL ♛ 2016 has decided to remain for the time being in her position as MISS SL Agency CEO.

Photography: Marcus Lefevre