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Read an excerpt from Confidence is Queen by Susie Castillo

#3 Take Control of Your Health and Body Image

Your body image is a reflection of your self-control and self-love. Winning Miss USA taught me that beauty comes from the inside out. Sure, I learned a lot of tricks along the way for looking good (which I'll share with you here!), but the most important thing I learned is that if I'm beautiful internally, I'm beautiful externally, as well. There's so much more to looking good than wearing the right lip gloss (although M·A·C's Viva Glam is my fave!).

Looking good starts with having a healthy attitude toward nutrition and exercise. When I decided to give modeling a shot, I wanted to appear as physically fit and healthy as I could. I wanted to achieve that from the inside out, so I started by altering my diet. I added more fresh fruits and vegetables to my diet, drank more water and natural juices, and then I began to include strength training in my workout routine. Within just a few weeks, I felt like a new person. I had more energy, a more positive outlook, and on top of that, because I felt so great, I really looked good, too.

That's when I realized that it was me who had the power to change not only my internal self, but also my physical appearance. I learned that I am the one who can make the biggest difference in the image I present to the world. Once I felt healthy on the inside I began to concentrate on my outward appearance. I learned how to wear makeup, do my hair, and choose the right outfit for my body. Altogether these things made a big difference both in how I looked and how I felt about myself. I had all the proof I needed that I was on the right track when, a year later, I signed with a modeling agency.

#4 Believe in Your Dreams and Make Them a Reality

Having long-and short-term goals keeps you positive, focused, and strong. My dreams and aspirations kept me moving forward, rather than letting me become discouraged by the poverty, drug use, and seemingly hopeless environment around me.

Thinking back over my life, I'd have to say there were several things that inspired the formation of Key #4. First, I believe seeing my mom make it all on her own was probably the single most inspiring aspect of my upbringing. Mami raised three daughters, had more than one job when necessary, made rent every month, got dinner on the table every night, and was there to make sure my sisters and I got plenty of motherly love. Watching Mami accomplish it all instilled in me a sense that I could make any dream come to fruition as long as I had plenty of determination and worked hard enough.

I was also lucky to have a couple of mentors in my life—my high school indoor track coaches, who encouraged me to do my best, not only in sports, but in every part of my life. They took on my triumphs as if they were their own and were always pushing me to do better and try harder, along with imploring me never to give up and always look toward the future.

The encouragement from those who loved me gave me the strength to recognize that I wanted more from life than what the neighborhood I grew up in offered. All those negative influences, like drug dealers, gang members, and poverty, actually encouraged me to succeed, because I wanted a life that didn't exist where we lived.

Finally, achieving one goal helped me realize I could achieve more goals, which made me realize that it was okay to attempt to make bigger and loftier dreams come true. Each accomplishment I had led to another one and then another one, from landing that first modeling con-tract to the moment where I really knew I'd made it—being crowned Miss USA.

The combination of my life experience is what has contributed to the development of these four keys. It's difficult to pinpoint any one thing that's singularly responsible for their development. I have to give credit to all of the people and events in my life because they've all influenced the keys in some way.

These four keys helped me develop what I call “true beauty.” True beauty isn't about how you look—it's about so much more than that. True beauty starts from the inside. It's the part of you that is loving, giving, positive, and contented.

You've probably seen people with true beauty—they exude radiance, like the sun, and shine with self-esteem and a positive attitude. They also have the ability to make those around them feel good about themselves with an ease that seems to come naturally. Overall, what they possess is confidence. Confidence is what equals true beauty. It may seem like these self-possessed beauties were born with that attitude, but I can tell you they probably weren't. Having a strong sense of confidence takes practice—plus, most important, you need the right tools. And that's what I want to pass on to you: the tools that shaped who I am today.

Throughout my life, the four keys have helped me transform from a young girl unsure about her place in the world, wondering whether or not she fit in, to a woman who knows exactly who she is, what she wants, and that she has the power within her to do anything. I've found that, while this transformation to true beauty was my end goal, I couldn't be in this place without taking the small steps that led me here. You've heard that saying about how it's the journey that really matters? I think that's true. The path I took to become Miss USA was just as rewarding as the night I got crowned. Following these keys will send you on your own journey of self-discovery—one on which you'll discover who you really are and how much power you have within you to achieve what's important to you. I'm certain that if you follow these four keys, you'll find—just like I did—your own confidence, your own “true beauty.”

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