Persevering through the painful detours
Former Miss Kansas Adrienne Bulinski says attitude guided her through personal and professional highs and lows
Adrienne Bulinski remembers walking through the halls of Stauffer-Flint Hall the semester she graduated from the J-School. Dean Ann Brill asked her what she was planning to do with her journalism degree. “Nothing,” Bulinski replied. She wanted to major in dance, but her dad wanted her to pick a solid degree with skills she could count on, so she split her time between the J-School and the dance and theater department.
Two weeks after graduation, Bulinski landed a job as Miss Kansas, and after that one-year term, she moved to New York to work on her entertainment career. Near the end of a three-month contract on a show in Texas, Bulinski was thrown off a horse and injured her ankle so severely that her foot was nearly severed from her leg.
Doctors removed a measuring cup full of dirt, gravel and manure from her leg. They didn’t know for several months whether her foot would have to be amputated. She was 24 years old, and her career and all the plans she had made for her future came to an abrupt halt.
Fast forward 10 years – Bulinski has just published a book about her experience, called “Blood, Sweat and Tiaras.”
“I sat down to write this book and when people ask me what it’s about, the easiest way to summarize it is it’s perseverance with attitude,” Bulinski said.
She ended up having four surgeries on her ankle. Her pain levels were constantly between a 4 and a 7. Doctors told her she would probably never walk normally again. She eventually had to have her ankle entirely replaced. Her career as an entertainer was over, but the message of the book is the message of how to deal with a life-changing event: “Perseverance comes in small steps and you have to conquer each day as it comes, not years at a time,” she said.
Bulinski relied on her journalism degree to forge a new career path. The director of the show she had been working on when she was injured told her that whenever she was ready to get back to work, she had a job as marketing director for a new show, “Texas.”
Even though Bulinski’s only experience with marketing was her senior project at the J-School working on a campaign for Blimpie subs, she took the job.
After a few years working in marketing, Bulinski felt like she could use her story to help people. She took her experience with journalism, Miss Kansas, and love for the stage and built a bridge between all of that.
“I realized I wanted to get back to what I felt my calling was,” Bulinski said. “My life had been so detoured by pain management that I was focused on survival, and once you eliminate pain out of your life, you can look at different opportunities. Speaking and working with audiences always kept coming back to me.”
She and her husband own a woodworking shop in the Denver area, and she runs the office.
Bulinski also works as a motivational speaker, talking to audiences from high schoolers to people dealing with major surgeries, and her message on stage and in her book that was published last year is one that can relate to everyone.
“It’s really about your attitude,” Bulinski said. “I don’t regret anything that happened, and if I had the choice to go back and un-do it, I would not un-do it because it has given me the opportunity to define my character as an individual. So I challenge the reader – what challenges have come into your life and what have you done with those opportunities? Because those challenges are truly opportunities to do something great.”
–– Julie Adam