Why I Like Pageantry

So, after reading my in-depth Miss America 2016 analysis, you probably think I've lost all credibility as a technical professional or that I've gone barking mad.  Most people already think I'm mad, and even Kenzo parfum claimed that "A woman's greatest quality is her touch of madness."  So forget the latter.  Before you get your uber-feminist knickers in a knot, hear me out.

In many parts of the South, Miss America was as much appointment television as Monday Night Football when I was growing up.  Miss America was the biggest celebrity and role model to a young girl.  She was beautiful, talented, well-spoken, and polished.  You may not know who won Best Actress that year, but by God, you could spot Miss America in a crowd even without her crown.  She was American Royalty in an era obsessed with extravagance. 

And I wanted to be like her.

Don't freak out there.  Please.  Keep reading.

Chasing the dream...

When I was 15, I brought home a brochure for the Sunburst Beauty Pageant to be held at the mall, one month away. "No Experience Required!" it claimed.  I had a formal dress from my middle school graduation that I was going to use and I had my classy freshwater pearl demi-parure for jewelry.  All I had to do was buy a new pair of heels and conjure up the $25 entry fee.  My mother said "No way.  We are not spending good money on that.  You have no chance because it's all rigged and politicized."  Well, what if I raised the money myself?  "You still have to get to the mall, and we will not be taking you.  Your grandparents will not either."  And if I could con a friend into helping me? Then my father chimed in, "You are not going to be in a beauty pageant and that's the end of it."  Yes, plans crushola-ed.  "We just don't want to see you set yourself up for failure."  You only fail if you don't try at all, but anyway…

Pageantry is not about strutting around in bikinis and stripper heels, trying to prove who has the hottest bod.  If that were it, then the Hooters International or the Hawaiian Tropic crown would be the pinnacle.   Pageantry is ultimately about self-presentation skills - confidence, communication, and personal polish.  You know, those things that help you land a job and succeed across a career.  Things that I wish I had more of in my early 20s.  The girl who wins the crown is the girl who makes the judges (and everyone else) fall in love with her.  Doesn't matter what dress size she is, as long as she walks that stage believing she is the most amazing person in the room.  Doesn't matter what the dress looks like, as long as she makes people believe that she is the Queen.  Doesn't matter what her opinion on a subject is, as long as she speaks it knowledgably with conviction.  She shows no fear but always shows great respect for her sister contestants.  She knows that the crown, while a great accessory, is the microphone for her and her organization to go out into the world and be the change that they want to make happen.

The Twittersphere blew up last Sunday night, with both positive and negative commentary, like it does in the wake of every major pageant.  Many women that I follow demanded to know why the announcement of the winner is considered breaking news, or why in 2015 we still have something as antiquated as a national beauty pageant.  The simple answer: like it or not, beauty is currency (for men and women).  As much as we want to believe in the meritocracy of capitalism, the pretty people get attention, are listened to more often, and get ahead faster.  In pageantry, the crown is validation of inner and outer beauty.  It opens doors that are typically closed to the everywoman.  The Queen takes us all along for the ride.  Besides, the daily activities of Betty Cantrell and Olivia Jordan are far more redeeming than that of the latest Kardashian spawn.


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