The Problem with "Beauty" Pageants

Sep 29, 2000

I may step on a couple toes...Im sorry for that, but I am not sorry for my belief, in which you will soon see.

I remember growing up as a young girl watching the "Miss Teen USA" and "Miss USA" pageants...I was glued to watching it every year. I longed to be in a beauty pageant, because then I would be accepted, then I would be "beautiful"...I was an overweight child, border-line obese due to a pituitary and thyroid glandular problem. Currently I am on the opposite end of the spectrum, trying to keep weight on my body...its an endless struggle. I do not know how many of you had weight issues as a child or perhaps you have a child going through a weight problem, whatever the situation is...its hard for the child. The funny thing is, I wasnt shunned by my peers until about the 4th grade, that was when my classmates saw how I was "different" from them. It was also about that time, that I became enthralled in the beauty pageants on tv. It would be a masochistic cycle for me as every year I would watch Miss Teen USA and cry because I was jealous that she was "beautiful" and I was not..yet I had to watch the pageant because somehow, I thought I could be beautiful just by watching the show.

Over time, I lost the weight, and immediately I thought "Ok, now I can compete in a beauty pageant." My parents were accepting of whatever I chose to do, they never forced me into it....very different from the pageant experiences I have had with other contestants, which I will explain later.

So one day I was sitting in my precalculus class finishing a test when all of a sudden office aides enter the class and announce that they have a certified letter for me. I looked at the return address and it was from "DanFranc Productions." I never heard of it, but it sounded cool so I opened the letter after class. I discovered I had been "chosen" based on "academic abilities, teacher recommendations, and extra-curricular activities" to be a potential candidate in a Miss Teen California Pageant...this was big time pageantry. The winner would be Miss Teen California and she would then go represent California at the Miss Teen USA Pageant. I fell in love with the application immediately...after all they worded it so it was an "Academic based Pageant." In fact, I pointed out to my parents that this wasnt a "beauty pageant" because on the pamphlet it said explicity "Miss Teen California prides itself for being an academic-orientated pageant and not a beauty-obsessed pageant."...all the while they had an air-brushed picture of a gorgeous blonde on the cover, but I was too caught up in the glitz to catch that...

My mom was excited for me, as any mom would be when they find their child has been selected based on strong academic standards. After all, I made high school tough on myself as I chose all Honors and Advanced PLacement classes. I wanted to skip my Sophomore year by taking courses at the local community college but the Vice Principal told me I should "not" to that...which is a whole different sexist issue alltogether since my close friend who was a male, was able to advance his standing and we had the same merits, But I digress. So I spend 3.5 years in high school prepping myself for strong schooling, I was in the top 25%, I had 2 after-school jobs, spent time volunteering at a hospital and took care of my elderly diabetic grandmother and tutored students and I welcomed the foreign exchange students to the wasnt I deserving of this "academic" pageant.

I sent in my application and within 4-6 weeks I received a letter saying I had been "selected" to represent my hometown...then began the pageant flurry. I had to pay x amount of dollars (very very expensive) just to register...which doesnt include boarding nor does it include "sponsorship in the pageant booklet" So I estimated I spent $3500 on all that...then there was the Formal Evening Wear and the Informal Evening Wear competition....that costed about 2000-2500...and other expenses, we are looking at roughly 7-8000 dollars. For one pageant, and that was only me spending minimal. My family is not rich, we do not even live comfortably. We scrimp and save everything we have just to afford monthly rent in the overly-expensive Silicon Valley. Yet my parents have never deprived me of my heart-felt desires. They themselves went without and would buy clothes from K-Mart so I could have the clothes from Macy's. Why am I telling you this? So you can see the financial background of the situation.

Ok so I spend time preparing for this and I see that I will need to give a "20 second speech" during the Semi-finals. In "20 seconds or less" the judges will "be able to see your intelligence, compassion, kindess, humanity, and personality..." I dont know about you but I have friends that I have known for 2 years and yet I could not "judge" them based on our relationship of 2 years because people are complex, complicated 20 seconds is ridiculous. What are we wearing during our "personality speech"? Our evening gown. I devoted a lot of time to prepping for this speech as I wanted the judges to see the real me...I disillusioned myself into thinking that 20 seconds is adequate time...

Pageant Weekend, my family travels down to Los Angeles and we are looking for the "Wyndham hotel". The pageant staff built this hotel up so we were thinking it would be very chic and posh....needless to say when we arrived at the directions, my entire family had to check and make sure that this dump was in fact the hotel. The elevators would not work...they would get "stuck" and shake...the rooms were wasnt a good first impression, should have been an omen for me. When my mother was walking me to my hotel room I was attacked by about 4 girls who shook my hand and smiled his politician toothy grin and said in a ubiquitous voice "like oh my gosh, it is so good to meet you. Im a pageant bimbo!! Like, Im trying to totally win the miss congenality award and I will bug you with my fake cheeriness and false friendship so you can vote like for me of course"...I went to my room and waited 4 hours for my roommate to show up...She was actually a down-to-earth, dare I say cynical girl who had no expectation of winning and knew the "game"...but I didnt listen to her.

That evening all the contestants "mingled" and we were introduced by the Pageant Host and Pageant Staff. They called our name we were to walk to the center of the room and "pose" and then walk back to our seats...there were certain pageant circles within this State pageant....You see, what I didnt figure out until much later was that the State Pageants and National Pageants are different from the small local pageants...State and National are fierce and catty and their are cliques that 'travel' together...Well I noticed that certain girls received more favor from the pageant just so happens, that the top 5 girls at the finals shows, were introduced the first day with a golden spoon in their mouth by the Pageant Staff. I thought they were going to lead us into reverance and worship. When it came time for me...I received 3 claps from my roomate and then she buckled under pressure...I am not kidding you. After the "introductions", they split us into groups and we were to make "group cheers" this supposed academic-orientated pageant is resorting to cheerleading tryouts....hmmm

After that, we learned part of the dance routine for the competition...lets say we did more shook our breasts and thrusted our pelvis' more time then Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, and Christina Acguilera. Remember, this is a teen Pageant, age 13-19...I thought we were getting ready to dance for Hugh Hefner for a moment there, it was just too much...but I didnt take that as a sign either...

After 1 hour of that, they then pushed us into a smaller auditorium to go over how to "walk" and what to do the next day during Semi-finals...just to give you a general idea, We began "rehearsing" at 10:30 pm and we had to be up and ready for another rehearsal by 8:00 am the next morning...we were told "to get it right the first time, your mommy's arent here to dry your eyes."...within the first 15 minutes the lady that was walking us through yelled at each of the girls for "not following instructions" 11:45 pm we were told "You girls need to stop complaining, stop your whining, you are up this long because its your own fault, not mine. You are choosing to be stupid and not understand what I am telling you..." We were sent to bed at 12:15 am and told to "be ready for the semifinals by 8:30 am

That next morning all the girls congregated for "breakfast" the table I was assigned, girls drank orange juice, took a diuretic and ate a half a slice of whole-wheat bread "to make it appear like Im eating"...I ate breakfast, but was treated like a freak and I was called a "hippo" for eating on the day of the semi-finals

We then are subjected to more lovely compliments by the pageant staff during rehearsal. 3 hours later we are sent to our hotel rooms to get "ready" for the semi-finals...I couldnt wait to put my dress on as I felt like Cinderella since I had a long ice blue floor length Cinderella style dress. I loved it. When I came walking out of my room, one of the pageant girls said "Ohhh are wearing that?" and then she walked away....another one said "Ohhh, you chose that?"...another girl said "Jane is wearing the same dress, you two must shop at the same outlet store"..."Dont you think that dress makes you look fat?"..."Why dont you have make-up on...ohh youre already wearing it?"...Im not kidding I had so many nasty comments about my outer appearances that by the time I walked on stage I felt like I looked like manure. On stage, we were given 20 seconds to "impress the judges"...thats exactly what we were told. The whole idea of "academics" was gone the moment our parents handed us over to the pageant staff. Now it was time to focus on "beauty". I gave a 18 second speech about what I saw was my purpose in life...the girls that won the semi-finals, the 20 contestants all gave 10-15 minute speeches...yes I did say minutes...why? Well the pageant winner from last year instructed a "select few" on how she won...

When my name wasnt called, I wanted to kill myself. Immediately all the nasty comments the girls said played through my head...I believed I was an ogre creation....what was worse was the Master of Ceremonies played the song "Pretty Women" for the 20 semi-finalists to "walk to" and all the other girls were in the back room watching the girls. The message was loud and clear, we werent pretty, we did not have beauty. I cannot tell you how many tears were shed that day. We all felt like we were "losers." The next day was the Finals and, get this, the pageant, the Miss Teen California "academic" pageant, changed to "Miss Teen California beauty pageant" the girls got the message, we had intelligence, but we didnt have beauty....What I also discovered, was the girl who won the title of Miss Teen California bought a 7 million dollar diamond necklace and earring set the night prior to the finals...hmm the girl who had the most money ended up as winner, coincidence?

I am not here to tell you that beauty pageants should be banned....I personally do not agree with the way in which they objectify a woman's body. I dont even know if what I am telling you is relevant, however I had read many posts about the "greatness" of pageants and I couldnt stand it anymore. I learned that the true beauty is not judged based on you wearing an evening gown. I am beautiful because I have the beauty of spirit within me...I am beautiful not because of anything on my outside, but because I am beautiful on the inside. I am not beautiful because I am told I look like Jennie Garth or any other blonde on tv...thats not beauty. Beauty is of the spirit. Only God can judge people, yet we allow others to judge women's beauty, that doesnt make much sense to me.

I have learned much of the pageantry world...more than I could ever tell you in a place like this. I will close this editorial by quoting Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice by saying "All that glistens is not golden." Thank you and God Bless.

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