“This is not your first pageant is it? Often when we come across girls like you we figure it is only about another crown. So why do you want to be the next Miss US Latina?”
When I entered the dark room encroached around a panel of 7 judges, I assumed an air of confidence and unshakable security that was most certainly tested when my experience and motives were up for question. In good pageant tradition, I answered in a diplomatic way that highlighted my views and did not undermine what past I had; in full honesty, I was taken aback by the line of questioning because I truly entered this pageant believing the mission of the organization and humble, well knowing that experience does not always triumph over raw passion and natural gestures. Either way, I had only begun my magisterial quest in the year 2013 where I won only once, albeit a major title but not completely an indicator of a seasoned veteran.
In my doubt, I began to question it all as far as my motives and my enjoyment in this field, in this tight niche of both passion, intelligence, and poise. It ran across my mind and even disorganized my thoughts as I solicited justification from myself.
It was both a long and a short week with plenty of occasion that muddied the lines between glamour and torture; my poor tendinitis ridden ankles screamed with every step and they choked on the scent of IcyHot repudiating any relief. But then again, there I was staring at myself in full allurement and recalling all my studies and my beliefs which aimed at the crown but were backed by sincerity and openness to what could be learned and who I could teach. So I suppose my answers were given when I discovered ingenuously that I was authentic…sometimes it dared to retreat from my mind.
Pageants are a complex institution that dance bewitchingly on the organza-like delicate thread between sport and activism. I say carefully that most ladies who participate in the tango too are straddling. However, I can attest confidently that the athletic nature is minimal and it is rather a desire to contend as a well rounded, educated, and ambitious lady in a society that more and more is less interested in “antiquated” visions of femininity in favor of an aggressive, androgynous being that neither convinces as a man and strives for distance from the woman who starches her husband’s underpants.
It is that fear, however, prevalent among the feminists, that is irrelevant to the participants and the organizations. The blurred lines between submissiveness and assertiveness are so clear that confusion and distinction between the two is never confabulated. What is questioned, is as I have mentioned, the need and the matter of what is judged; is the woman in question one who attempts to be a champion of beauty by means of her youth and what it can get her? The answer is…sometimes she is, but she often does not win. There is a lot of pressure to answer if pageants are needed…yes and no. Better yet, were they ever needed? Are sports needed? Do we need a red carpet to welcome a few actors who exceed our wealth simply because they are attractive? These end up reading as Mickey Mouse questions. Some things exist simply for pleasure, entertainment, social additions that open doors to some and not to others. But the reason it is investigated at all is because it makes a few uneasy; let us ask instead, why are you uncomfortable with pageants? (And I mean Miss pageants, not Toddlers and Tiaras).
I have had the unique journey of having made 2013 and now some of 2014, years for pageants, so it is my opinion and those of my sister queens, that pageants are, if not a need, a certain want. To strive for lady-like comportment is unshameful, to present yourself with education and knowledge is ambitious, to want to make a change for certain causes and strive for “world peace” through any possible means (now even more possible via the crown) is admirable, and to maintain physical wholeness and fitness year long and lifelong is dedication and concentration. A titleholder is a politician in better dress and more balance because aside from the parade, all must be carried through flawlessly less she be bombarded with judgement from thousands hoping to get comedy with their ticket. In the end, as a participant, social reception to my actions are picayune and petty because they are so outweighed by the once in a lifetime experiences, the friendships and the doors that opened as consequence of the inevitable networking. Additionally, it grants one with skills that translate into life seamlessly and a confidence that is attributed to competitive judgement, the sisterhood of vigor, and the praise of female beauty both by men and women.