Beauty Pageants Are More Than Just Physical Beauty Contests

Graphics by Kaley Peniche.

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt of being on one of those floats at the Three Kings Parade, waving at the crowd while wearing a sash and a crown. But in real life, I never felt like I belonged there.

I wasn’t tall, blonde, or even close to a size zero like the traditional pageant queen stereotypes. One day, I realized that it didn’t matter that I was a size 12 with curly brown hair and measured 5-feet-2 inches tall. I wanted to compete and at least be able to say I tried, so that’s exactly what I did; I signed myself up for the local Miss Teen Art Deco USA Pageant.

Going into pageant rehearsals, I expected the girls to be mean, rude and snobby, just like in the movies. Imagine my surprise when I found that they were extremely nice, elegant, and sociable. Backstage, they always helped the other contestants with wardrobe changes and wished each other the best of luck on the stage.

Unfortunately, I didn’t go home with a crown, but I did leave with something more important: my forever sisters. Once in a while, we get together and catch up as if time never passed. When any of us have local competitions or events, we try our hardest to be there and support each other. I can only describe it as a sorority without the Greek life.

The true test in a pageant is the interview—it’s the few moments a contestant has to show what she’s made of. In recent years, the questions have become more challenging. Rather than asking a contestant what makes them blush like they did at Miss Universe in 2002, judges might ask why a contestant believes that freedom of the press is important like in the 2018 competition.

When you look at contestants on the surface, you might assume they aren’t smart; all they have is that pretty face and fit body. But you would be surprised to find out that most of us have real career goals to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers and journalists, to make a difference in any way we can.

When you hold a pageant title, your time is spent volunteering, advocating for issues you care about, and setting an example for generations of girls to come. If you ask anyone who has competed in a beauty pageant, they will tell you that it gives you a confidence you didn’t know you had. Walking on that stage, whether it be in your opening number dress, swimsuit or evening gown makes you feel on top of the worldthe true beauty of a beauty pageant.