Pageants … love or hate?
You’re doing a pageant…. Do you proper love yourself then?
Just putting it out there, if the sole reason for a girl entering a pageant was because she was confident within herself and wanted to celebrate this, would this be such a terrible thing? Why should self-confidence be something that is frowned upon?
Ask any Pageant Girl and I am quite certain that they will have their own stories based on the comments that they have been subjected to when people have learnt that they have taken part in a pageant.
Pageants…. Just saying the word can seemingly stir some incredibly strong emotions and opinions. Outdated and sexist, that’s how the press & media label the events in their annual coverage of the industry. At least once a year, the press will find a reason to give pageants (and all involved) a good bashing. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I am grateful that we live in a country where we can all give our views so freely but sometimes, it can get a little draining. Actually, that’s an understatement. It is really frustrating and incredibly annoying. I wouldn’t mind quite as much, but please – just give a balanced view rather than focussing on what makes a juicy, news story.
The media coverage is repetitive, none that I have seen have dared to delve into what being involved in a pageant is truly like. It’s odd, when I sit and look at what being part of a pageant is, I don’t think of catfights and sexism. Rather, I think of opportunities, friendship, memories, confidence building, empowerment, the chance to try something new, a platform to raise awareness about causes that you feel strongly about and the development of communication skills (most Pageant Girls sail through interviews for their careers/university applications because they can speak elegantly and confidently. They know to think before speaking and to look at multiple sides of situations)
So, what is a pageant? The pageants that I organise are about much more than a pretty face. For most (or perhaps, all) pageants, looks are only a small part of what the competition is about. They are a competition of excellence; emphasising dignity, courage, intelligence, creativity and kindness. Yes, to an extent, they do celebrate beauty. Now, before I am lynched – please, tell me why this is such a terrible thing? Athletes are celebrated for their sporting achievements, bodybuilders are praised for their physique, why is celebrating beauty such a terrible thing?
Some say that pageants exclude people who do not fit the criteria based on their looks (FYI – I disagree wholeheartedly with this sentiment) but, to play devil’s advocate, let’s consider how I could never have played professional football because I was not born with the physical ability (no matter how much training I did) ….. would that garner so much press and attention if I complained about it?
What I truly adore about pageantry is that in today’s society, the industry is diverse. They do not celebrate a particular standard of beauty – they celebrate the beauty of women. Pageant contestants and winners are of all ages, sizes (from a 4 to a 24), ethnicities, background and careers. However, the best thing about pageantry is that the value of women is not solely based on what they look like, what their dress size is, and what their hair is like. Pageants today celebrate intelligence, careers, ambition, and the activism of women. Don’t believe me? Think this is just an empty statement that I am making to prove a point? Well, unlike those that bash the pageant industry but with little evidence to back it up, here is a small (it could be long!) list of pageant queens from the UK who were crowned in the last ten years. These are from a mix of pageant systems and so, it’s not just the ones that I organise that are about celebrating more than how they look in a bikini….
Rubia Bari – Rubia was crowned Ms Galaxy UK 2016 and went on to win the Ms Galaxy International title. Rubia was forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 15 by her parents. As a result, Rubie missed out on her education but at the age of 24, she took her GCSEs and went on to train as a counsellor and life coach. Rubia is an ambassador for Karma Nirvana, she has used her platform to help other victims of forced marriage & honour based abuse.
Lance Corporal Katrina Hodge – Aside from being Miss England 2009, Katrina Hodge was a serving member of the British Army and was deployed to Iraq in 2005. She earned a commendation for her bravery, whilst serving with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Iraq for wrestling two rifles from a prisoner following a road traffic accident.
Noky Simbani – Miss Grand England 2017 and currently studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham.
Sarah Pritchard – Mrs Galaxy UK 2016 and went on to win the Mrs Galaxy International title. Entrepreneur and successful business woman, Sarah is also a proud size 16 (hate that I am including her size, but this is to dispel the myth that pageant girls and winners are all a size 0!)
Dr Zara Nortley – Miss Galaxy England 2016 and a qualified dental surgeon. Zara is also an avid supporter of JDRF, the Type 1 Diabetes Charity.
Harriotte Lane – Miss Junior Teen Great Britain 2015. This 16-year-old was presented with a Diana award, which recognises outstanding young people who have gone above and beyond in their daily lives to create and sustain positive change in their communities. Since embarking on fund-raising in 2013 when she first competed in a pageant, Harriotte has raised more than £35,000, attended and supported over 500 charity and community events, as well as hosting her own.
Pageants are predominantly for females and with that comes the notion that there must be endless fall-outs and backstage bitching. How terribly sad that that is one of the first things that people think of when they imagine a group of women together. I hate to ruin the stereotypes & entertainment that comes with it but my Pageant Girls break this horrible concept. They don’t tear each other down; they support each other. The events create a sisterhood – yes, it sounds super cheesy (but you’re in pageant land, it is full of sparkle and a lot of cheesiness) but it’s true. The girls have shared memories, shared experiences and a shared interest; this joins them together rather than pulling them apart.
Ah but they are in competition with each other, I hear you say. Indeed, they are. When you meet competitive dancers, is the first thing you ask ‘Gosh, do you all fight backstage?’ I highly doubt it. The sexist accusation is hurled our way enough times but the notion that all pageant contestants are bickering with each other is pretty sexist in itself. Are men who compete in competitive sports, let’s say the Olympics, ever asked if they all fall out after the results? No, I’ve not heard that either.
Again, I can hear the pageant critics with their barrage of questions and arguments, as I write this. But this isn’t the Olympics, this is a pageant. Women are pitting themselves against each other, parading in bikinis, in order to be deemed the most attractive. The problem is, this is not what a pageant is.
I’ll confess, not only do I organise pageants, but I used to compete and I absolutely loved every second of it when I was a pageant contestant. I will never forget one of my friends saying to me, ‘I just cannot ever imagine actually entering myself into a pageant’ and you know what, I get that. Did she think that I thought of myself as so attractive that I just had to enter a pageant in order to validate my beauty? That wasn’t the case at all, quite the opposite. I certainly didn’t see myself as so outstandingly beautiful that I deserved a crown! In fact, that thought does make me chuckle to myself. However, the reason I entered was because I thought it looked like an incredible amount of fun. I had always enjoyed watching Miss World on the television with my parents & thought the whole experience looked fascinating. I was 18 when I heard (completely by chance) that the Miss Liverpool pageant was looking for entrants and before I had chance to second-guess myself, I had entered. I had no expectations of winning, which was good because I didn’t, but I enjoyed myself even more than anticipated. It was great fun, more than I could have imagined – a complete, girlie time! I had thought a pageant would have been a once-in-a-lifetime moment but it became my hobby, I wanted to enter more!
Competing in pageants gave me the chance to celebrate who I was and more importantly, they gave me the confidence to do so. Despite what critics say, competing in a pageant does not leave you with crippling self-doubt, it is the polar opposite. They give you the biggest boost of self-esteem and a platform to recognise your achievements. They teach you to recognise not only your accomplishments but to celebrate those of your peers too. At school, if you speak of your success and stand proud for something you have done, it can be met with negativity and accusations of boasting and sadly, this seems to be more so for girls. This isn’t boasting, there is a difference.
For me, I met some of my very best friends through pageantry and I had the opportunity to travel the world, meeting like-minded women. I wanted to create those opportunities for others and so, I started Pageant Girl and began organising pageants myself. I am not ashamed of what I do, I am proud of the platform that I have these incredible ladies through pageantry.
The finalists of my competitions have raised over £300,000 since 2012 for our chosen charities – Together for Short Lives, The Christie and Claire House Children’s Hospice. This week, Rebecca Reid for the Metro.co.uk wrote:
Charitable donations have also been used as a sort of prop to make pageants seem like something other than a carnival of youthful flesh for objectification.
But this charity work is nothing more than a side show. A desperate ploy to distract from the fact that these events contribute nothing to the world and only serve to force women to compete against each other based on how perky their tits are and how well they can walk in six inch heels.
What a load of nonsense! And more to the point, how incredibly insulting to the hard work that pageant contestants have done with their fundraising. Ignorant comments like this make my blood boil.
Everyone has different likes and interests. The thought of jumping into a boxing ring and knocking ten bells out of my opponent is my idea of hell but, I respect that some people enjoy that. Do I think people should be rewarded for being the best fighter? No, not particularly. However, I bet those in the boxing industry would say I am talking nonsense and that I don’t understand – that’s true, I haven’t looked into it and have no true knowledge of it, it’s just what I see from the outside, which is what people are doing when they comment on pageantry. People are giving their opinions from what they see on the outside and the occasional media story & coverage. Yes, I completely agree, this week I was mortified to read that Zoiey Smale had been told to lose weight for a pageant. This is a disgrace but it is not something that I, or most pageants, advocate. This does not mean the whole industry thinks and behaves in the same way. If an athlete was found guilty of using banned performance-enhancing drugs, would it immediately mean all other competitors were doing the same? Don’t tar us all with the same brush.
I don’t need to preach what is right or wrong because we are fortunate to be able to have the freedom of choice. My way isn’t the only way and I know that, it would just be nice if others could show us Pageant Girls the same respect.
Let me let you all into a secret, in Pageant Land, things are very sparkly, super fun and a little weird – but we all love it. That’s not going to change, we’re here to stay. We know that we’re never going to convince the whole world on our industry but we recognise that diversity is what makes the world an interesting place.
Love Holly @ Pageant Girl
Ps. The definition of feminism includes the right of any woman to do what she likes. So, why are so-called feminists trying to stop women from making their own decisions and doing what they like? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical…?