So I didn't expect my first full post to be this deep (Yikes!), but after talking to a friend last night I figured it was something I should share. So let's rewind to about 16 hours ago. A friend called and asked about my history doing pageants. My response was, "What do you want to know? I got to dress up, look pretty, meet people, and learn how to fake the right answers."
Looking back I can see how my response
might have sounded cynical. In my defense I was a little caught off guard (and
possibly out of practice faking those right answers) since it's been almost 10
years since my last pageant. My friend took my response as an opening to bash
the pageant system and everything it stands for.
I immediately pumped the breaks. While I am well aware of the dark underbelly of the pageant community (stage moms, eating disorders, etc.) I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and thought it did a lot of good in shaping me into the woman I am today.
Rewind a little further to my life before pageants. I was an awkward middle school girl facing the new frontier of puberty with only my single father to guide me. (My mom died when I was in 6th grade.) Family friends, teachers, and my dad's coworkers all stepped in to teach me how to be a "lady." I attended countless etiquette classes and was enrolled in a sorority auxiliary group, as well as a slew of other things. However, pageants were the first thing to really break me out of my shell. I grew up cheering and competing in chorus so I knew I loved the thrill of performing and being on stage. I just never imagined I could do it on my own; without the safety of a group.
I bombed my first pageant. I remember staring blankly at a judge during informal interviews when he asked, "If you were a color, which would you be and why?" I also remember my hair being a big frizzy mess, while all the others girls looked like they had stepped out of a magazine. Most importantly I remember thinking, "I didn't die." Up until that point I would only answer people in nods and mumbles. Being alone on stage without my dad to act as an interpreter I was forced to open my mouth, and it felt really good.
So often pageants get a bad rap for being superficial, but when they're done correctly they teach girls that there's more to life than just being pretty. When each girl on stage is more gorgeous than the next you quickly realize that you've got to bring something more to the table than perfect hair and a pretty smile. Pageant girls are some of the most intelligent, well informed, and caring people you'll ever get the chance to meet.
So yes, while I did learn that a more appropriate answer to the color question would've been' "Yellow, because it's warm and cheerful like the sun." I also learned what it was like to stand on my own, to be painfully honest in a room full of strangers, and to like my authentic self. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything in the world.