Can Someone Please Explain Beauty Pageants to Me?Allana Harkin
Yes, I’m asking…
It may come as no surprise that I don’t fully grasp pageants. Is it like WWE wrestling? It’s just a little bit weird and wrong but it’s entertainment? I don’t doubt for a second that there are many smart and intelligent women competing in Miss America. Recent fan favorite Miss Kansas received a lot of press about her visible tattoos while strutting her stuff in a bikini but she’s also a double major in Chinese and Chemistry at Kansas State University. More than once I’ve heard people say these women are “not just a pretty face”. What does that mean? That women of beauty are usually able to rest on their laurels of good hair and great cheek bones?
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down for a new project with a former beauty pageant contestant/winner who now works in entertainment. She was very beautiful** and credited her life in pageants as a fantastic stepping stone to getting everything she wanted in life. She was quick, passionate and very defensive of her choice in life. Her defensiveness came from the fact that she was a *surprise* guest on this panel where the other hosts and myself had just said, while she was backstage, that we weren’t particularly fond of pageants. After hearing me say that I didn’t think a beauty pageant contestant was necessarily a “role model” she specifically wanted me to know that whether I like it or not – she and other contestants were definitely going to be role models to my two daughters.
I found this very curious. She seemed like a great person and if my daughter wanted to pursue a career similar to hers I’m sure she’d be a great person to talk to, but not because she wore a bikini on stage so that a panel of judges could determine if her abs were good enough to represent the nation….and then impress my kid with her academic/brain credentials at a later point. I see the benefit of putting yourself out there and I’m certainly not saying what they do isn’t hard work …strutting around in heels while wearing a bikini on national television would be in my top 5 of worst nightmares, ever. But using a beauty pageant as a launching pad seems slightly archaic in 2013. Wouldn’t it be like me dressing up in a corset, setting my hair in rollers and bringing hot, homemade muffins to look like the “Best Mom Ever” at the PTA meeting? And listen, I’m not saying that dressing up isn’t fun – google my name and you’ll see I’m all for it. But isn’t there a difference?
And back to the question of role models – if my children were standing in front of the current Miss America would they be absolutely mesmerized? No question. They would quickly absorb her beautiful dress, high heel shoes, sparkling crown and scepter much like they would a hired Princess at a birthday party. And they couldn’t care less if she had a law degree or a published novel as being very young they’d only see the sparkle. But are any of us seeing past the sparkle? Are smart beautiful women selling themselves short by entering beauty pageants to beef up their resume? Or are they brilliant by capitalizing on their beauty?
When you first saw the new Miss America did you look at her to see if she was pretty enough to be deserving of the title? Because the newly crowned American beauty Nina Davuluri is also a University of Michigan graduate in brain behaviour and cognitive science. Do beauty pageants continue to solidify the notion that we first need to check out how pretty a girl is and her credentials second? Should we care? Are beauty pageant contestants rolling their eyes at the naysayers while they scoop up the great jobs for being beautiful and smart?
The beauty pageant contestant who was involved in our project said that no matter what we think people are always going to care about looks and having beauty helps people to get ahead. And I have to admit that physical beauty actually takes work. When you see me with my hair out of its pony tail it’s because I actually had to put a little work into it.
But no matter how many scholarships are involved or how many doors are opened for contestants the idea of smart young women in their early twenties strutting around the stage in a bikini and high heels to gain opportunity gives me the willies.
Maybe it’s just a matter of leveling the playing field. What do you think guys? How about Mr. America? But could it be anything other than a joke? People would find it hilarious! Men strutting their stuff on stage for a group of people who aren’t a bachelorette party? RIDICULOUS! And is there any man out there who would think, “Mmmmm….I wonder if there is a contest I could sign up for where I get to wear a speedo and have the opportunity to state how much I want to work for the FBI?” I doubt it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts because I’m stumped on this one….
*seriously, it was like an exotic bird flew into the room and sprinkled us with fairy dust. It was hard to concentrate on a word she said while I fell into the giant pools of her stunning eyeballs. What were we talking about again? Oh yeah…
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