The world of pageantry is a land of hairspray, beauty and contention. Nothing polarizes a group as much as the argument of the nature of beauty pageants. Are they empowering celebrations of women, or are they objectifying competitions for approval?
This past weekend Madison Gesiotto, a fourth-year at Ohio State, won the title of Miss Ohio USA 2014, and I had the privilege of competing beside her and more than 70 other women from across the state. Every woman I met was incredibly beautiful in her own way. Each one had the confidence to get out on stage in front of a packed house in nothing but a bathing suit and high heels. That is strength, let me tell you.
I know some of pageantry’s greatest opposition (most of them are related to me) and its greatest support. From where I sit, pageants are fun. I get to put on makeup, wear shiny dresses, and talk to a bunch of people I otherwise would have never met. Where else can you do that and still be socially acceptable?
The trouble starts after the preliminary competition, when the top 15 women are named and about 80 percent of the contestants are left disappointed. More trouble when the top 5 are named and again at the end of the night when all but one woman are left without a sash. There are some women who take that decision as a personal slight, an indicator that they aren’t beautiful enough, charming enough, good enough.
This is where pageantry gets its bad reputation.
The preliminary competition for this particular pageant consists of a 90-second interview with one panel of three judges, another 90-second interview with the other three judges, and one minute total of stage time in a swimsuit and evening gown in front of all six judges, your family, God and everybody else in the theater. Four minutes. That’s all you have to convince six people who don’t know you at all that they should put a crown on your head.
There’s a lot you can do in those four minutes, but I’ll tell you what you can’t do. You can’t show someone how you care for your little brother when he has the flu. You can’t tell someone how it feels to work two jobs to pay for school while taking a full course load. You can’t display your kindness, your tenacity, your love or your compassion.
You can’t show someone who you really are.
Pageants are like job interviews. Actually, they are job interviews: you’re interviewing for the position of title holder. Just because you don’t get a particular internship or co-op doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person.
The same holds true with pageants. Pageants are for showing how wonderful you are with a bunch of other wonderful women. Just because you don’t win doesn’t mean you’re any less wonderful.