My childhood friend, Lindsey, competed in a beauty pageant as an infant and won first prize. Brittany was our red-haired friend in kindergarten who not only modeled but also competed in beauty pageants so seriously that she was our classmate for only half a year before her mother pulled Brittany from our school to keep up with her busy modeling schedule. Our teacher, and my mother, scoffed. Courtney, my friend in high school, told me the ins and outs of Miss Teen contests bating me to play along with her, Mama would not support so I did not. The following year I watched a boyfriend’s best friend compete in our town’s pageant. Insider info turned the show for me to a different level of entertainment. I knew who would win, as did she who would be crowned, as dozens of hopefuls who dropped hundreds if not thousands in wardrobe compete unwittingly play their part in a set production. Conversations with Courtney revealed that judges like to see in the Teen contest ultra princess silhouettes of a puffy slip, but contestant Jane we will call her had put in her six years to town competitions, this was the year for her come-up-ins. She wore a black sleek dress that looked nothing of the part. Jane put her time in and was a sure thing. So many girls caught up in playing their roles could not see this big picture.
An intelligent, hard working, beautiful neighbor of mine recently posted a cute bit to Facebook about girls competing with one another, and women empowering one another. What is it that causes females to compete? Do we? Not in formal manners, but in life generalized? My kids are ABC, my husband DEF, the food I feed my family is GHI, my home JKL, my career MNO, my transportation PQR, my wardrobe STU, my garden VWX, my choice of worship is Y and Z. Women compete with each other in subtle ways all the time, as do men, call it “my better than”. Psychology students may elaborate, but everyone communicates with the world all the while inside boasting to themselves, as self-preservation, their “better-than”. “I am better than you, because I don’t participate.” It can be anything that you tell yourself when leaving a social engagement. Is “empowering” one another not really just shoving values into anther’s space? Do as I do so you can rise to my occasion. What’s your better-than?
Long curious about pageants and such, Mama never indulged the curiosity and forbade my participation. “You already know you’re beautiful, as does the world, so concentrate your efforts elsewhere. How silly to waste time seeking approval. Be yourself, wear what makes you happy, and for God’s sake put on some lipstick and mascara!” I also choose to build up my children’s self-esteem based in efforts not talents, and seek to never compare them to anyone save their own self. So why do I choose to compete? It is my choice, I don’t need it. A psychology/Bible/Theology BA graduate, I am ever fascinated with the human condition and interaction. People fascinate me and I often approach social engagements from the angle of viewing-in. As an adult entering a formal pageant, I have the where-with-all to keep my head and heart in such situations and to understand that my defining moments are numerous and elsewhere. I would like to think that I am engaged in social experimentation, but also participating in what women do already even without the formalities. Perhaps instead of calling it competing, we may look at pageants as celebrations of people and beauty. I believe beauty to be a core concept belonging predominately the female gender. We seek to beautify and to improve all that surrounds from our gardens to our homes to our appearances and those of our family’s. Our sloppy culture heads farther toward droopy bed clothes being social attire, and I choose to grab hold and celebrate efforts toward mid-century or classic styling. Beauty is not dead, and it is in the eye of the beholder.
MUAH: Danyelle “The Hair Maverick” Johnson
Dress: Bernie Dexter
Shoes: Authentic vintage 1940s black patent leather platforms