As most of you know, I just finished my first Miss America season which takes me from the level newbie to rookie. I know just a little more than I did this time last year. I didn’t understand what a pageant swimsuit was or what stage earrings were. The most experience I had with pageants was watching Miss Congeniality 1 and 2. However, with the help of my very good friends who influenced me to start competing in the first place I learned relatively quickly. Even though I am a woman who competes in pageants, I am not by any means a seasoned professional so is that what makes people tell me I don’t look like a pageant girl?
The first time I heard this was when brought it to my parents attention that I wanted to compete for Miss New Bedford. “Are you really sure you want to do that?”, my mom would ask. My dad would interject, “Don’t expect to get very much out of it, Sara. You’re not a pageant girl.” But what was it about me? Why couldn’t I be a pageant girl? Is it because I’m not mean enough? Maybe it’s because I’m not tall enough. These questions flooded my mind constantly.
Before I went to the orientation for Miss New Bedford, I started running through my head what a pageant girl looks like. She’s was least 5,8” and had long beautiful hair that always looked like she’d gotten a professional blowout. Why did she have olive skin and blue eyes in my head? Why had I been conditioned to think that pageant girls only looked one way?
While competing I did notice quite a few girls who fit that stereotype but even so, they had qualities and characteristics that were very unpageant like. Some of them were quiet off stage, others were way too loud (myself included). Some of them were short and wore the highest heels I’d ever seen to make up for it (I later learned to walk in said heels but that is a totally different story) and the tall ones wore these adorable heels with a strip of AB gems. I could go on and on really but my point is that I learned that it is impossible to slap one term on every girl who competes in pageants and we all have a quirks.
When I won my first title, I really started to get you don’t look like a pageant girl from people who knew me only through my social media or people who had never met me before I won my crown. This is when the term pageant girl really hit me as a rude comment. Getting told time and time again that I wasn’t the typical pageant girl or that I didn’t strike them as a pageant girl at first glance, it’s as if people expect pageant girls to be dumb or full of themselves (which really makes no sense because you have to interview with your judges so they can make sure you have actual coherent thoughts going through your head). As if they wear a full face of makeup with crown and sash during every trip to the grocery store. Which is absolutely absurd! Lawyers don’t wear suits to the grocery store, you don’t see people who work at McDonald’s only in their uniform. Am I a cartoon character that has one signature look? No, being a titleholder is my job. I dress up when I am working and usually don’t when I’m not because the full drag look takes at least an hour. The other thing is that I heard when people made that intentionally innocent comment, “You don’t seem like you could ever be Miss America.” Wait what do you mean you meant, “You don’t seem like a pageant girl.”, as a compliment? Why would I interview for a job (yes, this is a job) that I wouldn’t potentially want the highest position out there? Why would you congratulate me on not looking like I fit my own job description?
It’s interesting that when people see you after winning a crown they think they can label it as the biggest accomplishment of your life. The title of Miss America isn't even the biggest thing to happen to some of the past winners! Interestingly enough, pageants are far from the only thing I do; there far from what lots of titleholders do without our crowns. Some of us are nurses and some of us are teachers or actors. The crown we wear and the job we have been given does not define who we are as people. I am not a pageant girl because this is not the biggest thing that is ever going to happen to me.