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I feel like beauty pageants have been getting a bad reputation lately.
Recently, the negative attention started when California's Carrie Prejean answered gossip heavy hitter Perez Hilton's question on gay marriage during the 2009 Miss USA pageant. Prejean opened up a can of worms when she revealed that she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman. Fast Forward to February, 2010 when California's Lauren Ashley made headlines for publicly announcing her opinion on gay marriage. Did I miss something? Is it a new requirement for California's beauty queens to declare a stance on this issue? I hate seeing politics brought into pageants, because that's not what pageants are about. Regardless, I think pageants have something to offer young women and shouldn't be written off as "outdated" just yet. Now, I know that pageants aren't for everyone. And just like any other activity or hobby I don't think girls should be forced to participate in anything they don't want to do (in short I'm not talking about Toddlers and Tiaras here). After participating in my first pageant this past year I was extremely impressed with the quality of not only the pageant (which did happen to be the same system Prejean competed in, Miss USA) but also the participants and directors. To be completely honest, it was one of the most enjoyable weekends in recent memory.
All pageants judge contestant's beauty in some manner, but a majority of pageants also judge contestants in other areas. Depending on the system and level, contestants may also be judged on talent, scholarship, fitness, philanthropy, interview, wardrobe, and personality (to cover a few). In essence, those chosen to represent a city/county/state/country must possess more then just a pretty face. Intelligence, talent, poise and congeniality are all common traits sought in beauty queens. Beauty queens were originally expected to be diplomats of sorts for the territories that crowned them, and it was considered a very prestigious honor to represent your home city/county/state/country.
It's a shame that politicized comments, and factions of individuals that do not agree with pageants, have been so vocal in recent years when pageants are discussed in the media. My experience with pageants has brought me closer with other young women who are motivated, intelligent and fun! Only one girl gets to win at the end of the day, but every contestant gets to be a part of something bigger then themselves. The state pageant I competed in (and again, every state is different) supported a local community service project and encouraged all contestants to participate to make a difference in our community. The pageant encouraged dedication, self confidence, discipline, grace, character and scholarship. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of my state's pageant, and would encourage any other teens/misses out there to compete. Don't listen to the stories publicized in the media about pageants, individuals too often enjoy perpetuating stereotypes about pageant girls.
At the very worst, pageant contestants dress up for a weekend, promote community service, and meet some new friends. At the very best, a contestant may be chosen, and crowned, to represent the city/county/state/country that means the most to her. The winner (at least at the state level) receives scholarships and gets to use her crown as a megaphone to promote a philanthropy of her choice for a whole year.
The drama, politics, and scandals are merely a minuscule portion of the pageant world.