I have competed in pageants all my life, but they aren’t the kind pageant that would come to mind for most people. I started competing in the Cinderella Scholarship Program at the age of three, while it is a pageant, it is focused on youth development and giving scholarships to young girls and women. I recently finished my time in Cinderella and have begun competing in the Miss America program where I am currently Miss Anthem, and will be competing in Miss Arizona this June.
As I mentioned above, majority of people have a specific stereotype they think of when they hear pageants, which is completely justified seeing as how the show Toddlers and Tiaras portrayed pageants as something that pageants put their young daughters in, sometimes against their will and, to put it blatantly, overly sexualize them. Criticism against pageants is no new thing for an organization such as Miss America, it is one of the longest running pageants, and was notoriously known for its swimsuit competition. What some people are still not aware of is that Miss America got rid of the swimsuit portion with the goal of focusing more on women empowerment.
When I tell people I do pageants many are typically surprised, saying I don’t seem like a pageant girl, and because of stereotypes, I used to take that as a compliment. However, my mindset has changed completely, I instead take that comment as an opportunity to inform them on just what pageants do for young girls and women like myself. The scholarships that I have earned through pageants are currently helping me through college, stories like that need to be shared more so this stereotype can finally be laid to rest. The current Miss America, Grace Stanke, is doing a wonderful job of combating this pageant stereotype, she is the first ever nuclear engineer to be Miss America. She constantly is posting about how much the scholarships she’s received from pageants have helped her get through college. The best video she has posted so far though, in my opinion, is her talking about how she is so much more than just a crown, and that she is capable of doing so many things and still be successful.
I realize that there was absolutely a time where pageants rightfully earned its stereotype, but evolution and change has to be expected, we must learn to grow and adapt. I have seen first hand how these stereotypes affect those that direct the pageants along with the participants. If we allowed this stereotype to continue on, young girls and women and their parents get scared off from participating, thinking it would be a bad thing. This would mean that young girls and women have as many opportunities to learn how to be confident, how to publicly speak, how to interview, and most importantly earn scholarships. I can only think that this would benefit men in the aspect that if young girls are not learning these skills to become successful or not getting enough scholarships to attend college, that leaves many more chances of success for the men.