Samantha is a 17-year-old from Tulsa, OK. She enjoys babysitting, sewing, drawing, crocheting, writing and anything creative. She loves to hang out with her mom and two sisters and hopes to someday work in the fashion industry.
Growing up, I remember attending the Miss Oklahoma pageant each year. My mother, my sisters and I went to support all the girls competing and root for a young woman who attended the dance school I went to. I remember all the little ballerinas would watch in awe through the viewing glass as she practiced her segment for the talent competition, ballet. As she would jeté and fouetté across the studio floor, being just a little girl, I only saw a beautiful ballerina. I was unaware of the impact that she was making through the Miss America Organization. I didn’t understand what pageants were truly about, other than getting to perform your talent in a pretty outfit and glide across the stage in a ball gown. It wasn’t until I grew up a little and started to comprehend what these women were doing and who they really are, that I developed my view on this topic.
As I got older, I became aware of the stereotypes surrounding these girls. Though I can’t say that I myself would strut my stuff in a swimsuit across a glossy stage, I can understand what it is all about. The swimsuit competition is about physical fitness and being in the healthiest shape you can be. It is not about starving yourself or being unhealthy. In fact, someone who appears to be unhealthily skinny, is less likely to win the swimsuit category. I know that the swimsuit competition has been received and debated about in various ways and as someone who has struggled with being body conscious for most of her life, I can honestly say that I do not have a problem with it. Once you can see that it is about being your healthiest you, and not the air-brushed model in a magazine, it is easier to accept and establish an informed opinion.
If you don’t know what a pageant platform is, it is a cause that a contestant promotes through her title and participation in the pageant. For many young women, the opportunity to bring awareness to issues and causes close to their hearts is the motivation behind competing. I can speak first hand to the amazing power awarded to the title-holders opportunity to educate the public about their platform. I was affected by the platform represented by a former Miss America. I remember watching a TV special featuring Miss America talking about prevention of drunk driving and underage drinking. She told a story about how drunk driving and underage drinking had affected her through a close friend that had died in a car accident. It was so captivating and real that I made the choice not to drink until I am of age and to drink responsibly when that time comes.
Though I have never competed and do not plan to do so, I can say I am truly proud of all the empowered strong young women who are competing for scholarship money and to be a voice for causes that need to be brought to attention. I am proud to be the sister of two pageant girls. One competing as an ‘Outstanding Teen’ encouraging young women to realize their worth and beauty beyond the mirror and the other competing as a ‘Miss’ promoting the importance of arts and activity involvement.
My hope in writing this article is for many pageant stereotypes to broken. I have optimism that if you once held to stereotypes of pageant contestants decorated with vanity and ditz, you will be able to see the brains beneath beauty and view Miss America contestants as intelligent, educated, empowered and service-oriented young women.