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I'm still doing pageants in 2020—here's why

Yes, I grew up watching Toddlers and Tiaras and put on numerous of my own pageants with my little sister in my living room. At the time, it all seemed so glamorous, expensive...and out of my reach. I still remember begging my mom to let me do a pageant, knowing what the answer would be. The reality was, child pageants cost thousands of dollars, and not something that my parents wanted to spend that kind of money on. 

The first time I watched Miss USA and Miss America, it was different. These were women—accomplished, bold, confident women. “I could do that,” I thought. When I approached my parents yet again about entering the "pageant world" as we call it, they said yes, under one condition. I could enter a pageant when I could afford to pay for all that comes with entering a pageant. Boy, am I glad they told me that.

I eventually entered my first pageant, Miss Rhode Island’s Outstanding Teen, during my junior year of high school. I told my parents I was entering to not only get experience, but for the scholarship money offered in the Miss America Organization. Being the parents they are, they, along with my grandmother, decided to help me out with the expenses.

Pageant day comes, I lose. But did I really lose? Because I gained so much more than I lost. I lost a crown and a title, yes, but was I even prepared for what that title held? I knew nothing about pageants and all the responsibility that comes with being a titleholder. What I gained from that experience, however, was so much more than what a sparkly crown could have given me. 

That pageant taught me the value of friendship and the value of the women who actually compete in pageants, which was not what I was expecting at all. It taught me that when you set your mind to something, you can accomplish it. And it taught me the value of learning, how to be an amazing public speaker, as well as how to think on the spot. Most of all, it taught me failure. 

As a 17-year-old, failure was a hard pill to swallow. I took a break from the Miss America Organization, although I loved my experience in their teen program, because I was feeling down on myself and misunderstood by the judges. Reality check—you never know what’s going to happen in a pageant, and every pageant you could ever do, even within the same organization, is different. It’s not only different because there’s a different set of judges, but because each year you compete, you are a better version of yourself. 

Fast forward to this past year: After competing in Miss Rhode Island Teen USA and placing as a semi-finalist, I thought, I’ll give the Miss America Organization another go. It was going to be my first “Miss” pageant (as opposed to teen), because I am 19, and although intimidating, I couldn’t help but think it would be a fun learning experience. 

I walked into every rehearsal with no expectations. Had I had any expectations, it would have FAR exceeded them. I was able to connect with women more amazing and smart than I could have ever imagined. Each woman was so passionate about her platform and our society today, so educated about current events and policy, so kind-hearted and all with good intentions. Not exactly what you think when you hear the word “pageant girl.”

On May 6th, 2019, I competed for the first time ever in Miss Rhode Island. I came out of that pageant different—more confident and stronger in my conviction than I was before. To my utter shock, I was called as second runner-up to Miss Rhode Island. I couldn’t even believe it. I had just been myself, had fun with it, and I ended up in third place. To my complete excitement, two of my closest friends during the pageant were awarded the titles of Miss Rhode Island and Miss Rhode Island’s Outstanding Teen. I often joke with them that I think I may have been even more excited for them than they were themselves.

And that’s what pageants are about. It’s not all the hair and makeup, the pretty dresses and rhinestoned heels (although that part is super fun). Pageants are about the strong, resilient women who participate in them. The key to pageant success? Being yourself and being genuine. Most importantly, never ever give up. See you next year, Miss Rhode Island!

Would you ever consider being in a pageant? Talk about it in the comments!

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by Alison H. | 1/9/2020
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