Several times I have had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremonies for a Beauty Pageant. Each time was a pleasure for many obvious reasons and some not so obvious ones, that is, not obvious to me. At this point in my life I find myself older than all the participants in these kinds of events, and in many cases, much wiser. In this particular case, this particular pageant, this certainly was true and the young ladies seemed to be attracted to me, again, perhaps for obvious reasons, but it is a not so obvious reason that brings me to write this blog post.
As some of you know, I have a lot of fun at every job that I do, but I take each job very seriously, this job was no exception, or rather it was because I took it extra seriously. The way I looked at it, I got to spend three or four days with some very beautiful, but very young women, who were not only emotionally tied to “winning,” the winning was tied to their “beauty,” self-esteem, etc. For many of them, this may have been the first time away from the town they had grown up in, or their family and friends. And for all of them, they were going to JUDGED, on how they look, walk, talk, their body, their hair…, you name it.
So much is going on in each contestant’s psyche, that to me, I took this as a great responsibility. I also originally agreed to do this because of the lady that was putting on the event. Her heart was in the right place. In her eyes, she saw this as an opportunity for some of the young ladies to step out of their fears, to see a world outside the one they grew up in, and for one or two to win trips to beautiful places and scholarships etc., that they might not have opportunity to have otherwise.
I had great respect for this lady and how she treated/Mothered each of the young lady contestants and how she too, took her job very seriously. I was lucky to work with her and follow her lead, since it was with her that I did my first pageant.
Unfortunately, for the sanity and the fun and the experience of all of us, not everyone on the governing board of this pageant was like this lady, or myself. This particular pageant was not a local pageant, it was an International one, that had governing boards in other Countries, and on the judging committee was a man who was responsible for traveling the world, making sure that certain things were done and judged according to the “rules.”
This man was in the perfect position for him, because he had an ego that needed to be in control and to control others. Unfortunately, what he was “controlling,” besides the fates of the winners, he was controlling how every move, and I mean literal move, the contestants made. I can understand that how a contestant acts and moves can have a big effect on whether they win or loose the pageant, but this man took it far beyond my comfort zone, to the point where I risked being asked to leave because of what I did.
What I did. The more I watched this man “coach” the contestants, the more I felt the contestants being demoralized, degraded, and objectified. Not knowing this man and having been new to pageants, at least from this perspective, I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt at every turn, but when I noticed the young ladies crying and arguing and depressed, I decided I had to find a way to step in.
Individually, I had spoken to many of the young ladies who would come up to me for support, a hug or advice, but I felt intuitively that this had to be addressed in the group. I was feeling that, besides the winning and the “loosing,” this was an opportunity for the ladies, to grow within and with each other, to make friends, to have an experience and to have fun. There was lots of work to be done, steps to learn, moves, dances, ways to stand, posing, etc., but there was no reason that it had to be hard and better yet, that it couldn’t be fun and a growing experience.
On the second to the last rehearsal before the big show, this man had thrown out some harsh words at the young ladies while on stage as a group, and then addressed himself directly to one of the young ladies, singled her out and continued about her, and then took her aside and continued some more.
That was my last straw. As soon as he was finished the ladies started to scatter in disappointment and humiliation, as I got on stage and got their attention and gathered them back. Frankly, it was hard to get them back in more ways than one, because at that point, they didn’t want to keep going, they needed a minute to to collect their thoughts and get their confidence back. But as I called to them, I started telling them that I just wanted to talk with them for a moment.
At this point, ALL eyes were on me, and I don’t mean just the eyes of the young ladies’ but everyone in the room include Mr. Tyrant. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I reminded them that this was going to be fun and that there was a lot of good in what they were doing. I shared with them that though they did need to learn the dance steps and all the choreography as best as possible, but that if they kept their confidence up, even if they made a mistake, the audience would either not notice or forgive them for it. I impressed upon them that attitude was everything and they had to take what the man was telling them with a grain of salt, that this was his job and this was the only way he knew how to do it, etc., etc.
When I was finished, I got a huge applause from the ladies who were putting on this event, as well as some of the contestants. I started to see smiles, and faces lightening up and I got a lot of hugs and thank yous. But my eyes then went to the young lady that the man had singled out. She walked away with tears in her eyes.
After giving as much attention to the contestants in that moment as I felt necessary, I immediately went after the singled out young lady and approached her. She tried to be strong and act like she would be okay, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I opened my arms for a hug, which she accepted, and while crying on my shoulder she told me she was dropping out. I responded by asking her what it was exactly that the man had told her.
She told me, that the man had said that SHE was ruining the pageant and that she was the worst one there and that she needed to get it together or he would throw her out. Ouch. The whole thing sounded so off to me and I thought the man was either completely insane, didn’t know how to get what he wanted out of the young ladies, or was trying to “make” her do better by telling her how bad she was.
Unfortunately, having grown up with a lot of this kind of “encouragement,” I knew this well. But regardless, even if it was that, it wasn’t working. I proceeded to ask the young lady why she was in the pageant and if she ever thought she had a chance of winning? I asked her many questions and she reluctantly at first, because she had made up her mind that she was quitting, started to give me some beautiful answers. I helped her find a reason for being in the pageant, if that was truly what she wanted to do, and I told her that this was going to be a good lesson in doing what it is that she wanted to do, no matter what, and no matter who.
I encouraged her to do the best she could and to try not to let anyone else’s expectations stop her from what she wanted. i told her that I personally felt that SHE in particular had what it took to win the pageant. I felt that and knew that but I don’t think she believed me, and thought I was being nice. I impressed upon her that she was a winner, and that whether she won this competition or not depended on a lot of factors. I told her that the judges had many criteria that they had to judge on, but if she did not fit exactly into what they feel they need to have represent the pageant into the International Competition, so THEY can win, that did not make her any less a winner.
I also told her that she had the opportunity to show that she already was a winner by going back on the stage with confidence and show them all, you are bigger than big, and no turkey is going to bring you down.
I can’t tell you what I felt for her when, as Master of Ceremonies, I was handed an envelope, opened it, paused and proudly and loudly announced that the winner of the Pageant was HER!
Months later she went on to win the International Title!