When I was a little girl, I was all about princesses and fairies. I lived in an world of imagination and beauty. I outgrew that, but am still a sucker for a pretty dress.
All that glam and elegance came rushing back this summer. My hairdresser's daughter was crowned Miss Virginia. I have been listening to her stories about Tara for years and know that is a remarkable young woman. She played woman's ice hokey and was in ROTC. She started a foundation at her college to teach girls about breaking stereotypes, this became her platform as Miss Virginia. She came to speak to Caroline's fifth grade class about stereotypes and had the kids awestruck. They were enthralled with every word she said and completely related to her. At the end she gave out autographs to every kid. I don't think she has any idea what that meant to them. Some of these kids have very little good things going on in their lives.
All of this lead to me reconsidering my stance on beauty pageants. I have always been pretty anti-beauty pageant or any contest based on appearances . As a matter of fact, when I told Caroline that Tara won Miss Virginia, she asked "What's that?" That was a very awkward and lame explanation. I choose to focus on Tara's platform and the public service that could come from it. I am so naive.
Apparently, the Miss America Pageant is undergoing a restructuring. It is trying to move into the new millennium. First there is a reality show weeks before the pageant. The contestants all live together and are placed into teams. They have to under go various challenges such as a silly obstacle course, team talent skit, walk like model in a bikini etc. The judges award the winners of each challenge gold sashes and four of those girls (to me they are literally girls, no offense intended) will be chosen by America to be part of the final fifteen at the Miss America pageant. I taped the show and watched most of it in fast forward hoping to catch a glimpse of Tara and feeling really guilty for even watching it (I like mindless TV, but this was a bit much and felt like peeking in someone's window). I only saw a few glimpses of Tara. I didn't expect to see her much. To my dismay and shock, there seemed to be very little about these girl's platforms. Lots of what seemed to be coached answers, but not a lot about how thy wanted to really better the world (besides a sincere hope for world peace). It seemed to focus more on turning these girls into the Next Top Model. I don't find looking at a young woman in a bikini stomping down a runway and them standing at the end with legs spread wide particularly inspiring. No way would I let Caroline see it. I'm not a prude and I don't want to start a big debate here, it just didn't sit well with me.
I also taped the pageant. Unfortunately, Tara didn't make the final fifteen and we didn't get to see any of her participation (I wanted to see her sing). It all seemed so over the top. The opening act was all of the girls dressed the same (jeans and black tee shirts, cute enough) dancing. It was impossible to tell one form the other. I can't stand having woman all look alike. If I could I'd go back in time and let my bridesmaids wear whatever they wanted. The rest of it was like an over the top fashion show (not the Project Runway kind, either). The music was loud and techno and the stomping was over the top. I did enjoy the talent portion. I couldn't watch the question answer portion, though. First of all the questions were from "regular joes" on the Vegas strip and I'd had enough of canned, coached answers.
Overall, I saw nothing of what inspired our school and my daughter. Caroline left that assembly believing that she could stand out from the crowd and make a difference. I'm not letting her watch the pageant. I'd rather she keep the idea of uniqueness and independence in her mind, not how to be "fierce and work it." I am still so very proud of Tara and know that she will go far with her platform. I have a feeling that she will do amazing things after her reign is over.