In the last hundred years beauty pageants have become a centre piece of American culture, embodying the American spirit and offering life-changing scholarships for many of its winners. In recent years this passion for pageants has taken Britain by storm, with new pageants popping up every year. So what is the appeal of these beauty contests and will they have the staying power here as do they do overseas?
To many Britons the term pageant is alien and most refer to the film “Miss Congeniality,” which humour plays heavily on preconceived stereotypes of its contestants. However after recently attending a pageant myself I can confirm that is far from the truth. The girls I met during my time as a contestant were generally down to earth, friendly and extremely helpful offering advice to those less experienced and even spare dresses for those unable to obtain the right attire before the show. What differs these pageant girls from the rest the world is a shared interest in glamming up, wearing gorgeous clothes and presenting themselves with up-most grace, one of the appeals of the competition is being able to surround themselves with like-minded individuals.
The competition itself demands a lot from its entrants. To attend the pageant each girl must pay an entry fee, which can paid by themselves or funded by a sponsor, this encourages girls to build skills both in communication and self promotion. A big empathise of this particular competition was to raise money for their partner charities, several girls put in a lot of effort and dedication to raise staggering amounts for those less fortunate, and here you thought it was all about being a pretty face. Organization is a major factor in all pageants girls lives, not only do they have to find the right outfits, they must arrange transport and accommodation, negotiate marketing with sponsors and maintain an effortless smile at all times. The effort put in by these girls blew me away and you could tell that everyone of them weren’t there for the crown but simply for a love of the pageant world.
Community is strong within pageants, despite the girls never meeting before friendships were quickly formed and the whole group was in unison. Though there were obvious cliques all were quick to aide those in need and to include more inverted contestants. Hair tools, mirrors and make-up were lent freely with no concern to getting the upper-hand, several girls aided in doing hair and one girl took me under her wing to guide me through my first pageant. In fact it was she who won “Miss Congeniality” a title awarded to the kindest girl as voted by the other contestants, a worthy winner with genuine personality.
The show itself consisted of three rounds, jeans, party dress and evening dress. In each round girls were instructed to walk up and down the stage with elegance posing at certain points. In the final round each girl was also asked two questions about themselves to give the judges a taste of their personalties beyond their appearance. Based on their presentation they were then narrowed down by the judges to twelve finalists including the three girls who had won the titles “Miss Congeniality”, “Miss Charity” and “Miss People’s choice” respectively. These final twelve then gave an impromptu speech of why they were a worthy winner before the four runners up and the winner were announced.
Backstage the air of comradeship stayed strong even amongst the disappointed, including myself, who hadn’t got through. Losers were gracious and the winners were congratulated with hugs and best wishes for the grand final being held later this year.
In all my experience has been both rewarding and an eye opener against my poorly judged concepts of what the pageant world is like. I had a lot of fun throughout the day and met some great people and though I don’t fit entirely into the pageant world I can see its appeal. Its an fantastic opportunity for people to meet and teaches important life lessons. The future of pageants in Britain is bright and with its awareness growing each year along with its popularity it may very well become a fixture in modern British culture.
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