Let’s face it: It’s rare that pageant queens are in national spotlight for their positive achievements. Thanks to viral videos of less-than-eloquent interview answers, Honey Boo Boo shimmying toddlers, and, most recently, news of Donald Trump’s Miss USA pageant being pulled from NBC, pageants and the young women who compete in them often receive a bad rap. However, this past week, pageant contestants from across the country have rallied together, showing not only the power of social media, but more importantly, how there’s more to them than meets the eye.
I’m going to preface this by revealing that last month I competed in the Miss North Carolina pageant, and am thus what the general public refers to as a “beauty queen”. Although I am always quick to discredit this term, preferring instead to emphasize how pageants promote philanthropy and scholarship, it would be senseless for me to ignore physical beauty’s role in pageantry. And with beauty comes jealousy.
Therefore, I was disappointed, but unfortunately not surprised, when a Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen contestant, Isabella Gaines, was anonymously targeted on social media last week. A Twitter account, NCOT no makeup, was created to expose how “ugly” teenage pageant contestants are without makeup, with Isabella as the first victim. Soon, other contestants were targeted, including the current Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen, Kenzie Hansley. Rather than let the bully win, Isabella turned to Instagram, posting a collage of bare-faced pictures and a caption reading, “Rude or ugly comments hurt and destroy self-esteem. Beauty comes from within. I just wanted to remind everyone that you are all beautiful, fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image.” Kenzie then took it one step further, encouraging her Facebook friends to post their own #nomakeupselfies to stand up to cyberbullying.
Upon reading about the situation, I was absolutely horrified that someone would intentionally inflict so much harm on such wonderful girls and quickly came up with an idea for how my fellow Miss North Carolina sisters could show support for our teenage friends. We would post our own #nomakeupselfies next to our pageant photos to acknowledge that we recognize that we look different without makeup, but still feel beautiful both ways. One by one, we began to post our #nomakeupselfies.
Then something amazing happened.
Within hours, hundreds of pageant girls from across the country began posting their own photos in support of Isabella and Kenzie. Even the current Miss America came onboard. Soon after, Isabella was interviewed for a local NBC affiliate, and the story was quickly picked up by RightThisMinute, Buzzfeed, and even received acknowledgment on TIME’s Facebook page. The story of empowerment had gone viral thanks to the strength of the Miss America sisterhood.
However, while the young women who contributed to the #nomakeupselfie movement felt inspired and more confident than ever, others continued to bash them with comments like “She resembles a man with the makeup on” and “Attention seekers again.” Even after reading the articles, posters still felt the need to cyberbully these girls who were speaking out against that very problem.
It comes down to a lack of understanding, and certainly a lack of respect for not only women who compete in pageants. So as a so-called “beauty queen” here’s my take on the matter:
Yes, we compete in pageants where we want to look our best. BUT we are also leaders of our schools and communities who desire to be architects of change for the causes we care about. We put in countless hours to become our best selves: women who are talented, physically fit, articulate, courageous, intelligent, opinionated, and philanthropic.
Yes, we feel beautiful with makeup. BUT we feel just as beautiful with bare faces dripping sweat in the gym.
Yes, makeup can help us enhance our natural beauty or perceived imperfections on the outside. BUT there’s no magic makeup to cover up what’s on the inside. A bully can’t go to Sephora and spend $20 to beautify his/her soul.
Yes, we compete against each other for the same ultimate goal. BUT, more importantly, we love, support, and empower each other until no end. We are best friends, we are sisters, and we are united too.