After a year as the ambassador for the Miss Arkansas Organization, it is time for me to address an issue: pageant stereotypes.
Lisa Lang has a weekly documentary entitled “Our America” on the Oprah Winfrey Network where she addresses cultural issues penetrating our nation’s society. This week, she asks, “Beauty queens – as American as apple pie, adored by little girls everywhere. But over the past few years it's little girls, rather than women, who have taken center stage. Who are these pint-sized princesses? And whose dreams are they really fulfilling?”
I feel compelled to respond, especially since I am highlighted in the first ten seconds of the episode. The clip of me was filmed at the Faulkner County Parade back in August and edited into a documentary, sparking conversation on the national forum.
View the first five minutes of the episode here: http://www.oprah.com/own-our-america-lisa-ling/Sneak-Peek-Watch-the-First-5-Minutes-of-Our-America-with-Lisa-Ling_2
Another clip from the documentary: http://www.oprah.com/own-our-america-lisa-ling/Sparkle-Babies-Eden-Woods-Pageant-Class
I applaud Lisa for probing the world of glitz and princess pageants. I find that world very foreign and do not advocate spray tans, flippers, hair extensions, or false eyelashes for little girls. At a young age, those types of pageants are teaching girls to value their appearance and scrutinize their looks. I believe that will lead to a generation of insecure and vain young women, who have unrealistic expectations for beauty.
As a “pageant girl” myself, I am asking you to differentiate your opinions among the pageant systems. Too many individuals lump all “pageant girls” together, for example, often confusing Miss America and Miss USA. When you hear of a controversial pageant story or watch “Toddlers and Tiaras”, stop to ask which system is being represented. It is unfair for society to stereotype pageants because of the shows and controversies that feed America’s entertainment appetite.
Maybe a stereotype is inevitable, but I LOVE the challenge to defy it. I started competing in pageants on a state level at the age of 18. Before winning Miss Arkansas 2011, I graduated magna cum laude in Chemistry and was accepted to Pharmacy School. I have completed thousands of hours in community service while mostly mentoring pregnant teenagers and at-risk youth. I also live my life by Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” I am not a Barbie doll without a brain. I am a driven, articulate, passionate young woman who wants to change the world.
Maybe this surprises you, but I am not the only one. When I competed in the 2012 Miss America Pageant, I was surrounded by 52 incredibly accomplished and talented young women who aspire to be lawyers, doctors, actors, journalists, politicians, and so much more! The Miss America Organization is the largest provider of scholarships for women in America and promotes scholastic achievement and volunteer effort. When scoring the contestants, 35% of the composite score comes from talent and 25% comes from a 10-minute private interview with questions on any topic under the sun. The girls who excel in the Miss America Organization are far more than just a pretty face. They are truly exceptional. Opinionated
If you are a “glitz pageant mom” involved in children’s pageants, consider the Miss America princess programs instead. In my state, the princess program allows girls ages 5-12 to share pageant week with a Miss Arkansas contestant. The Miss Arkansas contestant forms a relationship with her princess and mentors her to build the same values promoted by the Miss America Organization. It is not a competition but allows the princess to walk onstage with her local queen during evening gown competition. It is an excellent alternative to glitz pageants and gives the younger girls a positive role model that is hard to find in today’s world.
I will soon start Pharmacy School with over $34,000 in scholarships and a plethora of public speaking experiences, interview skills, non-profit organization knowledge, and marketing lessons. I am proud to be Miss Arkansas. I am not afraid of stereotypes.