There’s no denying that when most of us think of pageants, we think of mean blondes, corrupt judges, bikini rides, body shaming and bodywork. Shows like Debby Ryan’s Insatiable, the story of an outcast turned pageant queen, while both hilarious and entertaining, portrays pageants as ruthless, superficial, and even violent. Even fan-favorite movies like Miss Conviviality with Sandra Bullock, show the contest girls that they are ready to win at all costs; girls who are competitive and vain. These stereotypes can be funny, but if you look a little closer, you might see that the pageant world is full of strong and smart world leaders, both male and female, and they have much more to offer than a “pretty face”. “Today we are going to look at some of the most common misconceptions and myths about contests and some interesting facts about different systems.
Stereotype 1: The girls in the pageant are “dumb blondes”.
While movie characters like Gorgeous Drop Dead may portray pageant girls as brainless and vain, many women, like Miss America 2020, Camille Schrier (pictured below) are bucking that stereotype. The former Miss Virginia was a varsity athlete and graduated with honors from Princeton. For the ever-awaited Miss America talent portion, she performed a chemistry demonstration of the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide with potassium iodide. Her experience earned her the preliminary round of talent, awarding her a scholarship. Camille Schrier will spend her reign working with her drug and drug safety platform. Another exceptional and intelligent woman from the pageant community to mention would be Mattea Henderson, Miss Earth Canada. Henderson is a proponent of freshwater conservation and holds an undergraduate degree in marketing and international business, her contributions denying that demeaning stereotype.
Stereotype 2: Appearance and size are all that matters.
Nope! This is the main reason why contests have a bad reputation. When you watch Miss USA or Miss Universe on TV, all you see are ballgown walks and swimsuit legs, woven with a few onstage questions. What actually happens behind the scenes is very different. Pageant girls undergo rigorous interviews and sometimes even school exams when entering a pageant. Makeup and hair aren’t all you think, developing a platform of philanthropic ideas and actively engaging in charitable events in your community is a big part of being a title holder, and a responsibility much more. bigger than you think. You are often judged on this rather than size and image. Former Miss Universe Canada Siera Bearchell (pictured below) spoke out against the stigma of body shaming around pageants as she advocated for body positivity and self-confidence during her reign, earning a spot in the Miss Universe top 9 that year.
Stereotype 3: The contest girls can’t tell the difference.
Absolute MYTH! Miss World, a pageant system that involves many countries in its participation, emphasizes its platform part, with something unique to other pageants. A component of Miss World is a contestant’s “Beauty With a Purpose”, which is a philanthropic campaign to help their communities. For example, 19-year-old Miss World Canada Naomi Colford made offering a breakfast program to children in her area her beauty with a purpose, and Toni-Ann Singh, the winner of Miss World 2019 , has made her platform advocating for women’s rights and opportunities, even working with the Jamaican Prime Minister to fund women’s centers. The winner of Miss World’s Beauty with Purpose 2019 was Anushka Shrestha, Miss World Nepal 2019, who helped struggling families in remote villages develop sources of income beyond fundraising by teaching them business skills such as weaving, stone making, etc. Miss World 2018 is pictured working with her cause.
Stereotype 4: The only reward for winning or placing in a contest is a crown and a belt.
Bad! The winner, and often the runners-up in a contest, get a year full of big TV or radio appearances, opportunities to participate in community events, and often amazing scholarships. Miss High School America and Miss Collegiate America offer up to 10,000 scholarships, as does Miss Teenage Canada. International pageants often offer very generous prizes, sometimes as high as 6 figures for winners of pageants like Miss World. Many state and provincial pageants also offer specific scholarships, reinforcing the idea that education is important to all pageant contestants, and that what’s on your mind matters even more than your walk and your ballgown. .
Stereotype 5: You cannot make friends through contests.
There will always be competitive and negative people in every circle of events, but the cliché of “ripped shoes” and “broken heels” is far from the norm. Rather than hanging around each other’s necks and doing whatever they can to win, tons of contest participants around the world have forged meaningful friendships, bonds, and collaborations to last a lifetime. Miss Nigeria made world news when she burst into enthusiasm for her compatriot when Miss Jamaica won Miss World, illustrating the often misunderstood women supporting the female ideology of pageantry. Miss USA 2018 Sarah Rose Summers (now Sarah Rose Combs), who placed in the top 20 at Miss Universe 2018, had Miss USA runner-up Caelynn Miller Keyes as one of her bridesmaids. The two are pictured below at Sarah’s coronation and wedding just a few months ago. The giant hugs at the end of the contests aren’t just for show, these contestants have spent weeks together collaborating while competing, and it’s heartwarming for everyone.
Stereotype 6: There is no future career after the crowns.
It couldn’t be more wrong. Some people see a pretty crown and sash as a highlight of a pageant girl’s life, but you’d be very surprised how many of your favorite public figures, actors, singers, and designers were former pageant queens. Famous actress Halle Berry was a Miss USA runner-up, a young Oprah Winfrey once wore a crown to represent Tennessee. Adding to the list, before donning superhero armor as Diana in the hit movie Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot was Miss Israel 2004. Fun fact, Gal Gadot was actually the second former pageant queen to play Wonder Woman, as Linda Carter was Miss World USA 1972. Famous Quantico star Priyanka Chopra amazes us all with her grace and talent, but did you know that the talented lady was also Miss World 2000?
Stereotype 7: The competitions are reserved for women.
This stereotype is in fact very false, which surprises more than one! There are actually many men’s pageant systems, such as Mister World, Mr. Continental, Mr. Supranational, and Mister International. These competitions also emphasize community projects and philanthropic ideas. Alessandro Coward, (pictured below) who was crowned Mr. World Canada 2018 participated in Mr. World a few years ago and has been a supporter of autism awareness during his reign, fighting stereotypes and misconceptions misconceptions about the non-neurotypical community. Since April is Autism Awareness Month, researching hardworking credential holders like him could be very informative! Fun fact: Alessandro Coward and Miss Earth Canada Mattea Henderson (pictured below) are a fan-favorite couple in Canadian pageantry!
Stereotype 8: The competitions are reserved for young adults!
There are contest systems for everyone, from infants to senior citizens. There are Ms. and Ms. divisions for many major pageants, which provide title opportunities for women who are married, divorced, have children, or have aged outside of the regular divisions. There’s even a Mrs. Senior America, which celebrates the accomplishments and talents of women 60 and older. Take a look at the still young 73-year-old Carole Slade Harde at her coronation.
So! Pageant contestants and titleholders work incredibly hard around the world, and now you know a little more about what goes on at dazzling events. So the next time you think of a pageant queen as just a pretty face, think about all the platforms, charities and organizations she works with – and how many of your favorite artists have already walked in their footsteps!