My word for 2018 was Devastated. I watched as the pageant land I hold dear was turned to rubble by greed and vanity. It is almost eerie how my pageant world mimicked my real world as Hurricane Michael leveled my region of paradise. I have spent thousands, yes, thousands of hours watching, reading, serving, talking, researching and now rebuilding this area. My work in pageantry will be the same.
Lives are being broken. Leaders are being bent and in some cases broken. Whole systems are being wiped off the map. Much like this region, I came of age in pageant land. I learned to value my voice and my body. I thickened my skin against nay-sayers and softened my heart to the community I love. I sharpened my writing and speaking skills here. And now, in my adult life, I have returned to this area as well as to pageant land to raise my family and educate a new generation of female leaders.
But, as I look around at the back-stabbing, territorialistic, infighting that has consumed this place, I am almost speechless. Directors and volunteers have been idolized as queens and competitors are marginalized. This place that used to be safe for young women to grow and develop into roles of leadership has turned on these young ladies and silenced them. Those on the outskirts have gone running for the hills. Basically, we, as a community, are dying.
Where do we go from here? Where will my daughters, our littles and tinies, learn the valuable lessons being taught in this uniquely competitive but utterly inspiring space?
We have forgotten who we are, why we inhabit this space and how to go about our purpose.
These young women are the future of our businesses, our schools, our hospitals, our capitol. The knowledge and experience they acquire here, flesh out the educational outline they are given in standard academia. It is not about a shiny crown or a fancy title. Those things are rewards for the year-long dedication to service, scholarship and self care. We empower these women to find a need in their community, develop a platform, and with the help of the title, work until that need is fulfilled. (and do it in heels because we are overachievers). We encourage these women to put in the hours of interview prep, gym sweat and scholastic achievement because balance is not a theory, it is a life skill.
It is our job as Directors, Volunteers, Coaches and Mentors to lead by example, to encourage thru difficulties, to acknowledge achievement, to direct through confusion, to enlighten in the face of disappointment and to applaud each and every victory. If you find yourself wanting to silence a voice simply because you disagree or desire to be heard, perhaps it’s time to silence your own voice and evaluate your motives. Does your value system still align with the mission of the system with which you volunteer? with pageants in general?
If you answered yes to that, then please reintroduce yourself to the purpose and fundamentals of pageantry.
If you answered no, then perhaps it is time to seek other ventures. If you feel there is another avenue by which to train future leaders then build it! The only sound you will hear from pageant land is the sound of applause as we cheer you on.
Please don’t forget that we are pageant sisters. We are bound by our deep appreciation of those who have provided the crown, donated to the crown, served the crown, worn the crown and eventually passed the crown onto the next.