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Dear Pageant Girl,

Last week I was having a late night conversation with Dear Pageant Girl Queensland and having a look at who we think out of all of the Stunner Alerts have a serious chance of winning this year’s Miss Universe Australia crown.

Below are highlights our conversation:

“Her boobs need to be a little bigger if she’s serious about the competition.”

“Actually, she needs her nose fixed, there’s something awkward and heavy about her features. Great body.”

“That dress is going to make her look huge on stage. She needs something in a pastel preferably with lots of leg and lots of boob. The judges love boob.”

“Do you think she would look better with black hair? I’m so damn sick of seeing blondes up there, we need an air of mystery. Tell her to grow her eyebrows and darken her hair.”

“Ooooh that one needs to trim her eyebrows, they look like two caterpillars about to rendezvous on her forehead.”

And it went on and on.

Dear Pageant Girl have never been backward at being forward and we apologise for nothing.

But towards the end of the evening, after we have dissected and performed imaginary cosmetic surgery on our ‘favourites’, I asked myself…

Am I guilty of objectifying these women?

I couldn’t help but admit it.  There’s no denying the fact that for a moment during that conversation, admittedly we stopped looking at these young women as people, rather as (for lack of a better term) ‘things’ that can be moulded, shaped and transformed into the glamazon they need to be to compete against her international counterparts.  A human version of what happens to those cars on MTV’s Pimp my Ride.

I have tossed and turned and grappled with that idea for days – asking myself where I went wrong and how I’ve become that person that gives beauty pageants a bad name.

So I consulted one of my personal gurus. 

Matty Samaei – famed beauty expert, Channel 7 beauty commentator, owner of The Medispa by Matty and fellow Miss Universe Australia judge. Matty has seen many pageant girls go through her doors and she has a lot to do with preparing our girls for the international stage.

“Baby, it depends on the type of pageant,” she answered.

“However, having had to judge and work with a few beauty queens and seeing what happens internationally I must say the girls are judged more than just on their physical beauty. 

“We look at this as a job interview. In this job we are looking for the complete package of intelligence, kindness, easy to work with, talent and of course, beauty.”

What Matty says is true. 

In fact, many women who have competed in beauty pageants have experienced a sense of self empowerment – gaining a belief in themselves that they don’t necessarily have to rely on their looks to get ahead, that in order to be a success, you have to strive to be “the full package”.

Many may consider beauty pageants as out of date, sexist, non PC and anti-feminist.  We have been accused of many things – from encouraging the beautiful bimbo stereotypes to ruining the work that the women before us have done to advance women’s issues and causes.

But nothing hurts as much as the sting of the realization that maybe, just maybe our detractors were right about some things?

It’s not fair to put the blame solely on beauty pageants. Look around you and you would be surprised at the different mediums that surround our daily lives that objectify women, yet we turn a blind eye to it.

Unlike the above mediums, pageants can open many doors and give these women an opportunity to make a difference. I’ve never heard it justified so eloquently than by Lara Dutta, Miss Universe 2000.

The reality is, winning the crown isn’t always what it’s cut out to be.

Yes, it opens doors but once you have handed that crown over, it’s a struggle to shake off the “former beauty queen” title that many of our past winners have been pigeon holed into.  Just ask Jennifer Hawkins, Lara Dundovic, Rachael Finch, Jesinta Campbell and Scherri Biggs. You can’t just be a pretty girl to capitalize on your title, you have to be an intelligent and charismatic woman who can spot the opportunities and manipulate each situation to your favor.

Sure, nobody is perfect and I’m sure we can do some things that we do a little better, but we will stay true to our promise that we will continue to give our all to empower, enrich and inspire our girls to capture that crown.

Looking at the proverbial mirror has forced us to take a good long look at ourselves and we at Dear Pageant Girl will continue to celebrate your choice to compete in beauty pageants and will respect the choices you make to obtain a competitive edge as long as it harms no one else. 

Beauty queens can be compared to athletes. They too have a hunger to win and put hundreds of hours and dollars to gain that advantage and for that, we give them respect.

The more we thought about it and the more we listened to different sides of the argument, the clearer things got.

Feminism is about choice. We celebrate the choices these young women make to join a pageant. We celebrate their choice to do what is necessary to get a competitive edge.

At the end of the day, as Matty says, it’s a job. And if you don’t agree with what the job stands for or its ideals….

…..then we celebrate your freedom of choice not to apply for it.