Dear Pageant Girl,

What an interesting three days it has been.  Having to trek all the way to Macquarie Shopping Centre only to have been generally disappointed in the last two days, the third day offered some kind of relief in the form of quality contestants finally coming out of the wood works and showing Sydney how it should be done.

True, it was still slim pickings but maybe…just maybe some girls who got on stage today read my post (rant) yesterday as a few turned up the notch to really get our attention.

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Today the make up was better, the hair was higher, the eye contact was there and the runway was on fire.

Realistically, it shouldnt be this hard to find quality contestants.

But it is.

So what seems to be the problem?

Speaking to Sone Palupe last night (Dear Pageant Girl Queensland) helped me gain some clarity.

It all comes down to Jennifer Hawkins.

Stay with me here.

99% of the time these girls join the Miss Universe Australia competition to be “the next Jennifer Hawkins”.  The media and the marketing engine have a big role to play in this also – encouraging the next generation to try their luck at being the next J-Hawko.

While many starry eyed aspirants are all too ready to proclaim that they want to be the next Jennifer Hawkins, I am yet to hear a single one say “I want to be Miss Universe”.

Think about it – as much as Jennifer Hawkins has raised the profile of beauty pageants here in Australia, she is also the root of the problem as to why there seems to be a lack of genuine beauty queens in the Australian scene.

In my years of being in the industry I watched the slow decline of the Miss Universe Australia brand until that lucky girl from Newcastle came along to bring home the treasured tiara.

With that came fame, fortune and a lucrative career that any girl would kill for. It truly was a Cinderella story.

But what exactly has she done since to help promote or further the pageant industry in this country?

If anything I can only come to the conclusion that instead of nurturing the industry and the title that has opened so many doors for her, she has since moved on and distanced herself from the whole beauty pageant industry.  I am yet to hear another Miss Universe Australia thank her for her support or assistance with their Miss Universe campaign.

When Scherri Biggs found herself in hot water after her views on plastic surgery and Hawkins were published, Scherri reached out to Hawkins and her management to explain her views and to apologise for any offence, her messages were left unanswered.

Instead, Hawkins decided to respond via a Sun Herald interview telling Kate Waterhouse:

“I was surprised by the comments because I don’t even know the girl . . . It’s just not my thing to comment negatively about someone through the media, so I don’t think it’s cool at all.”

Ouch.

It makes me wonder if Biggs would still hold Hawkins in such high esteem after that sting. One would think that having more experience with the media and having had her fair share of being put under the spotlight, a former queen would take a magnanimous approach towards the younger generation; and while support may be asking for too much, perhaps the offer of a sympathetic ear or even a piece of helpful advice to help navigate the churning waters of celebrity would be the “human” thing to do.

Alas no.

And why should she?

Jennifer Hawkins is the first Australian woman to bring home the Miss Universe crown since Kerry Anne Wells in 1972.   With a whole generation between the two of them many would consider Hawkins as the only Miss Universe Australia that matters.

So why should she give up that title so easily?  Why would she help out another starry eyed girl when the name of the game is to hold on to your notoriety for as long as physically possible? She doesn’t owe anybody anything.

Who are we to begrudge her success?

We love her because she was the cheerleader from the coast that did good.

It’s OK to hold Hawkins in such high esteem. Hell, I wish I had her good fortune.

But don’t lose sight on why you are here and what your motivations are for competing.

Let me make this very clear.

You are competing to be the next Miss Universe – not to be the next Jennifer Hawkins.

Sure, winning the title can open doors that can deliver lucrative deals and career success, but with privilege comes great responsibility.

Being Miss Universe is one of the most challenging roles you will ever play.  For twelve months your life belongs to an organisation.  Your every move is managed, you are constantly under scrutiny and every minute of every day of your life for the next twelve months is planned and monitored.

As Miss Universe you are forced to grow up quickly and you learn about life much faster than your friends and contemporaries because you are thrust into a world that noone in your life will be able to relate to and is completely different from the reality that you are used to.

As glamorous as it may sound, there is a lot of work and responsibility that comes with the role and you have to ask yourself if this is something that you really want and if you do, are you ready for it?

So dearest pageant girl, I ask you to think hard about what you are getting yourself into and should you continue to keep going down this path, to do so with great pride and dignity, and to bring honour to what is often a misunderstood industry.

Before I leave you to enjoy the rest of the weekend, take a moment to watch this snippet from the 2000 pageant. Listen to Miss Venezuela’s answer about the kind of woman Miss Universe is looking for.  Take a good long hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if you really are ready to rise up to the challenge.

As Shakespeare once wrote: “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”.

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