Dear Pageant Girl,

Do you really know what you are getting yourself into by wanting to be a beauty queen?

As a beauty queen your ultimate weapon is an impenetrable smile and a very, very thick skin.

Expect a whole lot of UGLY thrown your way if you decide to go down the beauty queen path.

An article was published today by the Sunday Telegraph, written by the fabulous and physically stunning Caroline Marcus.

Caroline was on the panel with me to judge the Miss Universe Australia NSW Heats last week and from that experience was born her article – Behind the scenes at the Miss Universe 2012 NSW Preliminary Finals.

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According to her article, she “jumped at the chance to gain a rare inside look into the workings of the competition and find out how much weight is really put on a woman’s non-physical attributes”. Caroline was left a little disenchanted and I suppose a little frustrated by the experience – unable to fathom how the essence of Miss Universe “which began as a bathing beauty contest sponsored by a swimwear brand in 1952…. has not evolved”. She was also left wondering why we bother with an interview segment when “the judges don’t care about the answers”.

And as expected, upon the release of the story, the cool thing to do of course was to bash beauty pageants.

I am a supporter of free speech. We are all entitled to our opinions. And I respect opinions, especially if you can back it up. I welcome opinions, even those colored with judgment, if it encourages discussion and debate as long as it is done with respect (and let me clarify that at no point did I find this well-written article disrespectful).

And here’s the thing.

I agree with Caroline.

Mostly.

Reading the article carefully you begin to understand that she doesn’t really have a problem with beauty pageants per se, rather beauty pageants trying to sell themselves as something it isn’t. In essence she and I sing the same song only with different melodies.

I wrote a similar article in January when Laura Kaeppler, the 85th Miss America, was crowned. Read all about it here.

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I wrote about how I thought it was ridiculous that the Miss America pageant would market itself as a “scholarship program”.

In it I wrote: I don’t like it when something claims to be something it isn’t. Is it a beauty pageant or is it a scholarship program? If the latter then what does strutting in a bikini have to do with her furthering her education?

And I stand by that statement. Nothing annoys me more than hypocrisy. But let me address Caroline’s gripe and clarify some misconceptions.

While the interview segment represents only 1/3 of the total score, it is nonetheless an important one. It has a place and deservedly so.

I am not about to send a beautiful idiot overseas to represent our country on the world stage.

Let us not forget that this is a beauty pageant, not a Tournament of the Minds. It is what it is. We are looking for a beauty queen who is clever enough to charm the press and the world when put in front of a camera or on the global stage. Unlike some other pageants, Miss Universe Australia is expected to front the media and the public and to actually speak, not just to represent Miss Universe Australia with dignity and grace during her reign but to be a spokesperson and endorser for her sponsors.

More importantly, one of her main jobs is to be an ambassador for and increase the profile of the charities supported by the Miss Universe Australia Organisation. She is to raise funds for the cause which, in this case, will be Operation Smile Australia – a foundation that provides free treatment to children with facial deformities. Her job is to be the face of the organization for the next twelve months and to raise much needed funds so that the foundation can continue to do the good work that it does.

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Even the most seasoned of philanthropists will admit that fundraising is one of the hardest things you can do, and no one hands money over to someone they don’t respect.

That’s why I can come across as a little harsh.  For me, it’s all about tough love, and honey, if you can’t handle my type of tough, then you have no idea what is yet to come if you decide to pursue a career in this industry!

As harsh as I am with my comments, I provide a reality check to those who blindly join a competition like this and is oblivious to the hard work and responsibilities expected from them during their reign. I push the girls who have potential to go harder and to those who can’t handle the heat, I would suggest to get out of my beauty kitchen.

But back to the article. As ‘superficial’ as this competition may seem to the general public it has opened doors and have created successful careers for many titleholders. Laura Dundovic, Rachael Finch, Jesinta Campbell, Scherri Biggs and Jennifer Hawkins would probably be nobodies without the Miss Universe Australia crown thrusting them into the spotlight and giving them a break.

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According to Caroline: It makes sense; ever since Hawkins took home the crown in 2004, propelling her from Newcastle cheerleader to model and media personality worth a reported $5 million a year, there’s been no shortage of girls hoping to follow in her crystal-encrusted footsteps. It doesn’t hurt that most of her successors – Erin McNaught, Laura Dundovic, Jesinta Campbell and Rachael Finch among them – have managed to carve out moderately successful TV careers themselves.

Can you blame a girl for wanting the same thing?

In that sense, you can’t really say that we have been completely misled when it claims that the Miss Universe Organisation “advances and supports opportunities for young women” and contestants need to be “savvy, goal-oriented and aware” because we DO encourage the girls who try out for Miss Universe Australia to be so in order to make their dreams of succeeding in the fashion, media and entertainment industries come true.

I don’t blame Caroline for feeling a little jaded.  On the surface, especially in the early stages of the competition it all seems oh so superficial.  But scratch beneath the surface and you’ll start to see another world – a world of duty, responsibility and high pressure.

 So as “cool” as it is to bash the beauty queens and beauty pageants, it’s even cooler to get to know the ins and outs of how it really works and maybe, just maybe you might change your tune.

Or you can keep dissing.

And that’s OK too.  Because it gives us air time. And if people take enough time out of their lives to discuss or make a comment about you, then you must be doing something right.

So to all the detractors and bashers, we thank you for watching and following our movements.  Please keep talking about us because it keeps us on our toes.  But bear in mind that perspective is a good thing to have in these situations and remember – no one likes an uneducated point of view.

It’s just a beauty pageant for goodness sakes. 

Enjoy the show.

 

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