I think many of us would have the initial thought, "You won Miss America! You don't get to be sad about that or about anything else for the rest of your life!" In fact, I am sure that there are hundreds (thousands?) of girls every year who are depressed because they did NOT win Miss America or another pageant title. I know many of them. I was sad. Maybe even very sad. And while we're being honest I'll admit this: Sometimes (usually just while watching the pageant) I'm still a little sad and wonder what it would have been like to walk that famous runway with a crown on my head. I may have cried most of the way home from Atlantic City. Just keepin' it real. Isn't it funny that the second someone else wins we're supposed to give up on a dream that we've devoted every waking hour to for years (and sometimes for a lifetime) and be happy that someone else gets to live that dream? And we're supposed to do that on live TV? Am I alone here?
|This is me leaving the Miss America stage after I didn't make the top five.|
I remember feeling like a wrecking ball was sweeping me away.
BTW, I really just wanted a full-sequin dress. I didn't wear it during competition. Thank goodness.
Even twelve years ago when I won Miss Utah the very first comment on a news website was, "Looks like the new Miss Utah needs to go on a diet." I remember that, word for word, and not a single other comment. Although I do remember that Danielle White stood up for me. Thank you, Danielle! In that picture I weighed about 112 pounds and hardly had any fat in my body (thanks to something I ate in Mexico!). My dress was tight on my newly acquired abs and shined strangely in the picture while I was kind of squatting to be crowned. Someone sure felt it was their right to say that about me on the biggest night of my life. Classy. I knew it wasn't true, but I've never forgotten.
|This is the picture that inspired people to criticize my weight.|
Maybe this is just because I'm married to a therapist, but I think MAO and state organizations should insist on and provide for regular preventative therapy for their titleholders. My year as Miss Utah was very stressful for many, many reasons. I want to be clear: I WANTED to be Miss Utah. I worked very hard and devoted two years of my life to become Miss Utah. I LOVED being Miss Utah. I wouldn't trade it for the world. But by the time the year was over and I had traveled to every corner of the state with nearly 800 appearances, I was done; my family was done. It is HARD to stay thin when everywhere you go everyone is taking you to the best restaurant for the best food. It is hard to keep a talent stage-ready when there just isn't time to devote to practice or when pianos simply aren't available. It is hard to ignore the nearly constant criticism, however well-intentioned, that you get from directors and travelling companions and random people on the street. You did great, BUT... You talk too fast. You wore the wrong shoes. Your lipstick is wrong. Your hair is wrong. Next time say this. Here's how to improve next time. Next time be someone else entirely. And social media, while thankfully not around when I was wearing a crown, must be brutal. I just can't even imagine.
Maybe with therapy---which offers a pair of listening, confidential ears and hopefully good advice---we'd have even better titleholders. My family and local directors were amazing at always being there and always listening, but I still felt pressure to please them. It would have been nice to talk to a disinterested party. Society isn't going to change. It's too bad. Those comments will always be made. But we need to be pro-active and help our girls before they reach the point that Teresa did. I have heard many state titleholders from Utah and around the country say that they were happy and felt loved every second. But I've also had heart-to-heart talks with other girls who felt the same or heard from others involved that things weren't well. I'm not blaming MAO or MUO. Pageants, by their very nature are a judged competition. When you compete you are saying "judge me." But when so much criticism comes from every single media outlet, and every single pageant person around you is telling you you were great but has a suggestion for next time, it is hard.
Again, I need to say that I loved being Miss Utah. It was life-changing and a privilege for which I will always be grateful. I am grateful for everyone who sacrificed for me and who devoted time to my year as Miss Utah. I will always be grateful to MAO for the experience and for the scholarships (I paid $25 for my entire education!). There are so many good things about pageants. Miss America contestants at every level offer so much good to the world through community service. I think there is absolutely a place for Miss America in today's world, and I hope that it never ends. But society is changing. Instead of embracing good, society discourages and downplays and questions everything lovely.
I admire Teresa for her courage in releasing this video during Miss America Week, and I hope that all of us in "Pageantland" can be supportive of her and not continue to be critical of her. I think she is very brave, and she is not alone. Most importantly, I hope that preventative measures can be taken so no one has to feel that way again.
**Now part of me wants to delete this and never post it. I keep thinking that maybe I'm too critical and I'll never be asked to judge or emcee a pageant ever again. And probably like two people will read this anyway, so there's nothing to worry about. I also keep thinking that I should email it to my mom, my husband, my mother-in-law, and my sister to see what they think. How odd that when I'm writing that we should just let the titleholder be herself and not try to judge her so much, that I'm still looking for approval and critiques. So I'll post it. And I know I'll be criticized.