Thoughts on “What Pageant Should You Compete in Based on Your Dress Size”

On January 2, The Pageant Planet posted the article, “What Pageant Should You Compete in Based on Your Dress Size“. I encourage you to read the original, but for my fellow recovery warriors, I am putting a trigger warning on it because I definitely did not feel good about my body after reading it. In sum, it breaks different pageant systems into the size brackets 00-2, 00-6, 00-12 and 12-24+ and encourages girls of the noted sizes to compete in particular systems if they want to be successful.

Before I go any further, I want to make the disclaimer that I respect The Pageant Planet and ALL pageant systems mentioned in the article, and my intention is not to bash the organizations mentioned or the writer(s); however, I will be questioning this controversial article to a great extent and will be unapologetically sharing my thoughts and feelings.

Firstly, I’m aware now more than ever about the size discrimination going on within the pageant industry, and it saddens me as much as it enrages me. I believe a girl of any size should be able to walk onto a pageant stage for any pageant system without her size or shape determining the outcome. From watching USA and America, it’s clear they brand themselves as pageants for real women; however, according to the article, women primarily between the sizes of 00 and 6 are successful in these systems. Now, that’s not to say women between the sizes of 00-6 are not real women; however that is me saying real women come in ALL SIZES!!! Imagine a world where our Miss USA’s and our Miss America’s represent all women’s bodies! With that being said, I cannot be mad at The Pageant Planet for the current state of body exclusivity in pageantry; however, I am mad because I believe the organization is perpetuating the current state of pageantry by posting this article.

I think by separating these pageant systems into narrow size categories, The Pageant Planet is continuing, and almost encouraging, body exclusivity in pageantry. In its response, Pageant Planet says, “We do apologize to anyone who may have felt discouraged by the article that was posted and we want to assure you that was not our intent. We hope instead that this article will serve as a starting point for a conversation surrounding inclusivity and body positivity in pageantry. The climate currently in place will continue to stand as is unless we, as a community, demand change from pageant systems and pageant directors who do not value diversity.” I understand what The Pageant Planet was looking to accomplish, but in my opinion, it completely missed the mark with this article. To me, it’s reinforcing the body exclusivity already in place. How are we supposed to focus on body inclusion when they’re encouraging us to compete in systems based on our dress size? If The Pageant Planet wants to start a conversation about body inclusion in pageantry, why wouldn’t they write articles about how to change the pageant climate and start a progressive social movement to change the current climate? As I’ve mentioned over and over, an article separating girls by size and sending them in the direction of specific systems is not going to change body inclusion; in fact, it’s only going to keep things the exact same.

I know some people will come back and say the article emphasizes it’s not meant to discourage girls from competing; however, I don’t think the commentary at the end is enough to compensate for an entire article separating girls into size brackets: “When it comes to pageantry, size really isn’t an issue. There is a place for everyone! Do your research and find the system that you feel is right for you. Just because you didn’t succeed in one system, doesn’t mean you won’t succeed in another. Maybe it just wasn’t the right one for you.” Size really isn’t an issue? Wasn’t this entire article breaking down where certain dress sizes will succeed? While there may be a pageant out there for every size, why can’t every pageant be for every size? To me, size will no longer be an issue in pageantry when a girl of any size can walk on stage for any pageant system and succeed, and by saying size isn’t an issue, what is The Pageant Planet really saying about the current state of body exclusivity in pageantry?

Another point of concern I have is in the pictures they used throughout the original article and whether or not they asked for consent before using them. I cannot even imagine how it would feel to have my picture used in an article of this nature, whether I’m a size 00 or a size 20. Emily Ramsey, a NAM contestant, shared her thoughts on Instagram: “I’m actually in this picture, and I don’t appreciate the content of this article at all. The point of pageantry does not and should not depend on the dress size of a girl competing. I’ve competed in NAM since I was a young girl because of what the system represents, which is intelligence, respect and enhancing skills that will be used later in life, not because the system is accepting of a certain dress size. NO ONE should ever feel like they shouldn’t compete because a system may not support their size. This is just absurd.” {Emily, you are so beautiful and a shining example of positive pageantry. I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I’m proud of you for standing up for the true meaning of pageantry. Congrats on top five at NAM Tennessee Teen <3}

Final thoughts and feelings… This article genuinely broke my heart. It’s not easy when an article says you probably won’t be successful in a given pageant system because of what the tag says in your dress despite every thing else that would make you a great titleholder. For that, I am grateful to be a part of National American Miss. I will forever be indebted to this organization for continuing to celebrate who I am, what I stand for and everything I’ve accomplished, both on-stage and off, regardless of my dress size. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ll know I credit this organization for saving my life from anorexia because of the confidence its given me.

73
NAM Nationals 2016

To all of my pageant family and fellow recovery warriors, please don’t let this article define who you are or where you’ll find success in pageantry or in life. I know it’s hard… believe me, this article has been on my mind A LOT, but it is possible to put it aside and go back to defining who you are without even considering your dress size. You are capable of achieving absolutely anything you put your mind to, and don’t ever let anything or anyone tell you otherwise. I’ll always believe in you<3

XOXO,

Madison

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