As many of you know, pageantry has been a major part of both my high school and college careers, opening up doors and helping me recover from my eating disorder. It’s given me a voice and a platform to share my passion for helping young women recognize their true beauty. It’s even the reason I’m pursuing a career in broadcast journalism and aspiring to be on Good Morning America. I truly could go on and on and on about how pageantry has changed my life for the better, but it’s been more than a year since my last on-stage competition. Many of you are starting to wonder if I applied for the National American Miss Ohio title this year or if I have plans to compete in any upcoming pageants. The answer is no, and here’s why.
1.) The Size Issue
Earlier this year, The Pageant Planet released an article entitled “What Pageant Should You Compete in Based on Your Dress Size?,” and it really made me question the current state of pageantry. (You can check out my entire response to the article here.) While organizations like National American Miss don’t judge girls on their appearance and strive to teach women and young girls valuable life skills, The Pageant Planet clearly illustrated how a majority of the pageant industry is still based on size and looks. As an advocate for body positivity and eating disorder awareness, it is unfair and unjust for me to be involved in an industry that does not represent all women – an industry with values that are contrary to those of Girl in the Mirror. I believe National American Miss is a great program for young women looking to build confidence and find a voice, but programs like Miss USA and Miss America are looking for women who embody their cookie-cutter, one-size image that excludes 99% of women in America. How am I supposed to continue my journey in this industry if these programs do not represent all women? Until women of all shapes and sizes can walk onto a pageant stage for any pageant system and have an equal chance at being successful, I’m hanging up my heels.
2.) Fitness and Swimsuit Competitions
I do not believe in fitness and/or swimsuit competitions simply because they’re not an accurate indicator of someone’s health or confidence, and as I’m about to turn 21, almost all pageants require this phase of competition. I refuse to be reduced to the size and shape of my body because there’s so much more I have to offer than my outward appearance, and I want to help other girls realize the same. All bodies are beautiful, and I wish all pageants represented and celebrated body diversity and included all women like National American Miss.
3.) Increasing Entry Fees
As a college kid, it’s not easy to fork over thousands of dollars for a pageant, even if it is for the opportunity of a lifetime. Stepping away from the stage this year and looking into what my next competition could be has made me realize pageantry is no longer financially attainable, especially since entry fees are on the rise. Not only are these fees going up, the price tag and caliber of the gowns is at an all time high, and I know there’s no way I can afford it. I miss the days when it didn’t matter if your gown was couture or if your hair and make up was professionally done: I only did well when I invested in expensive gowns, fancy hair and makeup and pageant coaching. While I felt like a princess and while I wouldn’t change these experiences for anything, I am still feeling the financial hit of my 2016 pageant adventures.
4.) My Career
Participating in pageants inspired me to have a career as a broadcast journalist because I realized how much of an impact people’s stories can have on the lives of others. Now that I’m preparing to graduate from college early and to move to Wisconsin for my dream internship, my eyes are set on the prize of my first multimedia journalist and news producer position. My days consist of reporting, anchoring and producing, and pageants don’t belong in the mix anymore, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Pageants have given me this absolutely beautiful life I adore, and I will be forever grateful for it! Lord knows I wouldn’t be where I am today without it!
5.) I Got Everything I Could From It
Confidence. A voice. A platform. Scholarships. Poise. Communication skills. A purpose. My career path. Connections. Sisterhood. I mean, if you want me to list everything, it’d be impossible because I gained absolutely everything I could from pageantry. Above all, I learned the most important crown and banner is the one you find within your soul. From the quiet, shy girl who stepped on the National American Miss stage to the confident young woman I am today, I am retiring knowing I accomplished my goals and am making a difference in the lives of young women. I now know I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to and change the world, and no crown or banner can represent that.
There you have it: my reasons behind retiring from pageantry. I wouldn’t trade this part of my life for anything in the world, simply because I credit National American Miss for saving my life, but it’s time for me to spread my wings and go after my biggest dreams. National American Miss, thank you for everything! I will forever be indebted to your organization<3
I love you all,