Pageants Provide a Platform for Empowerment
Ivybridge Community College Year 12 student, Poppy Vernon has recently represented Devon in the Miss Teen Great Britain Beauty Contest, winning a place in the Grand Final.
In this article she explains her personal journey and how her confidence has grown,
“When people think of beauty pageants, the first thing that comes to mind is girls up on stage, decked out in swanky and over-the top prom dresses with their makeup and hair straightened or curled within an inch of its life and then stuck up with several tins of toxic and flammable hairspray.
On the other hand, some people take notice of the hard work, dedication, and preparation that goes into these events.
I cannot tell you how many people thought I was ‘mad’, ‘loved myself too much’ or disapproved of my life choices. Many of the opinions came from people of my parent’s age or even my grandparent’s generation. They believed that I would be parading in front of a room full of men and women, dressed in a tiny bikini being judged on my waist measurements and the height of my heels. That really couldn’t be further from the truth, and in fact, my experience of being in Miss Teen Great Britain has made me an altogether more determined and empowered woman that I was before. I hope I can explain why I believe that these pageants (and there are many of them) provide young women like me with a platform for empowerment?
Anyone that doesn’t understand a pageant thinks that they are all about physical beauty. As someone that excels in creative subjects such as singing, drama and media, they think I might have my head turned from those subjects to spending more time and energy on my outward appearance. That, in turn, will lead to a crash in self-esteem, a dream of cosmetic enhancements, the aim of having a bottom like a Kardashian and a will to risk plummeting into a life of eating disorders.
It is true that many young women and girls, including students at our own College of course, have a big problem with the notion of their physical appearance; how skinny and fit they are, whether they are dressed to ‘fit in’ and what their hair and makeup look like. But that’s not why I entered Miss Teen Great Britain and it certainly isn’t what most of my fellow contestants were there for either.
I had no doubt (despite the doubters) that I wanted to compete for another reason. I have a goal that I wanted to reach. I wanted to push my boundaries, to challenge myself and to help myself to not be afraid to make brave or bold decisions. Furthermore, I see the opportunity to use the pageant platform for my own gain; a hope that it will be a stepping stone in my career as a singer/songwriter.
It certainly wasn’t easy preparing for the pageant. I had to find time to make public appearances, to organise fundraising for the pageant’s chosen charity, to find business sponsors and to ensure that I fulfilled their brief, to work with social-media collaborators, to plan what I wanted to say in front of the panel of judges (including some celebrities) as well as manage my GCSEs (achieving nine good passes) and the life of a normal 16 year old.
The preparation and determination that goes into pageantry are aspects many people probably aren’t aware of.
I firmly believe that pageants are for empowered young women who have a vision of making themselves stronger and better, and to empower other women to do the same, and come together as one. The focus on empowerment is something that the organiser, Holly, is passionate about, more than just the physical beauty of the women who compete.
I have learned many things about myself and my confidence has increased over the course of my journey in becoming Miss Teen Devon and competing in the Grand Final of Miss Teen Great Britain in Blackpool. I now have the confidence to be more outgoing, to speak up about a certain issue or situation, and just talk among a crowd of people that I don’t know. Backstage waiting for my turn to step into the spotlight was terrifying, my stomach was doing somersaults and I was so nervous. Once I got on stage, I was taken over by complete calm and focus. It’s made me realise that to be nervous is a powerful thing because it can prepare you for what is going to happen.
In interviews (and I have had several part-time job interviews since then) I am no longer timid or shy when answering and asking questions.
Pageants are not about changing yourself, they are about showcasing yourself. Miss Teen Great Britain gave us all a platform to express ourselves, to forge deep friendships and find ourselves part of a tribe of empowered women all keen to support each other’s journeys, whatever they might be.
Beauty pageants can be looked at through two lenses; as a negative or as a positive. Pageants can be deemed sexist and anti-feminist from one angle, but the women like me are there because we are definitely independent, ambitious and driven. As small changes, like the elimination of bikini wear and physical measurements, begin to grow, maybe pageants will become less controversial. Either way, it is best to love yourself first, and not feel like you owe anyone anything and have to look a certain way. Everyone is beautiful and unique and I am a very proud believer in that.”