For a long time, I could not see myself winning Miss Idaho. I would view former state and national titleholders on social media effortlessly bounce around from classrooms to boardrooms to red carpets while painting the consistent aura of poise and confidence. At the time, these girls seemed, for lack of a better word, unreal. Although the crown is silver, social media makes it easy to equate being state titleholders to being the golden girls F. Scott Fitzgerald brought to life In his novels. However, my friends, that is a tale of two realities. If history is a myth shaped by the tongues of conquerors, then success in pageantry is a myth shaped by the Instagram posts of winners. After much self reflection and analyzation, I have chosen four pageant stereotypes to debunk, or as I call it: MythBusters, Miss America Edition.
1. To win, you must be an extrovert. This statement could not be any more fictitious, and yet, it is also one that is not brought up enough. Yes, Miss Idaho does appear on the news, mingle with strangers at events, and speak to students at school assemblies. The job description itself implies the need for a gregarious nature. However, I am naturally not loquacious. Many of my Miss America sisters are also ambiverts or introverts. Fulfilling the duties of Miss Idaho pushes me out of my comfort zone, one of the many edifications I’ve procured from competing in the Miss America Organization. In the pageant world, it is easy to associate shyness with weakness and an outgoing disposition as superiority. However, I believe a true leader relies more on listening than speaking. You do not need to be the loudest or bubbliest person in a room to stand out, so why not be true to yourself, no matter where that lies on the Myers-Briggs scale.
2. Pageant girls love dressing up. When you see titleholders at events or appearances, our hair is perfectly coiffed, every fat roll is strategically tucked away into the embellished folds of an elaborate evening gown, and our crowns appear as accessories never meant to be removed. However despite illusions, pageant girls are neither paragons of perfection nor the apotheosis of femininity. In truth, I loathe caking my face in layers of foundation and fake eyelashes almost as much as I detest jamming my feet into a pair of high heels. My aversion to stilettos has nothing to do with me being tall. I have always regarded high heels as the only 17th century instrument of torture still permitted in the modern world, and after traipsing across the Miss America stage every night of competition in a pair of five-inch black heels, I stand by that statement.
While Miss America started as a beauty pageant in 1921, contestants are no longer judged on their outward appearance. So, throw your stereotypes of beauty and pageantry out the window, because Miss America today is a woman with no set requirements on how a titleholder should look or dress.
3. Your views must align with public opinion. In a private interview with five judges, it is only human nature to forgo your unpopular opinion on some political, personal, or social matter in favor of a less contentious answer. After all, the judgments dictated by those five people are the only things separating you from winning. While as Miss Idaho, I try to refrain from making personal comments on controversial issues, in my own private competition interviews, I never shy away from expressing my true feeling about anything. Remember, people do not have to agree with you to respect you. In the Miss America Organization, your voice matters; never be afraid to use it.
4. Being a titleholder is easy. If you asked me what’s harder, a year in school at UC Davis or a year serving as Miss Idaho, without a second of hesitation, my answer would be being Miss Idaho. Being a college student is challenging to matters of the mind. Being Miss Idaho challenges everything. In school, your education comes first. As Miss Idaho, being Nina takes second priority. While I’m not studying in the library on a continuous, unforgiving loop, the mental and emotional demands from being a representative and servant to my community is no easy role. Is it worth it? One-hundred percent. Just know there is more to appearances than meets the crown.