In Kentucky, glitz, fake tan, and hair spray fill the air. It’s the season for many young ladies to vie for a title at a local festival or county fair. Additionally, the summertime is usually when the the Miss Kentucky (Miss America System) pageant is held here in the Commonwealth. You might find it surprising to know that at one time, I graced the pageant stages. I like to consider myself not the average grown up toddler with a tiara. As a matter of fact, one pageant consultant told me my look was too exotic-like I was bird or something. Which probably meant she thought I was ugly, didn’t fit the cookie cutter mode, or she thought I was better suited for another type of glitz (you can make up my stage name). A dear friend of mine quotes a scene from one of my favorite movies “Hope Floats” when we talk about pageants. She use to tell me if I had a daughter-she was going to constantly quote this movie….luckily I have son! In the movie, the quote goes something like this while driving back to Birdee’s hometown.
Bernice Pruitt (daughter): Is this where you were “cream of corn”?
Birdee Pruitt (mother): “Queen of Corn,” honey. Three years runnin’. A feat unsurpassed in the history of Smithville. Once upon a time your mama knew what it meant to shine.”
Yes, once upon a time, this mama knew what it meant to shine. I shined as Miss “my county”, Miss International Bar B Q (I will expose myself and say I am now a vegetarian), Miss Independence (that always had a sassy ring to it that I liked), and Miss Green River Valley.
Most of the time, I tend to live life in the grey area. So a portion of me wonders why I entered pageants and another portion is glad I did. The rhinestone crowns are now dull and packed away in a box and my shiny silver trophies are now tarnished vintage trophies from another era. A lot has changed since my pageant days. I am no longer a size two running through fast food drive-thrus to order extra value meals as a form of exercise (dang I mess that metabolism). I no longer duct tape my body parts; although some could use a little lift. Now instead of wagging around a menagerie of beauty appliances and products, you will find me carrying an iPad for work or a diaper bag full of necessities for a rambunctious toddler (goldfish, juice, dinosaurs, and diapers). I even took the proceeds from selling my last pageant dress and purchased a beveled glass door for my first home (man, that door can shine!).
Overall, I am glad to be an ex pageant chick because I discovered a lot about myself and others. I learned –
- to compete with yourself and be your best self. A good ol’ Kentucky girl, by the name of Diane Saywer (also a pageant queen) once said, “Competition is easier to accept if you realize it is not an act of aggression or abrasion…Whatever you want in life, other people are going to want, too. Believe in yourself enough to accept the idea that you have an equal right to it.” The friendships I made while competing are still very special to me today.
- there are a lot of talented women who are beautiful on the inside and out. But the outside doesn’t always reflect the inside. Seems like females are more critical of ourselves and of each other than we should be. Can’t we all just embrace and appreciate a little junk in the trunk?
- to voice my thoughts, answer questions, and articulate a sentence.
- the best doesn’t always win (of course,except for the years that I won).
- there are a lot of great causes that need a voice.
- someone will always have something to say about how you look and ultimately you are the person who decides how you internalize the opinions of others. Embrace your inner exotic bird!
- to be prepared for everything and be innovative. In pageants it’s best to pack everything but the kitchen sink because you never know what you might need backstage. And when all else fails -you must innovate. During one pageant, I somehow brushed against something in my white swimsuit and ended up with a brown spot perfectly placed on my rear (you get the picture). The dressing room was in a commercial kitchen at an event facility-I opened the cabinet doors looking for any QUICK fix before I took the stage. What did I find? Powdered Sugar. Yes, my aunt helped me powder my rump with powdered sugar until the spot was hidden. I was just praying I didn’t leave a powder dust trail as I walked across stage. Just call me sugar britches.
- to be a gracious winner AND loser! Every day life is filled with battles you win and battles you lose.
- tricks of the trade like Vaseline keeps your lips/lipstick from sticking to your teeth when you smile; Preparation H removes puffiness from your eyes; baseball mitt adhesive makes bathing suits stick when you strut your stuff (yes, butt glue!); duct tape can do miracles, but it is hell to remove from your skin; exercising wrapped in Saran Wrap might shed some pounds-but people at the gym give you funny looks; and SPANX can work miracles (and they still do for mommas!).
I haven’t always been a “nerd” in academia…or I guess you would say an exotic nerd. And, my pageant titles are not listed on my resume. However, they are a part of what made me who I am today. When I was going through pictures for this blog, my toddler saw them said…”aww momma” and kissed me. I guess this momma can still shine! He did however say one of my pictures looked like daddy. I am not for sure what that says about my husband.
I still sing show tunes at the top of my lungs in my car and at home, but you won’t find me in duct tape or exercising in plastic wrap these days. I believe my path crossing with a lot of strong women and mentors I met during my pageant days did have a positive influence on my life. So, this summer when you see a pageant girl wave (picture the changing the light bulb style wave) at you at a local parade, fair or festival, realize there is value in what they are doing and hopefully they will use the experience to pay for their college, advocate for a good cause, and make a positive contribution to this world!
Today, my spoon is full of memories of shaking my tush on the catwalk.