What it Means to be Beautiful – From the Perspective of a Pageant Girl

Our Everly Mag Writing Leaders told us about their definitions of beauty and how beauty plays a role in their life. In their responses, they think critically about who gets to define beautiful, how they can make other people feel beautiful, and about times when they feel beautiful. 

This article was written by our writing leader Tina.  Get to know our Summer 2018 Leaders here!

The concept of beauty is a juggernaut in society today. It dictates consumer trends and patterns, molds the social norms which people religiously live by, and immensely affects each person’s metric by which they measure their own value and sets their goals.

As an active participant in the single industry that fixates most on beauty, I can tell you, beauty is not all it’s cracked up to be. When I was young, like most 5-year-old girls, I dreamed of a day when my hair would turn from an ashy black to a glimmering blonde, when my chubby, tree-stump like legs could transform into long, slender figures, when I could parade around in glittery platform heels without falling on my face and flattening my already-unattractive nose— I dreamed of a day when I could be beautiful. And magically, my opportunity arose years later, when I competed in a beauty pageant at the age of fourteen years old.

Image: Tina in her pageant dress

Standing there on that fateful night after a weekend of competition, surrounded by family, friends, and a host of the tallest, most elegant girls, I was gown-clad and made up from head to toe. My rose-gold dress shimmered and reflected every speck of stage light that it encountered, my feet were numb from wearing heels that were too high to measure and for hours too long to count, and my glossy lips parted with an unsettling anticipation. Some people have butterflies in their stomach when they’re nervous, I had a full-fledged rhinoceros wreaking visceral havoc. When it finally came time to announce the winner of the pageant, I held my breath. This moment would define the rest of my life, I thought as the host proceeded. And my name was called.

It was a moment of absolute disbelief and pure euphoria. I had felt as if every last shred of grim insecurity, every reverberating memory of a negative comment made about my appearance, had dissipated into a burst of confidence and self-assurance. I felt like a golden butterfly fluttering out of its godforsaken cocoon—proud, flamboyant, beautiful.

Image: Tina being crowned

I thought this would be the end of my journey to pursuing beauty–I had gotten my Cinderella moment. But little did I know, my moment actually wouldn’t arrive for weeks later.

As a titleholder, I tried to attend as many events as possible through volunteering, fundraising, giving back to my community and such. On a sunny afternoon, I volunteered at a particularly wonderful event: Variety’s Boat for Hope. Variety Children’s Charity was dedicated to supporting kids of all different abilities, and creating equal opportunities for all, and I was remarkably excited to be able to help out a great organization. After awhile of standing at my booth and greeting passer-bys, a little girl named Maxine came up to me, and asked if I had liked her face paint. After gushing over how adorable the little painted butterflies she had on her cheek was, we had a very substantive conversation, mostly about our favourite flavour of ice cream (we both loved mint-chocolate chip!). She pointed to my sash, and told me that she wanted to be a princess and wear a fancy sash someday. I put my sash across Maxine’s tiny shoulders and told her that she already was a princess, and that she didn’t need to live in a castle, wear a ball gown, or be born into a royal family to be one. She just had to trust that she had all she needed in herself to conquer the world and inspire, that’s what characterizes a true princess–someone willing to empower other people, and impart their positivity onto those around them. Maxine thought about this for a while and nodded, and we hung out a bit longer before her mom came to pick her up.

As she left with her mom, Maxine turned around one last time and waved excitedly, she yelled: “I think you’re a princess too!”

Image: Tina at Variety Children Charity’s Boat for Hope

As I watched her giddily skip away, my heart swelled. And though I was wearing a plain volunteer shirt, muddy sneakers, and had face paint on my chin, I had never felt so beautiful. I saw myself through Maxine’s eyes, and it was a version of me that I wasn’t at all familiar with. She empowered me, like a true princess. Though my ensemble that day was incomparably drabby in contrast to the elaboracy and lavishness the night of the crowning, I felt much more convinced by a little girl of my beauty than a panel of judges and a crown and sash, because despite how plain I looked, she appreciated the valuable connection we’d established, and she treasured our friendship.

I’ve always thought that validation made me beautiful–a title, a compliment, a host of likes on an Instagram photo. But through a meaningful interaction with a bright little girl, I realized that being beautiful isn’t to consistently self-aggrandize and glamorize, it’s to appreciate the presence of others, to notice the positive light they shine upon you, and to give back in any which way we can. It’s to value simplicity and re-emphasize inner-beauty. Because only by fulfilling our lives to its truest, most positive purpose can we understand and achieve the best, most beautiful version of ourselves, and employ this new-found confidence to empower others.

In such a digital and appearance-oriented world, it’s easy to give in to or feel the need to appeal to beauty standards, and it seems increasingly essential to believe that the only way we can be deemed beautiful is to fulfill some superficial archetype. While physical beauty should be an integral part of your journey to finding self-love and feeling beautiful, we shouldn’t neglect experiences–moments where we realize that our true beauty transcends further than what we look like, how we dress, and the amount of hours we put into our makeup. It also resides in the people around us, our actions, and the relationship between the two. It’s derived from doing things that not only pleases us, but also brings joy to those around us.

Beauty comes in many different forms, and this was something I hadn’t realized and something I wish I’d discovered sooner. If there’s one takeaway from my story, know that it shouldn’t matter how fancy your dress is or how sparkly your heels are, as long as you see yourself for who you are and stay true to your purpose, you are unmistakably, definitely, and absolutely beautiful. And it’s okay if you need a little help getting there, take it slow, one day you will meet a Maxine who helps you understand your true value and realize your beauty. In the meantime, treat yourself and others like the gorgeous princesses that we all are.

What’s the cutest compliment you’ve gotten from a child? Comment below!  

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