Pageants can be a positive learning experience

Published 6:54 pm Saturday, August 4, 2007

By Staff
I am writing in regards to the Saturday article entitled "The time has come to put this pageant to rest." I must say that I was moved by the piece. Not in the sense that I agree, but moved by my disappointment in Ms. Griffey's outlook on pageants. I am a pageant alum and would like to share my positive experiences and outlook with you.
As reported in this article, Miss Niles/Brandywine has turned into a he said, she said situation and for that reason reporting on it will only add to the confusion surrounding the incident. We should worry about the facts, not the gossip.
So, in that light I would like to share with you what I know to be true from my pageant experiences. I am proud to say that I was Miss Congeniality on the 1996 Miss Niles/Brandywine court. It was the first pageant I had entered and due to the outstanding experiences I had during my year, I went on to be Miss Congeniality on the 1996 Miss Apple Festival Court, First runner-up to Miss Cass/St. Joe county in 1997 and participated in other area pageants.
It saddens me to think that a woman in this day and age would demean other women for doing what they think is right and just for them. When you say it is "unquestionably demeaning to women" I know, or at least hope that you are not speaking from your own experiences. If you were to become involved with a local pageant you might change your mind about what you "think" a pageant is.
These young women attend many practices over a month or longer to prepare for pageant night. They learn not only how to walk, turn and be graceful, but they learn how to speak in public, learn interview techniques and without sounding too cheesy … make lasting friendships.
I am disappointed that you refer to a pageant as a popularity contest. I was not the most popular girl in school and more than half of the girls I competed with had not had a conversation with me longer than what homework assignment was due, before entering the pageant. As practices went on and groups of young ladies that would never socialize on a daily basis, became friends and shared their worries and excitement about the upcoming pageant; who you ate lunch with became irrelevant.
You also suggested that the young ladies would be better off joining a debate team instead. I agree it would serve them well to join a debate team. Any opportunity a young woman can take to better herself is a good opportunity. Just take a moment to realize that a pageant may be a stepping-stone on the way to debate team or vise versa, whether in an evening gown or not. Do you not have an outfit that when you put it on it makes you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world? If not, I recommend finding one. There is nothing better than reflecting your inner beauty with a dress that shows it.
I am currently one of the co-chair members for the Miss Apple Festival and Jr. Miss Apple Festival pageant and have seen first hand what local pageants do for our young women. I remember one contestant that was so nervous and scared at the first practice that she wanted to quit. That wonderful young lady came back to the next practice and every practice to follow. She came out of her shell and socialized with the other contestants and was crowned Miss Congeniality that year. She returned to compete the following year. Allison Hayes was a Miss Apple Festival and you can find her reporting on channel 28. Take a look at the women in your field of work and research how many of these successful women were at one point involved with pageants. Not to mention how many past area queens are involved with community organizations. Do you now think that pageants are in vane?
It strikes me as comical that you would call the youth of this community materialistic. They live in a different time than we did and a cell phone now is no different than a class ring or other status symbol. We had that kind of peer pressure as well and found time for work, sports and anything else we deemed important. You fail to mention that the same young women that are involved with these pageants are also doing community service and other projects within the community. I think that because there was a misunderstanding about scheduling, should not bring the pageant to a final halt. As a responsible journalist you should do a background check on how many times an area queen has turned in her crown due to a mishap of this sort. It is a huge responsibility to put on a local pag-eant and I don't think people are unwilling to take over because they simply don't care, but because they do not have the time at this moment.
Finally, as for these young ladies no longer having the quality of innocence that generations before them had is sad, I agree. Yes, they live in a world that feeds them information that they may not be ready for, but wouldn't you agree it is our responsibility as a community to give them as many opportunities to get involved with positive activities as possible? Pageants are one of those things. If it were not for my involvement in pageants so long ago, I fear that I would have been unprepared for college and job interviews and the general knowledge of who I am. Pageants helped me to explore who I was and what I wanted in life. Even if you would never consider entering a pageant, have respect for the women that do.