Two pageant women try to dispel beauty pageant stereotypes
Pageants like Miss America, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe have all helped women in their 20s gain recognition and sometimes stardom. Even Justin Timberlake competed in pageants as a child. But, what happens after 27? Is it no longer acceptable to wear a bikini? What if you're married? What if you have a child? For many women in this position, the Mrs. pageant is an answer to their prayers. Evening gowns and bathing suits are portions of the pageant process but not the focus or motivation for these women.
The word pageant has become synonymous with the phrase "beauty pageant" and it's often difficult for women to explain their attraction to the program without the immediate negative assumptions. We watch as kids, teens and young women compete in scantily clad outfits and ball gowns to win that prized crown. Wanting to break through some of those stereotypes, two Mrs. contestants explain their motivations for competing for the crown.
Photo credit: Paige Lippe
"The Mrs. pageant differs from the pageants for kids and young adults because those pageants generally create opportunities that provide scholarships," says Paige Lippe, Mrs. New Jersey United States 2014. "The women in the Mrs. pageants have already established themselves in their communities." Like most mothers and wives in the country, these women have already gone through the necessary stages in life to define their chosen paths. This benefit allows the focus of the pageant to be on a charitable platform rather than self-promotion.
Though promoting a charity is the basis for the competition, the addition of swimsuit and evening gown portions of the pageants still garner harsh criticism from those thinking competing is purely a selfish act. "Most people judge us by the 90 minutes we're on stage. But, there are 525,600 minutes in a year," says Evelyn McCleod, Mrs. New Jersey America 2013. "My daily life consists of spending as much time with my family and working full time."
Photo credit: Evelyn McCleod
Often times in our society once women are married or of a certain age, they're expected to take on that mommy role and devote their entire lives to their families. "I think the biggest misconception is that pageants are all about the beauty, which really is a big turn off to people. This is an opportunity to do good things for others while improving myself," says Paige. "My daughter and my husband are always my first priority. But, there's no rule that a woman has to sacrifice her health and looks to be considered a good mother and wife."
But, why judge a woman on her looks at all if it is truly about promoting charitable causes? Couldn't these women simply skip the bikini and go on raising awareness on their own? Of course, these women argue, the pageant is just one avenue to take and a personal choice to work on themselves and their community. "After having a baby I was feeling down about my body and out of my routine of social interactions," says Paige. "Without the system and the demands I now have I might not have had the motivation to get back in shape, meet new people and help raise awareness for my family's charity. It's not for every woman, but it's what I needed to feel good about myself and help others."
In fact, it can be argued that if a woman feels good and confident about herself she can be a stronger role model for her children and partner to her husband. These women believe that we all deserve to be the best versions of ourselves and celebrate that when the opportunity arises; the pageant was just their path of choice.