smh x 2
My daughter just completed her first pageant experience. As a writer I had to write about my own experience as a pageant mom. Most social media folks recognize smh as meaning, “shaking or scratching my head.” It is commonly used to express confusion or incredulity. My smh x 2 however summarizes my pageant observations: Smiles, Service, Makeup, Modeling, Hair, and Heels. I had to add another M to be fair, and that is MONEY!!!
- S1= Smiles. You had better feel happy enough to smile genuinely or be able to wear a fake one for several days. The cameras were rolling. In spite of the rush, rush, rush, practices, dance routines, etc, you had better have a smile on your face at all times. One honorable mention always goes to Miss Amity, the friendliest girl there. Smiles go a long way to say, “I’m open to getting to know you.” If you don’t smile, you won’t win. And, why should you? They want a person to represent the teens that enjoys being in this limelight.
- S2= Service. One thing I liked about the Pageant was that it focused on girls who were active in their communities. If you had a lot of community service hours or a Cause, it counted a lot. Some worked with anti-bullying; others with service to the military; others with student government or the many service organizations open to teens. The more actively involved in service, the more chances you had to stand out. One girl had collected several hundred coats for the homeless and got a special award.
- M1= Makeup. My daughter had only worn makeup once before the pageant. If you weren’t skilled in applying makeup, you had to hire the one company that was allowed to do the makeup at a cost of $175. If you didn’t have an extra $175, then your child had better be skilled. Each girl got their hair and makeup done only once on Saturday and once on Sunday. On Saturday, my daughter was pulled out of a critical rehearsal on how to walk on stage for the judging and she missed the rehearsal. Also, her makeup and hair were done at 11am when the pageant was at 5:30pm. The earlier you made that hefty commitment the better time slot you got. Some were able to get their makeup and hair done right before showtime and had a distinct advantage because they also didn’t do any touch ups on the hair or makeup before they went on stage for the others.
- M2=Modeling. You are judged by how well you walk the catwalk. You walk twice, once in the swimsuit and once in the evening gown. How well you present yourself is 70% of your score. Those with modeling experience, confidence on stage, or who can follow directions, obviously have an advantage. It is only a short walk and they have a coach at the end of the runway, much like an air traffic controller guiding each girl every step of the way. The winner has to compete in the Teen USA Pageant. They have to be able to stroll down the runway with confidence. If you’re more worried about stepping on your gown, smiling at the judges, adjusting to the bright lights, than sashaying down the runway, you won’t win!
- M3=Money. Everyone spent a minimum of $1000 just to enter, and then there was the special pink dress for the dancing number, the evening gown, swimsuit, shoes, professional photos, hair and makeup, and jewelry which could cost an additional thousand or more minimum. In fact, judging by the prices of the “pageant sponsor”, spending a thousand on the gown was a minimum price. There was a class offered during orientation for an additional $150 to have a group training with an “Official Pageant Coach”. She explained that she’s worked with a lot of the “past winners.” She also was available for an additional hourly rate to work individually with each girl. The reigning Miss Maryland Teen remarked on the video that she had worked for weeks with a coach preparing for the Pageant. Money talks! Now, money was not the only factor, but it was still a very critical key to entering and winning a beauty pageant. Without money, you don’t even get in, and without more money, you don’t have a chance in hell of winning!
- H=Hair. With only a rare exception, the girls looked like different shades of the same clone, same smiles, heels, hair, and makeup. Only one girl of color (that I can remember) even dared wear her own natural hair. My daughters and I had a discussion about hair at home before the Pageant. One daughter saying, “Mom, she won’t stand a chance to win in her braids.” And, I was persuaded after thinking about it; no black girls had ever won with natural hair or braids. So we took the braids out and followed the crowd. That too, could have been a mistake, for Radiance remarked several times, that she would have felt more natural and more like herself with her “own hair style.”
- H=Heels. So finally we come to heels. This too was a first for Radiance. She’s naturally tall, so she doesn’t wear heels. But, you MUST WEAR HEELS in a Pageant. They encourage you to wear your heels for months before the pageant so that you are comfortable in them. That in itself proved a challenge and quite frankly didn’t happen. It was not practical to wear the high glittery heels to school carrying a book bag that the average person groans to even lift. It is not practical or permissible to wear them on the tennis court after school. And, that doesn’t leave much time in the evening when you’re taking five AP classes and have homework up until 1am most nights. So there you have it. She practiced in her heels whenever she could, but there was a final snag. When the gown was delivered, it was too long for the 2.5 inch heels, so I had to pay for a last minute tailor @ $80 to hem it. It was still too long, so we opted for 3″ heels at the last minute. Get the picture? Anyway, she surprised me and strode across the stage like a pro, trying to smile even if her feet were hurting.
In closing, it was a new experience for my daughter and I and we welcome new experiences. The final 30% of the score was based on a 2-3 minute interview. Right now, she doesn’t think that she wants to do it again, but who knows. I always tell her to keep an open mind. But secretly, I was so proud that she knew who she was, and whose she was and knew enough to walk her own path in integrity.