What is a "Pageant Girl?" by John H. Baker

According to my Mom, I watched my first pageant at on TV at about age 4. I don't honestly remember ...  I can only imagine that the glamour and spectacle that first attracted me... But as I grew older I understood more! These women on my TV screen were strong, intelligent  and goal oriented!  Where can you find better role models-- male or female?

John with Riyo Mori, Miss Universe 2007, and Hilary Cruz, Miss Teen USA 2007.

John with Riyo Mori, Miss Universe 2007, and Hilary Cruz, Miss Teen USA 2007.

I became so interested in pageants that I wanted to share my fascination with others. When I was assigned an essay for school I would sometimes find a way to include references to pageants when the topic allowed. A few of my teachers and classmates embraced these essays as original and unique, most did not see it that way... I also enjoyed musical theatre and watching figure skating and soap operas on TV.  I admit that is unusual for a little boy –maybe even more so when you’re a little boy who uses a wheelchair (back in the 1970s.) But that’s who I was! I suppose I should have used my building blocks to construct castles or forts but I made pageant sets. Thankfully, my parents were open-minded!  My friends would be yelling, “Let’s go Mets!” I would be cheering on Miss New York. Some people got it. Most did not.

Even when I organized a pageant at Summer Camp, at a day camp for people with physical disabilities, like myself, almost everyone enjoyed it... But when they gave out awards at the end of the season, I was named "Dirty Old Man Of The Year!" I realize it was meant with some love and humor, but I was only ten years old!

It just illustrates that many people have a limited view of what it takes to compete in pageants.  What does it take? You should care about your health and physical fitness. What's wrong with that? You should be comfortable and confident in your appearance. That sounds like a good thing to me. You should develop an awareness of current events to form a personal point of view about the world around you, and learn to converse with a variety of people. Who knows? You may learn more about yourself.  Or even develop a performing talent along the way. Still more important, win or not, you may earn a deeper sense of determination, a stronger work ethic and greater pride in yourself.  These qualities will help you achieve any goal you set -- long after your “pageant girl” days are behind you!

I'm not saying pageants are for everyone. Nothing is for everyone. Some people like football... Others enjoy baseball... And still others are drawn to "band camp..." And that's ok... You can be a fan of any or all of the above. That is what makes you an individual! That is what I think pageants are about: finding the unique qualities that make you the person you've become and learning to develop them and to project them onstage and off to judges, audiences, groups and individuals.

John with Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012.

John with Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012.

Speaking of band camp, from what I understand, the amazing Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012, had attended band camp when she was younger, but had little pageant experience when she began her journey to the crown. What struck me when I met Olivia at Miss USA 2012 was one thing: she was so comfortable being Olivia. I could feel that she was confident in who she was!

The same could be said of the woman with whom Olivia shares the Miss USA 2012 title, the equally incredible Nana Meriweather . They are both amazing women, but quite different in many ways. Olivia is a cellist, an artist, if you will. Nana is a volleyball player, a superior athlete. One is quite tall, the other is not. They do not come from similar ethnic backgrounds. Nana competed many times before reaching the national stage, yet Olivia has only entered a few competitions.

Despite all these differences, in the end, they were both Miss USA 2012! Each embracing that title own way and using their individual styles and abilities to leave a mark on the crown that only they could make.

Together they show us that:

A "pageant girl", if there is such a thing, is not just one kind of girl, but rather someone who combines everything she already is with all that she strives to become!

In my 10 years of regularly attending pageants and recently having the honor of judging one; I have learned what my definition of a "pageant girl" is. She is one formidable woman in the making!