There is a beauty scholarship competition in my hometown that is for young adult women. The winner gets to compete (or used to) in Miss Ohio, wins some aforementioned scholarships, and is privileged with donning the crown in a convertible during the town’s annual fall parade. It is all a very big deal.
I participated the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. Pageantry is super fun. Really! My favorite part was preparing for it. I liked having tangible goals and checklists. I liked working on my talent and choreographing and practicing a dance. I liked going to Salvation Army to find a cool dress and lady blazer (tits to the sky!) to wear for my interview with the judges.
What I did not like was the swimsuit competition.
I didn’t mind prancing around on stage in a one piece and high heels. It was all very big deal, which I found super funny and the funny made me not care about how potentially embarrassing the situation could be. Spotlight on Contestant Cellulite!
What I didn’t like was that it was gross and sexist. No matter how many ways I tried to justify someone scoring me based solely on how I looked (and all so I could get funding to go to college?!?!?!), even if it was a panel of all women and gay men, it felt regressive and it was. That’s why, sadly, I only participated in the pageant that one year. I couldn’t bring myself to participate in something like that again, even though I enjoyed 100% of the other stuff.
But oh what a year it was! Like an orange-bronzed doughy darling, a freebird in rouge, a lumpy Little Miss Sunshine, I mother fuckin’ pranced!
All the contestants had to spend a grueling 30 seconds in said swimsuit walking around, basically, a circle on stage. It was all very ridiculous. However, there was one way a gal could make this experience much more fun, much less like, well, getting judged in your bathing suit by a group of strangers with your teachers in the audience: Contestants got to pick their own music.
My peers took this all very seriously, or at least more seriously than I did. Perhaps they were blinded by the eye-gauging sparkle of the crown’s faux diamonds and didn’t say anything about how dumb this part of the competition was. To be fair, neither did I, but I would think my general malaise about and tomfoolery while “practicing” my “swimsuit modeling” during rehearsals should have given my true feelings away.
For their songs, my competitors picked contemporary Top 40 hits, like Beyonce and Jay-Z’s new number one single “Crazy In Love.” I, however, picked “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith. No, not the cool Run DMC version, the original.
I thought it was hilarious to be “walking this way” on stage while Steven Tyler screamed out the same from the loud speakers; a little wink at the audience that said, listen, bitches, I know what I’m up here doing right now. I liked the part of the song where you get to sing “hey diddle diddle put the kitty in the middle.” And I liked that it was Aerosmith. I didn’t learn until a few years later, when Steven Tyler began to talk more on reality TV shows that I realized perhaps I wasn’t such a huge fan after all. Perhaps I was more of a Team Todd Rundgren kind of kitty in the middle.
So there I went, walking across the stage to the oldies in my clearance Wal Mart swimsuit and some borrowed prom heels. It was fun and funny and I would never put myself in a situation to have to justify something like it again.
I won second runner up that year.** It was perfect because I got some scholarship money and a sash and also a convertible ride in the fall parade but didn’t have to do the swimsuit walk again at the next stage of competition. PLUS: The festival we were royalty for featured a live concert by Steppenwolf that year. YES! MAGIC CARPET RIDE STEPPENWOLF! And I got to meet them! Predictably, I was one of the only girls on court super fucking jazzed about that, but we all had a good time together and complained about how the heat was frizzing our hair and shared frozen fat-free yogurts.
** If my memory serves me correctly (and it might not, I was ready to GTFO of that one-piece town and was drinking a lot), during her reign, the queen of my court became pregnant out of wedlock or got engaged to the man she loved or did something totally normal but shameful for women who have a strict rule book to follow, and we all bumped up a notch. So I think I was, like, technically first runner up to the crown. Huzzah!
I’m glad whatever pageant not associated with our misogynistic president decided to get rid of the swimsuit competition element of it all. Because the rest was rewarding and fun and something I wish I could have done more of.