Over the weekend, I competed in the Solano County (between Sacramento and San Francisco) Pageant for the title of Ms. Vacaville (Spoiler alert: I won!!). For those of you from my hometown, I don’t need to explain the importance of Fiesta Days to the community or the context of the pageant. However, some of my other friends have asked me, “Where did you get this idea?”. Let me explain.
Fiesta Days is a *huge deal* in my hometown of Vacaville, California. It’s essentially a celebration of community that features a parade, carnival, beauty pageant, concerts, and many other events and contests held the week before Memorial Day every year. Growing up I regularly participated in the parade marching with my dance team or band. I knew many of the girls that participated in the pageant as a high school student, but never had the confidence to do it myself.
As I was working on my blog, I was brainstorming ideas to generate interest and share it with the world. I also happened to see a Facebook event for Fiesta Days about the same time, reminding me of the pageant. As an adult, I have built a career that has taught me to be well spoken and professional cheer experience taught me the art of hair and makeup. This combination prepares one surprisingly well for pageantry and gave me the needed confidence to get on stage. I reached out to a high school friend who happens to be the current Co-Director of the Pageant. She provided me with the competition contacts and details and the rest is history.
So what exactly goes into competing in a “Beauty Pageant” and what is this all about? Isn’t this a dated institution that merely provides an opportunity to ogle beautiful women and pit them against each other? Why would you, Ms. Feminist Brandi, decide to participate? I’m very proud to say that this is not at all my experience with pageantry thus far and would like to challenge some of the typical notions of a “Beauty Pageant”.
The pageant I participated in empowers young women to dream big and encourages them to support one another and give back to their communities. We were actively coached on these messages at the rehearsals leading up to the public pageant. I think this is an incredibly powerful message to start infusing into girls at a young age to set them up for future success and leadership. The three judged competitions are as follows: Interview, Evening Gown, and Personal Style. The interview portion teaches young girls to be well spoken and passionate. The Evening Gown and Personal Style portions provide young ladies an opportunity to build confidence in public situations, which is a transferable professional skill.
Yes, there is an aspect of physical beauty and looking put together in the competition which is why they are generally criticized. However, this was not at all the focus and while I understand it is a slippery slope, I do not think it is a terrible thing to coach young girls on looking put together. Hear me out here. My job requires me to show up looking put together and well groomed on a daily basis. The reality is your dress provides a first impression and most professional careers will have an expectation of physical appearance. Learning that your outfit choices affect how people perceive you can actually be a very valuable tool for future success, if kept in perspective of other equally important skills such as intelligence, credentials, and hard work.
As the current Ms. Vacaville, I am encouraged to participate in community service events and other advocacy work including my own advocacy work. When wearing a sash and crown people notice and listen to you. Using this tool, I hope to grow my ability to create positive change. In my first event as Ms. Vacaville, I had the pleasure of meeting current California Senator Bill Dodd who represents the region. These are the type of connections and interactions that are important to me why I was truly interested in becoming a “Beauty Queen”. Please come back soon to see what else I’ve been up to!
Final quick note on my appointment yesterday: Pardon my language, but cancer is still being an asshole. The oral chemo I’ve been on has curbed the growth of my cancer, but not stopped it or reduced the overall amount of cancer in my body. Because of this we need to consider a treatment change, but my doctor and I are waiting for a few more test results to make the best possible decision. This will occur in the next few days and I’ll provide a new post with the outcome!