Yesterday was truly a special day. A former pageant sister of mine runs a local preliminary competition for the Miss New Hampshire America program. I was asked to be on the judges panel and sing the National Anthem. This is the first time I had been back to sit in as a judge for the new 2.0 Miss America System. I didn’t know what to expect or how I would feel with all the changes. SO before I went to judge I went on the Miss America website to see their new mission. This is how it reads…..
“It’s a new era and Miss America is evolving. The new competition reflects a greater inclusiveness, giving more women the opportunity to earn scholarships and compete for the job of Miss America, to make a difference in their communities, states, and beyond. But what will never change? A great history of empowering women and the extraordinary group of smart, talented individuals vying for the job.” This spoke volumes to me as there have been many who have pushed back against the new format, excluding the swimsuit competition. Honestly I thought it was a fantastic move as there are so many qualified women who would have never competed with the swimsuit competition still part of the scoring. Seeing first hand yesterday how this new system works truly was a blessing to be part of.
For those of you unfamiliar with how the pageant day plays out I want to fill you in. There were 2 titles awarded last night Miss Manchester Teen and Miss Manchester. The day starts with their interviews. The teen contestants have a 6 minute interview with the panel of judges. The teens range from 13-17 years old. The Miss contestants have a 10 minute interview with the judges and the age range is 18-25 years old. In the interview they are asked anything from what they had put on their paperwork to politics, to world culture, to community activities. The women were poised, eloquent, educated, and full of heart. I was so impressed by the caliber of lovely young women, who I know will do amazing things in life. We then went on to the stage competition which included talent, evening gown with an onstage question and an impact statement that they draw from their social impact initiative. (what they will be speaking about all year) The topics range anywhere from pet adoption to empowering the next generation. These ladies even as young as they are, have so much to say and want to change the world.
It was time to hear the winners, and this is where my heart is completely full. The woman that won the Miss Manchester Competition last night was a woman who might not have ever had that chance 4-5 years ago under the old guidelines of Miss America. She was a 17 turning 18 year old curvy, openly gay, AMAZING soul! She blew us away in interview with how she owns her uniqueness and is completely comfortable in her skin. She spoke openly about the LGBTQ community, about her flaws, her mission of changing the face of “pageant contestant” and about inclusion. I was honored to be on that panel and not only had a hand in choosing her to represent Manchester at the state competition, but it was an honor to bear witness to the change!! I have spoken so much lately about changing how we think and feel about pageantry and I can see the change happening. The ladies not only were awarded titles and the opportunity to represent Manchester at Miss NH but they were awarded scholarship money for their higher education. Miss America has given away millions of dollars in scholarships since inception and is one of the nations largest providers of scholarship assistance to young women. This is AMAZING and with the new format creating a more inclusive program so many more women will benefit.
After the past few weeks and speaking so much about body image, old pageant standards, and feeling so frustrated this has been a breath of fresh air. This has renewed my faith that there is room for change, this is the time for change. Change starts now and I will continue to advocate for all inclusive pageantry where brains, heart and integrity are front and center.