I might get laughed right off the blog with this one, so I’ll just get this confession over & done with:
I was once a “beauty queen.”
Now, bear with me, this story will have a real and valid point. You can stop giggling now. Seriously.
Yes, I spent my teen years parading around on a stage in a swimsuit, balancing on 4″ heels with a contestant number pinned to my hip, getting rated on a scale of 1 to 10 by a panel of judges. I lost 12 times before I finally won, and twice (in a row) I tied for the win and lost the crown on a tie-breaker vote to a Barbie-doll lookalike (suffice it to say: I do not look like Barbie).
Through that competition process I learned a couple of things:
The concept of beauty was pretty narrow-minded back then. Now, I’m not that old, so we’re only talking about 20 years ago.
One fellow competitor’s mom once told me, “You’re not beautiful. You’re striking.” Translated: “You don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes.”
I can’t tell you how many times I was told that I had an exotic look.
I’m glad to say that in recent years, our perception of beauty has broadened quite a bit from what it once was, but we’re still not done re-vamping beauty as a society and a culture. But thank God it is changing!
Women spend more time criticizing themselves or putting others down than we do building each other up, and they can be pretty vicious and underhanded when they do it.
I remember hearing horror stories of dresses being slashed or swimsuits going missing, although I’m grateful I never witnessed anything like that personally.
90% of the time, it was the female judges who would cast the deciding vote. The male judges tended to subconsciously score girls higher if the girl was their “type.” (If the guy was attracted to blondes, he scored the blondes higher; and if he liked brunette girls, the brunettes scored higher. Etc…)
It was the women who would pick you apart.
After my very first pageant, one of the judges (a very sweet lady named Eva LaRue, who was a fellow former pageant girl from the Inland Empire, and who later earned props for her acting roles on All My Children and CSI: Miami) came up to me and said, “You did really well!”
Here was I, this gawky 13-year old who was so nervous that my parents told me that my booty had been trembling when I turned around in my swimsuit (YIKES!), and that one compliment, and that little bit of encouragement made me feel like I was on cloud nine. Even though I didn’t win.
That gesture was so different because it was meant to help, to encourage.
All too often, women tear each other apart with words and non-verbal gestures. We’ve all seen that withering look that women give to another woman when they want to make her feel like crap. I don’t even need to describe it. You know the look I’m talking about.
Even my daughter has to deal with other girls in her grade-school class being cliquey and catty. It’s not very often that women support and encourage one another, especially in a competition, and definitely not in terms of physical appearance.
Ani DiFranco has one song lyric that says:
“God help you if you are an ugly girlcourse too pretty is also your doomcause everyone harbors a secret hatredfor the prettiest girl in the room.”
That’s not far from the truth. Most of the time, women aren’t very nice to each other, and it’s very infrequent that you hear one woman tell another woman (a stranger – I’m not talking about girlfriends here), “You look nice” or anything of the sort.
You don’t hear men using the term “frienemy.” Only women do that because only women need that term.
Women tend to be predisposed by biology and conditioned by culture to see and treat each other as competition rather than as allies.
Studies suggest that this stems from the caveman days of when women had to out-shine their cave-women sisters to snag the biggest brute who would hunt and provide food for her and her offspring. We don’t need to do that anymore in the modern world, but those subconscious habits that date back thousands of years in our culture and DNA are hard to kick. (To read more about this, you should check out Rosalind Wiseman's book, Queen Bees and Wannabees. She goes into WAY more details that I have time for here!)
We don’t need to be all bitchy to one another. What’s the point?
What I love best about shooting boudoir is that I get to go against the grain. The whole point of doing what I do is to build up another woman’s confidence, to see her swell with pride when she sees her images. She gets a new lease on life because when I show her that she’s beautiful, it’s great source of encouragement and acceptance.
I’m not here to judge her on a scale from 1 to 10; instead, I do what I do to help her transcend the whole scale of judgment - she’s beautiful the way she is, no scorecard needed!
I want to put these good vibes out there because I want to change the way women treat each other, for my own daughter’s sake as well as for other women and their daughters.
When I finally won a pageant the first time (lucky #13), a few weeks after the crowning I saw the scorecards and I noticed that my first runner-up actually had higher scores than I did for the on-stage part of the competition (swimsuit and evening gown). No big shock – she was a knockout!
What had put me way ahead of the pack was my mind: I had perfect 10’s across the judging panel in the preliminary interview as well as the on-stage interview.
I was very proud of that; after all, I was getting ready to go off to college soon, so I would be flexing my mental muscles a lot in the next four years – much more than I would need to showcase my runway walk and parade wave (elbow-wrist, elbow-wrist).
Interviewing skills would never go out of style, but that pageant hair and those sparkly pageant dresses sure did!
And that little bit of encouragement that Eva gave to me still lingers in my mind to this very day, even more significantly than my crowning moment.
I want my clients to look back on their experience with me the same way: as something lasting, uplifting, and life-changing.