Memoir of a Beauty Queen
Was I really going to fight to get validated for being the most worthy? The answer came in a big "NO."
Story by Jemina Shrestha. Edited by Melaina Dyck
Published on January 25, 2021. Reading time: 4 minutes
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Disclaimer: This is a personal testimony. It is not meant to offend anyone or judge anyone's choices in life. Rather, this is an account of a phase of learning and unlearning as observed by a human being.
Prologue: I participated in a beauty pageant held in Australia. The winner would get a direct entry to another pageant that was well-recognised and promised the ultimate “bragging rights.” After months of late-night training, dress rehearsals and emotional breakdowns, we reached the end. As fate would have it, I won.
Epilogue: I rejected the direct entry and chose not to participate in the other pageant.
Exposition: After going through some traumatic experiences, in late 2019, I decided that I wanted to prove my worth as a human being. An opportunity came in the form of a beauty pageant suggested by an acquaintance. I submitted my online application, put my best dress on and went in for the interview, heels first. Being an international student is generally hard because you have to work a part-time job to cover your expenses and now there were additional costs of travelling, buying dresses and jewellery. I was lucky enough to have a job that allowed me to pursue this challenge and people who supported me. I made it to the Top 5.
Competition: When the training began, my human flaws started to surface. Unconsciously, I would feel invincible when the trainers praised me and I beat myself up into a tatter when someone else turned and swirled elegantly. I knew that the things that I was feeling were petty. But media and society had told me there could only be one. So, I persisted; competing with guilt that left nasty burns in me.
Victory: I remember the day of the finale. My mouth was so dry and I was sick from exhaustion. But I smiled through it because that’s what beauty queens do, right? From the moment they put the crown on my head to the day after the after-party, I felt like I was lucid dreaming. It did not feel real to me at all. I had assumed that once I claimed the title, I would finally feel important. It made me happy to see my family’s gloating faces. However, some part of me still felt like an imposter.
Reflection: Australia imposed social distancing rules 7 days after the coronation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I lost my job, so I had plenty of time to ruminate over my imposter syndrome. I had to ask myself: Was I really going to fight with other human beings to be validated "worthy"? Was I actually doing this as a part of self-development and not just to get an “ego-boost”? Was this what I deeply desired?
Rejection: I was looking at myself in the mirror, when the answer came in a loud “NO.” That day I took a stand for myself. I decided that I am worthy, I am good enough, I am beautiful and I don’t need to prove that to anyone. The pageant was a journey that allowed me to go through the phases of who I am not to understand who I truly am. And for that, I will always be grateful.
Acceptance: Jen Sincero, author of YOU ARE A BADASS wrote something simple yet profound in her book: “You are the only you there is and ever will be.” I believe that alone is something to be celebrated. So, go ahead and Love yourself. Truly. Madly. Deeply.
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