Even with midterms quickly dashing around the corner, a number of UCR students still found the time to attend Miss Perspective, a discussion on pageantry culture, stereotypes and self-confidence, this past Tuesday evening at the HUB. Hosted by CLASS (Creating Legacy Around Student Style) and Fashion, an organization that seeks to promote awareness in an array of fashion aspects and help others build a positive self-image, a more successful event could not have been presented in regard to those goals.
I was greeted by two radiant faces from the CLASS and Fashion club as soon as I stepped into the large room. Being the first student to arrive, I was offered a seat anywhere along the rows of chairs that faced a large projection of their black-and-white flyer presented over the stage. As we neared the start of the event, more students continued to drift in, excited to learn about how pageantry culture empowers young women.
The representatives kicked off the event by introducing the three speakers — Miss Hemet, Anakaren Chable, a second-year UCR student; Miss San Jacinto, Stephanie Lomeli, a first-year Highlander; and Miss Inland Empire, otherwise known as Madison Givens, a second-year student at Santa Clara College. The audience delivered a warm, polite welcome to the three pageant winners as they took to the stage to settle themselves before three microphones on the panel. The event began at a fast pace as questions were immediately presented to the panelists, quickly developing into a thought-provoking discussion.
Chable, Lomeli and Givens elaborated on their process from deciding to participate in a pageant to what they have accomplished after earning the crown. Many girls partake in scholarship pageants — judged solely on academics and community service, unlike a beauty pageant — to become further involved in their respective communities and earn a scholarship to continue their careers in education. “I was very shy growing up, but wanted to do something that would break me out of my shell,” Lomeli shared on why she made the decision that benefitted her life. Many of the contestants like Lomeli made the decision to compete to develop their social skills and build self-confidence.
The speakers went on to reveal their roles in the pageant world as Chable and Lomeli explained how their task in a local scholarship pageant is to “join nonprofit organizations and participate in walks for life” along with several other appearances to best represent their cities. The girls demonstrated how scholarship pageants allow one the opportunity to network while providing them with many opportunities to give back to their towns and understand the current events in their cities. Givens explained that unlike Chable and Lomeli, who only competed in local pageants, she partook in the Miss California and Miss America pageants. Her role differed slightly in that she held the responsibility of representing the Inland Empire at the state level. As a traumatic brain damage survivor, Givens helped create the Green Helmet Campaign as her platform, a medical prevention program that brings awareness to those who have suffered brain injuries.
“The real work begins after you get your crown,” all three pageant winners wholeheartedly agreed. With a hectic schedule fully packed with school, work and appearances, it requires a strong mind and heart to persist in their duties, something these girls have acquired early on in this process. “The crown is given to you like a trophy to say that they are giving you this power and trust to represent our community,” Chable points out. They reveal that their largest responsibility is to become a leader and dedicate hours of their time to inspire others, as previous pageant winners had done for them. Although a majority of their time is devoted to aiding others, pageantry culture has also guided them in further developing their leadership and communication skills.
As pageant winners, Chable, Lomeli and Givens have encountered several accounts of stereotyping. Most often heard is that pageant contestants must fit a standard mold of beauty or that they cannot be a combination of both beautiful and knowledgeable. Chable strongly disagrees with that notion by noting that scholarship pageants are extremely different from beauty pageants, which judge solely based on appearances. “They want someone who is going to be able to speak intelligently, to represent the community within the nation and someone who can be an ambassador for whatever area they are representing,” Givens elaborates on the prospects set for them. It is vital that the participants are able to present themselves with high self-esteem to demonstrate their confidence in their abilities to achieve their expectations. Chable also informs us that the application process requires a review of one’s transcript and resume of one’s community service and extracurricular activities, ensuring that only those who deserve a scholarship receive one.
These representatives of Hemet, San Jacinto and the Inland Empire have made it their mission to expand people’s views on the common misconceptions of pageantry culture while assisting their communities. Chable, Lomeli and Givens have clearly become an inspiration to many, if not all, of the audience. A renewed energy could be felt at the close of the event, as they left with a much-needed boost of confidence to accomplish their goals.