I’m a Pageant Dad. That is, my daughters are pageant girls.
I’m proud to be a pageant dad. Usually, that just means supporting them when they leave, welcoming them when they come back, and staying out of the way when they prepare. But sometimes I get to do something.
Both of my daughters won state pageants this year. I’ve driven them in parades. (I accidentally ended up entering my car into a car show.) I’ve been working with one daughter helping her prepare for her first (and only) national pageant. The other daughter will be at a parade this weekend, will meet the governor, and go to a rodeo. I’ll be her chaperone for that, since her mother and sister will be at nationals.
I want to explain what it means to work– and succeed – at pageants. My daughter asked me why I, as a pastor, would want to write about pageants. To which I replied, “There are a lot of good scriptural things about pageants.” “Of course Dad.”
Excellence. Saint Paul encourages us “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Pageants encourage my daughters to strive for excellence. And not just in hair or makeup. Actually, those are the least of the things my daughters have learned. They both have talents that they perform. Like any talent, hours and hours of practice go into 60 seconds or so of performance. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anything that is so carefully prepared, per second of on-stage time. In the last month, close to 60 man-hours has been devoted to a less-than 90 second talent (time limits strictly enforced). That’s just the last month. She’s generally works on a talent for about 9-12 months to get it up to speed for those 84 seconds.
And pageant girls are not only about pageants. Athletes, dramatists, musicians, artist: they are all represented in the pageant circles my girls have been in. They excel across multiple fields, and still find the time to work on their pageant skills.
Interviews. They have to be able to answer any question asked of them under tremendous pressure, they have to answer immediately, and the answer has to be coherent. Sure, you can look up Youtube videos of girls who freeze or misunderstand the question, or just outright bomb. I don’t find them very funny (although my daughter’s do). But I defy anyone to answer a question under those conditions: it could be any question, about any topic, with no time to prepare or think, you can not start your answer with “Like” or “Ummm”, or use them at all during your answer, and it must make sense. Yes there are spectacular fails. Just as there are in sports. But no one claims that Michael Jordan is a bad basketball player because of that one time someone blocked his shot. And the most intelligent answer I’ve heard an athlete give to a question is “I’m going to Disney World” – an answer that was scripted and paid for. Pageant girls are generally very well spoken, and show a lot of poise and grace. My daughters will never in their lives struggle with a job interview.
Brains. Academics are part of the evaluation in most pageant systems – those who do well in pageants usually do quite well academically. They have drive and ambition. They usually attend college having earned significant scholarships (academic and otherwise).
Winners. The goal is obviously to win. In the younger classes (3-5 years old), everyone gets a crown. But by age 6 or 7, it dawns on the girls that one person wears a “queen” banner, and no one else does. There are winners and losers. It is clear which is which. Those who win learn to do so with humility. Those who do not learn to be gracious and to support and cheer the victor, even if they are bitterly disappointed. The world can use more people who show such sportsmanship.
Beauty. (The most obvious one) I know, it’s only skin deep. Inner beauty is more important. No question that it is true. But in today’s culture where art is transgressive and deconstructive, it is nice to see anything that acknowledges the simple truth that beauty does exist, and then celebrates and exalts that truth. Who has demonstrated more talent? Totally subjective, the culture tells us. And yet, they are judged and evaluated and given a specific number. Better talents get higher scores. Better answers get higher scores. Those who walk more beautifully and with more poise and grace get higher scores. Sure you could argue over whether it is this number or that. You might disagree about who should have finally won. But you can’t argue that some do it better than others. That some exhibit more skill than their competitors. And while they practically never use the word “beauty” anymore, I am glad that something in the world still celebrates that which is beautiful.
My daughters have made friends, improved their own ability to speak, learned poise, grace, and appreciate beauty. These are all historically feminine traits. I am glad to encourage them in this. As an added bonus, they get to occasionally dress like a princess.
World Peace. The classic pageant goal. Every girl who does pageants picks a platform. It is rarely world peace. But it is something they are passionate about, something they want to do to make this world a better place. One daughter chose vandalism. She spent a day painting over stupid vandal-marks at our local park. I still chuckle when I think of the young punk who went to all the trouble to mark an art-mural, only to have it restored within a week. It hasn’t been vandalized since.
My other daughter champions the seniors in our community who are forgotten. She volunteers at the nursing home. She helps the seniors in my parish. She talks to them, and stops by their homes. When we did a parade in a different town, it went by the senior center. She wanted to stop the car and get out to visit with them. In other words, she shows love for her neighbors, and has found a platform for encouraging others to do the same.
You can laugh at pageants, call them simple, shallow, a product of a bygone era. But we live in a world where much of our free time is spent celebrating the movement of round bits of leather around fields – whether kicked, thrown, or hit with sticks. That’s fine for those who do that. I wish them well. But I think in such a world, there’s still room for something that teaches girls to be women with dignity, to celebrate their femininity, to speak positively about others, and to show love to those around them.
My daughters are proud to be pageant girls, representing the state in which we live. My older daughter will soon be off to meet young women from every state. They also aspire to what I have written about. They’ll compete as friendly rivals. One of them will be chosen to represent them all, as the most skilled. My daughter has been working hard for months on this. If she comes home with nothing but memories, I’m still proud of all the work she has put into this – just to be the best she can, and to support the eventual winner, whomever it may be. I think she’s pretty outstanding for that. In my opinion, she’d do an amazing job as that national ambassador.
Of course, I’m biased.
I’m her pageant dad.