I recently did a pageant interview where I was asked how I deal with pageant nerves. I don’t experience pageant anxiety and my initial reaction was that after a decade and a half of runway modelling and theater experience I had been desensitized to on-stage nerves. But then I realized that although my theater and modelling experience may play a factor there is something deeper in play…
Competing in a pageant requires one to put her best self forward… and it’s best to be one’s authentic self or it will become obvious that one is fake. I can think of three examples IN THE PAST WEEK where people involved in different aspects of pageantry in different countries were exposed and had their pageant reputations damaged, if not permanently destroyed. All three cases made international headlines in the pageant community around the globe. I’m not going to discuss those cases now, I’m just using those as examples of how one’s true self always surfaces.
The truth about my lack of pageant anxiety is that I know that a pageant (and the preceding weeks spent interacting with the other delegates) is basically a job interview. Each pageant system is a company or brand and they will crown (aka hire) the person who best represents their company. If there is another delegate who better jives with a pageant’s brand then it would be in the pageant’s best interest to hire that delegate instead of me. And if I don’t fit in to their system’s mission it could be an unpleasant year for me as a titleholder as I try to live a life that is true to myself while trying to fit in to what they want me to be.
I know that not winning a pageant does not mean that I’m not smart, articulate, personable, and compassionate. It just means that I’m not suitable to represent this particular pageant system. There will aways be another pageant system that fits with my values that I can compete in in the future.
I walk in to every pageant knowing that I will not be the tallest girl in the room. I know that I will not be the one with the most symmetrical features. I’m cool with that. I can’t change my height and I certainly will not have surgery to make my facial features or body more symmetrical. (Note: If someone else wants surgical enhancement I’m not judging them. But with my body I’m making the decision to not undergo elective surgery). If a pageant is being based solely on physical beauty that is not a pageant I want to be associated with anyway. Besides, if I won that kind of pageant my message to pageant fans would not mesh with that pageant’s mission/brand so we’d be at odds in this employee/employer relationship.
So why do I not have pageant anxiety: I’m confident in who I am and if I do not win that does not mean that there is something wrong with me. It just means that I am not the best selection for that pageant’s mission statement. That does not speak to my worth as a human, nor does it speak negatively about the pageant. It’s like any successful romantic relationship: Both sides must be compatible and if they are not compatible that doesn’t mean that either side is “wrong” or needs to change. Whining about how I was “robbed” of a pageant title without evidence of there being a bias against me or bias towards another delegate is like whining about an opera company not hiring me when I have no opera training or experience. There were two situations in the past (2009 and 2016) where a pageant organization was biased against me because I have epilepsy. One day I may write about that my experiences with that pageant system. For now suffice it to say that they thought that having epilepsy made me inadequate since I “would just go falling down everywhere” at the international pageant. I’m not sure what they think epilepsy is but their discrimination against me was unfounded and based in ignorance. (PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM **NOT** TALKING ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL MS PAGEANT. The International Ms Pageant system fully embraced me knowing full well that I have epilepsy. They did not treat me with kid gloves or treat me like I was a freak or of lower status than the other delegates. I fully support the International Ms Pageant because of the way they treated me like everyone else while knowing that I have epilepsy.) I am not talking about Miss Dream Girl which I won less than a year ago. The director knows my situation and the judges’ decision was based solely on judgment criteria without knowing that I have epilepsy. Miss Regal World has also welcomed me with open arms even though a Google search of my name will result in hits about epilepsy awareness. PLEASE DO NOT SEND HATE MAIL TO INTERNATIONAL MS, MISS DREAM GIRL, OR MISS REGAL WORLD. These three are the ones who are capable of seeing past a neurological condition and seeing that I am an intelligent and capable woman. The Miss Canada International system did not know I had epilepsy when I competed in 2007 but I am still in contact with the director and I know that she would not have held epilepsy against me.
The only pageants I would enter now are pageant systems that echo and support my values: Civil rights, anti-racism, epilepsy awareness, multiculturalism, and access to education for girls and women.
The tl;dr is that I don’t have pageant nerves because I know that I go out there as who I really am, not as a fake version of myself. If that isn’t something that fits with a pageant system’s mission that’s cool. I’m just there to be my authentic self, nothing less and nothing fake. Not winning does not mean anything bad about me or about the pageant system.
Of course there are nerves about tripping on stage. I get around those nerves by practicing in my hotel during pageant week. And tripping on stage is always bigger in our heads than in real life. I stumbled on-stage in the parade of candidates in International Ms 2019 but when I watched the video a few months later it wasn’t even noticeable. Unless you face plant, tripping isn’t as big a deal as it seems in your mind. And you can avoid face planting by practicing your walk in your gown and high heels, right? Relatively few people actually have a noticeable misstep on stage and with practice walking and posing in your gown and heels you can avoid those missteps. In short, with practice you’ll be good to go AS LONG AS YOU ARE COMFORTABLE BEING YOURSELF. That doesn’t mean you won’t evolve over time, it just means being comfortable with who you are at the time of your pageant. I know that I was comfortable being authentic Janice when I competed in Miss World Canada 2008 but if I met that person now that I am xx-years-old I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with “2008 Janice”. But as I evolved as a person that’s how I presented myself in my pageant paperwork, in the interview, and on stage. Who I am right now is the best version of myself and I can’t wait to see how I evolve as a person and as life presents me with new opportunities to grow and learn!