Today marks the end of a tradition. I am proud to be a part of that tradition and tonight, for the last time, Peterson Productions will close the curtain on the California International Pageants. I’m not sure what will happen next for the statewide competition, but I wanted to post about this pageant system because it is an integral part of me and it has provided opportunities that I will always be grateful for.
I understand why people knock pageants. “The Iraq,” the Miss California gay marriage scandal turned porn scandal, and the slew of foul play Miss Nevadas doesn’t exactly contribute to the representation of pageants as a whole. What people don’t realize is that those pageants (*Miss USA, cough, cough) are merely a piece of the pageant pie. I have competed in the Miss America system and the Miss International System. I have never competed in a swimsuit (only aerobic wear), I don’t have any scandalous photos lurking around the web, and yes, I can place Iraq on a map.
That’s why it troubles me that so many people don’t give pageants the credit that they sometimes deserve. I learned invaluable skills from learning how to hold my own in an interview to (attempting) to carry myself with grace and poise. I made lifelong friendships with girls who are supportive rather than cat-like competitive. I wouldn’t trade my experiences in pageants for anything.
I started when I was 13. Well, I should correct myself, I did one baby pageant but I really don’t have the faintest clue as to how I fared in that one. When I was 13, it was my own conscious choice, and somehow, with my unibrow and long hair (we’re talking down to my behind)—I won. It was one of the biggest surprises of my life and it was a moment I’ll never forget. I sang “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music, and after that night, as an awkward teenager, I did gain a little more confidence.
Eventually I found myself competing at Miss Teen California International 2007, run by Eddie Peterson and Dennis Cooke. I remember it being a magical week—I had the best time in rehearsals, with my family, and onstage. I still remember my interviews with the judges and I still remember feeling so happy in my evening gown; in a way I felt peaceful in that moment. When they announced my name as the new Miss Teen California, it was an unfathomable moment. At 16 years old, I knew a new adventure was beginning and indeed, it was one of the best years of my life.
I had the opportunity to champion my platform with the American Cancer Society and my mom and I traveled the state speaking at Relay for Life events. During that year, I raised over $20,000 for this cause and I continue to fundraise today (we are nearing $70,000 as of now). I had the opportunity to represent the great Golden State at Miss Teen International in Chicago and I was so happy to walk away as 3rd runner up in the competition.
I call myself “retired” from pageants at this point in my life. I’m not closed off to the idea but they are a huge time commitment and let’s be honest, they definitely crack the bank, if not break it. For now, I am focusing on my junior year at UCLA, my upcoming book, my blog, and my work as a hopeful reporter someday.
I think any girl who has the faintest desire to try a pageant should go for it. You may not win (no one wins every time—I know I didn’t) but regardless of whether you take home a crown or not, it’s about the experience. It’s about the memories, the friendships, yes, maybe a little about the fashion, but more than anything, it can be a fun journey that you will never regret you tried.
I will be watching in the audience tonight as Peterson Productions puts on their last show. I wish all of the girls competing tonight a hearty “good luck” and please, don’t break a leg—not in those four inch high heels. And my final hope—may you be HAPPY both onstage and off, taking 1st or 42nd place—it’s YOUR night so make it special.
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
Follow me on Twitter by clicking here.