Last night I told a group of strangers about my past in beauty pageants. It was The Moth, and I got picked to tell a story! (thanks to @ebschiller signing me up because I was late because I’m always laaaaaate). The theme was “Beauty” and here are the highlights of my story: ⚡️There’s an urban legend in pageants about the girl whose onstage question was “Who do you most want to meet, dead or alive?” And she blanked and answered “Definitely alive!” In other words, being a beauty pageant contest is perhaps the most vilified, misunderstood thing a woman can do in modern culture. I was one of those women. From age 17-24. An adult decision. ⚡️But it was one of the most empowering, positive experiences of my life. And I won. More than once. Because your highest and lowest scores are thrown out, which means because I was strongly mediocre, I won. I was consistently whelming. ⚡️My mom never wanted me to do pageants, but it ended up being a way we bonded, driving to rehearsals and dress shopping. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was something we did to get our minds of chemo and the heaviness of her condition. ⚡️other stuff other stuff ⚡️Act 2 where I shared details and anecdotes, to be honest my story lost steam here. I always spend too much time on the set-up.⚡️more stuff about not having a tragic life story and it kept me from winning the ultimate crown … then I connected this to my moms illness but what’s the line between catharsis and exploitation? So I never talked about it in pageants.
⚡️When she passed away, I still felt I couldn’t “use” her death to “get ahead.” I did move back from New Zealand to do one last pageant, Miss Las Vegas, before I aged out. But I lost to a deaf Cher impersonator / flutist. ⚡️Then I kinda didn’t know how to connect it so I said something like “When I look back, the times I felt beautiful weren’t having a crown put on my head, but the times I shared with my mom, that in the last year of her life we had something fun we shared.”
I got good scores!! 🙏 Thank you Mom for being okay with me talking about your illness then, even though I didn’t, and finally making the pageant connection, 13 years later. #themoth #storyteller #futuredreams