For a number of years, whenever I have a bug to go out on the town and enjoy a night of musical entertainment, more frequently than not I head for Seattle and the bright lights of the Emerald City where venues featuring say, Broadway musicals at the Fifth Avenue Theatre catch my eye.
But last night a family member and I accompanied friends for an evening of dance, musical performance and song at Tacoma’s Jason Lee Middle School emceed by a former graduate of the school, Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag. And I was totally surprised and delighted to discover that an evening at the 2008 Miss Pierce County Pageant was thoroughly enjoyed and well-worth the change in venue.
Before I plow-on as a little girl of Asian-American descent growing up in the 60’s, I’m the kid who would blown-off anyone adult who might have tried to tell to me if I dreamed large enough that I too could be Miss America.
For one thing I watched television, knew that up through my elementary, middle school and high school days minorities were prominently absent from the ranks of this national competition, and prided myself in those days for an unflinchingly realistic point of view.
Back in those days, contestants looked so interchangeable they appeared to be cut from the same cloth right down to the way they plucked their eyebrows. As a point of fact not only was their race, but hairstyles, eye-color, height, weight, bust-line and hipbone measurements were distressingly standard!
Since those days as far as I was concerned supporting a pageant with my attendance or my dollars made about as much sense to me as throwing perfectly good money away, which will not endear me to any of the folks and families who’ve participated in contests since then in the pageant industry. Which is why I’m writing this today after having attended the program at Jason Lee Middle School to declare: “So help me…I was stuck!”
What my friends and I witnessed was a warm evening of performances by young ladies aged 16 – 24 who while uniformly attractive represented a far more comprehensive range and equality of shapes and proportions than I had heretofore been able in my frozen middle-age mind to imagine in my wilder fantasies – which truth be told are nothing to write home about either.
However if the last night’s program (a program of the Miss America contest family)
is a typical example of what changes have been happening around the nation in the years I had set my back on ignoring such competitions, diversity of race is not the only barrier that has come down.
In my heart of hearts, I am unabashedly an idealist. As a late-bloomer myself, I’d paraphrase Lewis Carroll as I remember from the Disney movie Alice In Wonderland to express the idea - if this should be my world every single girl (or boy for that matter) would be able have a few bright moments in the bright lights on their own stage and be celebrated by their communities. Not only those who happened to fit societies current idea of who was physically beautiful, whose poise, personality and talents came together in one perfect package prior to the age of 25.
While the slight to the non-qualifying members of the population has no doubt not been intentional, scads of articles, books and treatises have been written to shed light on the social cost and psyches of persons who took to heart the idea that they would not and never measure up.
While everyone loves a winner, in this area if loving only those who fit these narrow categories is the best we all can do with each other, I admit spending more than a few hours in the past wondering what hope we can truly entertain for society.
As it was, when Lori Matsukawa (the Seattle news anchorwoman) was crowned Miss Teenage America in 1974 and landed on the cover of national magazine for teenaged girls, I was able to finally entertain as a college undergraduate the idea now Asian-American girls qualified.
Most of us are aware the path we have followed from firming jellies to Botox has certainly been a boon to the cosmetics industry. And in recent years, the medical industry and reality television features has offered us the opportunity to redo ourselves, with unheard of options in the area of plastic surgery, implants, fat removal, replacement and overall body sculpturing.
Getting back to the competition, I caught among the contestants pretty girls whose range of height and proportions a glimpse of the possibility there’s an open door so welcoming it appears young ladies growing up in Pierce County can take pride that the local competition is not just talking about taking the steps needed to shed those stereotyped rigidity of such contests which I have boycotted in the past.
From what I witnessed the contest may well allow for today’s girls to get further opportunities to show how beautiful they might be if what their family genetics handed them is not the primary criteria for entrance.
And I would certainly be willing to encourage those who like myself may have completely turned their backs on this kind of competiton, to be charitable and give the efforts of current members in organizations such as Miss Pierce County Pageant another look.