I’ve watched my dear friends do it, as well as a sister I earned (long story) and women I feel acquainted with because of the many times I have seen them on stage, but somehow I never had the courage to do it. What’s it?

It is beauty pageants, the social suicide in this country or so I’ve been led to believe. All my life I played dress-up and danced around my home chanting one tune, “When I grow up I am going to be in a pageant!” The idea of his daughter wanting to model on stage was frowned on by my father, who thought that reading books and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life (at age 8!) was more important.

For years my world was filled with books (many) and endless days of Perry Mason since I had indicated that I wanted to be a lawyer. I fell in love with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and Mark Twain, escaping into an imaginary world so powerful that I am still haunted by some of those stories to this day. I actually believed at one point my toys had a life of their own and that fairies are real (still do). I stopped thinking about pageants because daddy didn’t want me to; daddy wanted me to be a lawyer.

My father would tell me stories about how much potential I have and what a brilliant attorney I would make one day. I love the law thanks to Perry Mason, and though I am not practising it today I have read enough over the years to convince anyone that I’ve been in training. I also believe there is still time; we’ll see. But I’ve always wondered about my dream of modelling and being on a stage. What if?

Beauty pageants here are breeding grounds for a host of things, and based on what I know hardly any of them good; yet I believe in that element in them which seeks to empower women. I’ve heard the stories and have been very opinionated about them as well, but in every pageant in this country I have spotted at least one strong ambassador. In other words, I’ve spotted myself.

There are women who enter pageants because it means something to them and not because they want to get noticed and/or win a ticket to a foreign country. For some of them it is a dream and luckily, they get to live that dream. What I’ve realized is that I spent too much time being hypercritical about pageants and less time on some of the courageous women who put themselves out there.

I also realize that in all my years of supporting friends and my dear sister, and rooting for so many others, I was living part of my dream. Every word of encouragement that left my lips was a step closer to being on stage and when they won (I’ve only backed winners) I also won something; I reclaimed a piece of my childhood that got lost somewhere in my haste to be judgmental.

I salute the women who compete in pageants, particularly the true ambassadors, and a part of me still longs to be on that stage. The last conversation I had with my father about a pageant was about ten years ago and you know what he said to me? He said, “There is nothing you can’t do,” and I laughed because somehow I’ve always felt the same way. I say to the women competing in the Miss Jamzone International pageant this year (Hi St Lucia!), take a bow.

(the scene@stabroeknews.com)

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