The Not-So-Little One competed for the first time in a pageant. She was a state finalist in the National American Miss Texas Pre-Teen pageant. She was originally invited to compete because of her academic standing. And she had to pass a photo screening and personal interview to be chosen as a finalist.
My daughter did not bring home the title, but she (and I) got a glimpse of a world few girls get to see. Why? I'll tell you why. Not because there aren't plenty of beautiful, poised, ambitious girls out there. Not because there aren't plenty of moms trying to relive their glory days through their daughters out there. Few girls get to compete in pageants because it is EXPENSIVE.
My girl would not have been able to compete without the help of numerous sponsors. And if she wants to compete next year, she will need to hustle and get even more financial help. Because one of the things we learned is that if you want to run with the big dogs, you need more rhinestones on your collar.
Some of what we saw fit the cliche' depicted in the media. There were girls that have competed since they were toddlers. There were moms who obviously wanted their daughters to follow in their footsteps. There were girls who were not necessarily there by choice. There were lots of girls who want to be veterinarians when they grow up. There was a lot of hairspray in the air. There was even a baton twirler.
It was questionable, sometimes downright obvious, whether some girls were born with the hair color they sported on stage. And some had baked a little too long at the tanning salon. There was a hard and fast rule that girls with makeup on stage would lose points. I suspect some girls lost some points.
Allow me to be very clear - I was never the pageant type. I was neither pretty enough nor bold enough to put myself on display in such a manner. My daughter begged me to allow her to do this, and I had my reservations. Did she have any idea what she was getting herself into? Would she crack under pressure? She showed me... that I need to have as much faith in her as she has in herself.
I agreed to this because National American Miss is indeed what they claim to be - a different kind of pageant. No swimsuit category. No makeup for the younger age groups. Talent was optional and judged separately. Formal wear was judged on age-appropriateness. Contestants had to participate in a community service project, speak in front of a large audience, and meet one-on-one with judges in interviews. The contestants were very diverse, a fair representation of the peoples of our state.
This was not just a beauty pageant. If it were, my girl would have won. After all, she is quite stunning. And it was not a talent contest. Again, she could have won that. She tapped her little heart out. It was a growth experience. For both of us.