If anyone was to ask me now what i think about pageants, in one sentence I would say, “Pageants build character“. Most people would most likely beg to differ, but i have my reasons and insights.
Having actively participated in pageants for the past five years, I could say a lot about it. I’ve had the best time of my life in pageantry. And while in it, I’ve come to learn the most valuable lessons in my life.
Pageants teach you how to fall down seven times, and stand up eight. Being in a competition setting gives you a certain level of tenacity and resilience to fight for what you want. You find yourself in competition with about three hundred girls, with only about twenty slots for the finals. You have to have a certain level of confidence to get up on a stage and prove that you are worthy of a chance to win the crown. When you do get selected, you must battle it out with nineteen other girls and keep proving yourself worthy of the crown. The crown in this case being symbolic of your goals, and the other nineteen girls being symbolic of obstacles. Character.
Now, for you to go out and put yourself in the line of competition and criticism, you need to have grace! Remember, there are twenty of you, or more. But there’s only one crown and, whether you like it or not, the chances of you winning it are exactly 50 – 50. There is no in between. You are taught, at this point, how to handle rejection. They say, that on a different day, with a different panel of judges, the results would most likely be different. We have seen beauty queens bashed on social and mainstream media for their looks or by people who disapprove of their election. To be able to deal with these situations requires incredible amounts of grace and class. It really is not as easy as it looks.
I remember when I did this pageant last year and I would hang out with Miss South Africa, Miss Zambia and Miss Ghana a lot. In all truth, I was routing for these girls. See, in a pageant, even if you are a participant, you will always have your favourites. And these girls were mine. We would help each other throughout the competition, and honestly, they taught me a different type of friendship :- being able to route for your friends even when you both want the same thing. During the finals, when the top sixteen were announced, they all made it through. I didn’t. And the most interesting thing that happened to me was, i went backstage, told myself that what is done is done, and i started helping them get ready for the next rounds. Pageants teach you how to value your friendships more than you value material things. Ironic, I know.
Now, there is nothing as hard to do as losing and still being able to smile. Not in pageantry, not in life. But the most interesting thing about it is that you learn to hold your head high. To be level-headed. To know that you’re still good enough and be able to clap for the next girl and understand that they deserved to win. Pageantry teaches girls how to stay positive. That in life, there are plenty of obstacles, and you will inevitably fail on some occasions. But you have to get right back up. Dust yourself off and do it again. All the while staying positive and upbeat.
When you choose to go for a competition, you must have a certain level of confidence in yourself. In pageantry, we have this thing where “overconfidence” often leads to a potentially strong queen not winning the crown. Sometimes, they do not even make the cut. Because, at the end of the day, you must learn how to stay grounded. Do not let these things get to your head. You cannot afford to let your belief in yourself or people’s praises make you arrogant. You need to stay humble. The same applies to life. We have our hands on some money and suddenly, we feel that we are better. We forget that what we have can quite easily be taken away. Life.
I feel that pageants do not get enough credit. They really don’t. Pageants mould our young girls into queens. Pageants breed philanthropists, humanitarians and leaders. It is not just about beauty, money and great bodies. It runs deeper than that. It is about these women’s impact on society. Being change makers. Being role models and mentors.
Above all, I take so much pride in being a flag bearer for my country. At that point, you are not Linda Gatere. You are Kenya. And that’s a powerful responsibility.
It’s pageant season once again! And I can see a number of my friends competing. I hope they can have your support.
To a lovely weekend!