This week I had the opportunity to be a judge at the Mr and Miss Southern California USA Pageant by California Pageant Productions. This pageant is open to boys and girls ages 2 to 25 anywhere in California. This non USA affiliated pageant is in no way your typical "beauty" pageant. The contestants compete in interview, onstage intro, sportswear, evening gown and in case of a tie, on stage question. The queens, kings and their court are not judged on who is the most beautiful or who models the best, but a big chunk of scoring takes into consideration their commitment to community service and their willingness to work. The winners and their courts spend the next year completing well over 100 hours of community service. Although they do attend parades and pageants as visiting royalty like most pageant royalty do, they also have to work hard through out the year promoting their own platforms and charities, as well as the charities that the pageant supports. Every year the pageant takes their royalty to work at the Summer Special Olympics, the Alzheimer's Walk, CHOC Hospital Walk, Relay for Life, Orange County Food Bank, and they adopt families at Christmas time from the Los Angeles County department of Social Services. The pageant division for ages 2 to 5 is specifically a fundraiser just for CHOC hospital which receives a $100 donation from each contestant in that division. So these ladies and gentlemen not only serve as ambassadors for their community but they get down and dirty packing food boxes, staying up around the clock 24 hours for the relay for life and doing whatever other activities not always typical of "beauty" queens.
Once again I must say I was impressed by the caliber of contestants at the pageant and one in particular stands out for me (by the way she is the newly crowned miss division queen). She told the judges in interview that she planned to donate half of her scholarship money that she hopes to earn from the pageant right back to her organization of choice which for a mere $250 can perform surgery to fix a cleft palate on a child in a 3rd world country. Once again another young woman has defied the negative stereotypes that the media loves to breed around the world of pageantry. I wish more young women who share the same warmth and compassion for giving back would have opportunities to share their story's with a larger audience, to help demystify some of the images the public likes buy into (especially when we just saw a story on the news recently of an 8 year old being given botox for the sake of a pageant). I can speak from personal experience, not every pageant mom is crazy and not every young woman is obsessed with changing her body in an attempt to be perfect to win a crown. Some of us out there really like to help others and see pageantry as a way to do that more effectively by giving us a larger audience to be a role model for and by giving us other opportunities that we might not get as just a "regular person". I can't tell you how many times I have stopped to talk to a young girl, give her a compliment, or advice or help her with her hair/makeup/modeling and through my small actions just like that my words have inspired life long confidence and goal setting to grow. I have even had women my own age and older stop me and tell me that they look up to me and that I inspired them to do something in their life. The truth is I don't do anything out of the ordinary to or for these folks that I wouldn't do for anyone else, but pageantry has put me in a position to come into contact with them and that is what counts. Every time you step outside with a crown and banner on someone will notice you, now what do you want them to notice you for?