Sunday, 28 September 2014

The 5 Types of Pageant Contestants

How do uni pageants actually work?

Every year, most faculties/halls have their own Dinner and Dance or bash. The event is anchored by a pageant competition, and contestants are typically the best looking and most outgoing individuals from their freshman orientation camp (FOC) group. There are exceptions of course, sometimes the best looking fella in the OG doesn't want to do it, so the second/third/fourth or whoever else that's left participates. In my case, I was scammed into it. I was told that I was picked by my GLs to show my talents in front of a panel of seniors (there were about 10 of them), and if I did well they'd give me money for war games. I smelt something fishy but did my best anyway, and then after I did a bunch of embarrassing things they told me it was for pageant and asked me to indicate my interest. Of course, being the naive and wide-eyed freshman I was, I said I didn't mind as long as there was no swimsuit segment. I'm not sure how the selection process went, but I ended up representing my hall OG last year.

Trainings were way tougher than I expected, we often stayed in the dance room till 2am for practices. The real reason I joined because the chairpersons enticed me with the promise of free clothing (we were sponsored by Pull and Bear), but time is money and I spent SO much time on what was essentially a popularity contest.

The good/bad/ugly

I learnt a lot of lessons from my pageant experience. For one, I got a lot of unnecessary attention from the opposite gender. One acquaintance actually introduced me like this:

him: *bumps into friend* Hey bro! This is my friend Chloe, she's in hall 11 pageant.

This guy actually did this more than once, even way after DND season was over and also behind my back. Someone who knew him even said "oh so you're that hall 11 pageant girl I heard our hall people talking about."

I was flabbergasted because people knew me for this event I participated in, even before they'd seen my face. You wouldn't do that for any other event, you won't hear people saying "oh you're that jiahan from hall 11 dance.

When I'd make self-deprecating remarks they'd say "eh please lah how can you say you're not chio, you from pageant leh." This just makes me confused. Are they trying to use pageant as evidence of my "prettiness"? Would they think the same if I wasn't? It's kind of like how we assume people are smart when they've attended an elite school, but we ignore the fact that they could have gotten into the school through talent/connections or whatever. This automatic association of pageant and prettiness might be flattering to some, but I was just baffled most of the time.

Before you accuse me of humble bragging and being oversensitive or ungrateful, hear me out. I know where I stand in terms of my physical appearance and being in pageant wasn't a boost to my self-confidence in any way. I feel that I am average at best, and after years of struggling with the way I looked I finally became comfortable in the last 2 years or so.  I started to base my self-worth on things like my faith and character. I always tell myself that I might get into an accident and my face may be destroyed in an instant, so what will remain is my character and personality.

In fact, I felt like the whole process made me more self-conscious and critical of myself. Our pictures were judged by the number of Facebook likes I got and I doubt any of us knew every single person that liked our photo. We couldn't even thank them personally if we wanted to.

As a gl, I also had to pick freshies and convince them to take up the pageant offer. Quite a few of my freshies rejected, and as much as I'd tried to convince them, they were strongly against the principle behind pageants. They told me that they saw it pointless and did not want to be perceived a certain way, and didn't like how it was a competition based on superficial things like looks and popularity.

I couldn't deny or argue with them, because it was true. I just wish I'd been smart and strong enough to know that and resist the temptation of a new experience when I was a freshman. I hate having regrets, but for a point of time I really questioned my decision to say yes. If I could go back and say no, would I? I probably would given the chance up to someone else who wanted to do it more. But would I have known this if I hadn't done it in the first place? Of course not.

Nonetheless, I met so many good friends through that experience. They are beautiful inside and out. Strangely, pageant people care about our looks a lot less than everyone else and we go back to being our sloppy selves once the gig is over.

After being a contestant as well as a committee member of 3 different pageants, I've really seen all sorts of pageantees. Here are the 5 classic types:

1. The Obvious Choice

These people were made for the pageant stage, their performance is basically an extension of their daily life. Some of them have modelled professionally before. No surprise if they win, and nothing changes much for them after pageant. They're still as popular and good-looking as ever and they might go on to join bigger pageants.

2.  The "I don't know what I'm doing here"

Aka the ones who don't know how attractive they are. These folks focus more on making friends and making the most out of the experience. They're the total opposite of The Obvious Choice, and being in pageant is really a step out of their comfort zone. When it ends, they're glad to step out of the limelight and don't like it when people keep associating them to pageant.

3. The Competitive

These people want to win. They don't socialise much with the other pageant contestants because #focus, but after they've won they suddenly act like everyone's friend. Can be spotted training at irregular hours and slipping in questions like "so what do the judges look for in the king/queen?" in conversations. If they really win in the end, people remember them for their title and not much else.

4. The Confidence Boosted

The ones who were already good-looking, but never had much confidence and were pretty low profile till pageant. They were average joes/ plain janes, then suddenly they're everywhere. They make good use of their pageant experience and use their new found confidence as a stepping stone to greater opportunities. May be guilty of uploading too many #tbt and #dnd photos on instagram of happier pageant days.

5. The Couple

Girl meets boy. Boy meets girl. Sparks fly during pageant practices and they get together soon after. They become The Pageant Couple. There seems to be at least one from EVERY pageant, EVERY year. In my hall pageant there were TWO.

My partner here got together with Joanna, F1. 

That's all I've got for now! Those are the stereotypes I've observed, but let me know if you agree or I missed out any! It'll be fun. Remember, these views are my own and you don't have to agree with them. Please do not feel offended, you're entitled to your views just as I am entitled mine. At the end of the day, guess what? It's just uni pageants.

Picture credits: Maxton Huang and Calvin Thia

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