The truth behind being a beauty queen (1/2)

Photo by Yael Duval 

When I look back on my involvement in beauty pageants and my experience participating in Miss Dominican Republic 2012, there’s no doubt pageants aren't what they used to be. What it means to be a beauty queen and the responsibilities the tittle comes with have changed. 

In my childhood I thought I had a clear idea about what it meant to participate in a beauty contest. I saw the Miss Universe contestants as wonder women: confident in their skin without any fear of being themselves, celebrating diversity rather than rejecting it; women who did not feel obliged to be molded into a stereotype, leaders in their societies, representatives of their cultures and defenders of their beliefs; women who echoed the problems faced by their countries, not with the desire to expose and criticize but rather to encourage solutions to make the world a better place for all, less antagonist, more unbiased, and just. 

For a shy girl with low self esteem who was harassed at school, this vision of the Miss Universe contestants was inspiring. I was also inspired by Miss Dominican Republic’s character. 

When I was little, being Miss Dominican Republic was in many ways similar to being an ambassador of the country. In fact, Miss Dominican Republic received a diplomatic passport. She represented the voice of young people in Dominican Congress during her reign, always seeking recognition of their rights and highlighting their needs. Miss Dominican Republic was, therefore, a highly respected position; annually occupied by a woman of strong values, intelligence, friendliness and proud to be Dominican. Certainly a woman of great physical beauty but above all, a woman of exceptional inner beauty. To my understanding this last characteristic was the most significant quality. 

I'm not sure when beauty pageants began to get perverted; or what forces or circumstances led to the changes. I am just sure things have changed a lot. During my participation in Miss Dominican Republic I was surprised to find out behind the scenes how much influence politics and interests have. I clearly witnessed that Miss Dominican Republic had lost credibility. It wasn't the institution that I had imagined and admired as a child. 

Despite the disappointment, I stayed in the contest with the hope of making my participation a worthwhile experience. My Dad, who died just before the the contest, had motivated me to participate. He thought participating would benefit me because I was pursuing an acting career, and I wanted to make him proud. Therefore, my goal became to compete with honesty, simplicity and dignity. Also I felt this was a good opportunity to show Dominican girls with dreams like mine that it is possible to respect our values as we pursue our dreams and there is merit to perseverance before adversity. It was with these, we could call dreams and hopes, that I decided to participate. 

Finishing first runner-up was a big satisfaction for me. This result represents a great victory and even a surprise. I never expected to get this far without the help of any sponsors. But the determined and persistent work joined by the selfless support of a group of very talented people blossomed into this excellent result. I used my entire savings to cover my expenses. Jusef Sanchez became my adviser, thanks to the support from the manager of The Price Models Miguel Alejandro. The gowns were donated by Leonel Lirio, one of the most renowned designers of the Dominican Republic. My college buddy Alondra Angeles was the photographer who took all my official photos. My training as a contestant (catwalk, speech and on stage performance) was made possible by the team Bellaldama. Certainly I was highly blessed with the support of a group of good friends and people of many talents and experience. With each I have a debt of eternal gratitude. Without their collective support, the contest would have been almost impossible for me. 

In the end, as with every challenge in life, when we reflect back, the support and love of family is always primary. In my case this is the great truth. The unconditional support of my mother was a constant source of good energy and security. I knew that I could rest my head on her shoulders and that her ears were open to listen at any time of day. In difficult times, the memory of my father offered me peace. In my heart I felt that he cared for me from above. My gratitude to both is infinite. 

My victory as runner up was suddenly cut short, and changed into a mixture of emotions that I still have difficulty defining, when unexpected and painful events resulted in me crowned Miss Dominican Republic 2012. All hope to fill this position had ended for me at the end of the contest; my vision was set to serve my country with honor and gratitude as first finalist while meanwhile pursuing an acting career. But this surprise not only represented an unexpected change in my plans, it also opened my eyes to another dimension about beauty pageants; I definitely confirmed that the view of the forest is very different from a distance. 

I will elaborate on my experience as Miss Dominican Republic 2012 in Part II of this article.