My Opinion on Beauty Pageants as a Plus Size Woman

This may come across as a surprise, but I love watching beauty pageants. From Miss USA to cheering on my friends in the local pageant scene, I’ll support my friends and the incredible women that grace the stage. Organizations like Miss USA and Miss America have come a long way since they started. But they still have a long way to go. Are these pageants perfect? Definitely not.

When I reveal to people that I watch pageants, I’m usually looked at with a decent level of shock. Why am I interested in something that is unaccessible to me? The short version of my explanation is that they’re fun. We’ll get into the long version of my story in a moment. I’m hopeful that pageants will continue to evolve, since I’m all for pageants where all the contestants are behind a curtain and they’re judged on merit.

Do I have an issue with the common criticisms? You bet. For example, the ever-so-popular argument:

They judge women based on appearances

Um…doesn’t the rest of society? Pageants are a reflection of society. You make first impressions and judge others every day. It’s in our nature. People judge others for their hair, their clothes, their life choices, the list goes on. Of course theses pageants judge on appearances because that is what we have become as a society.

If we’re going to go based on the judgement of appearances, then we also can’t ignore how plus size people, such as myself, are treated by mainstream society, in the workplace, hell…just going out in public. As a society, we judge by appearances varying from body type, what we wear, etc.

If you are withholding support from beauty pageants based on this, and yet you’re watching Disney movies and worshipping princesses…pot meet kettle. For the life of me, I will never understand this argument. If you’re only hating on beauty pageants, and yet supporting other areas of society where not all women are accepted, then maybe it’s not this particular argument that is bothering you, and there’s a deeper resentment going on here.

Here’s the thing I will never stand for, and that is using my weight and my position as a plus size person to try to pigeon-hold me into agreeing with you. That’s wrong and manipulative.

But as I said, pageants aren’t perfect. There is still a certain body type that is only accepted on that stage right now when it comes to mainstream pageants. Yes, we have plus-size beauty pageants, but also consider we have plus-size clothing stores. Shouldn’t I be happy and satisfied with that? Not in the least. Until women of all shapes and sizes are on that stage, SHARING the stage, will we arrive to a new era of beauty pageants.

What is promising is that the Miss North Carolina USA pageant had a woman with a disability (and in a wheelchair) on that stage, and you bet I was cheering her on. Miss America is saying goodbye to its swimsuit competition (although who says bigger women can’t wear a swimsuit?).

They are archaic

Okay, I’ll give you this one. Beauty pageants are outdated, and if they are going to continue to exist, they will have to evolve in the next few years.

More than Pageants

But we can’t place all the blame on pageants for becoming what they are today. We have to look at other non-pageant venues, like clothing stores that even have a size 18. But they won’t accomodate a size 26.

Torrid is great if you can afford it. Walmart doesn’t always carry bigger sizes on a regular basis (and I live in the South). No chance on Target. I’m lucky if I catch Ross or Mervyn’s on a GOOD day. Not every plus size person can afford Torrid, not everyone who is plus size has the financial privileges.

But I won’t stop watching Disney because they lack plus size presence, nor will I stop watching Miss USA (I’m not a fan of Miss America because of other politics right now). The fact that a woman with a disability made it this far in Miss NC USA shows there’s strides being made.

I can’t even shop in store at Old Navy and I have to go online. I can’t shop at most stores. Thin privilege is a thing. People look at thin people and they automatically pass the society test. Obese people, especially morbidly obese people, do not. That’s just a given. I and many others are working to absolve that.

There are plus size pageants and LOTS of them. Do they have the air time of Miss USA or Miss America? Nope.

So before going after pageants, make sure you have enough stones for:

  • Disney (no plus size princess or prince yet)
  • The film industry (a romantic comedy where weight and looks aren’t a punchline if a plus size person falls in love)
  • Theme park rides
  • Clothing industry
  • Sports industry
  • Any NFL cheer and dance team
  • Majority of news stations (plus-size female anchors are slowly becoming a thing)

These are just to name a few.

I will celebrate these incredible women, and hope that one day that someone plus size will grace that stage in the next 20 years (it’s going to happen).

Did I say these organizations were perfect? Nope. Do they have room to make changes and make some progress? Hell yes, and they have a long way to go. But are they open to change? Yes. Will it happen immediately? Nope.

Feminism vs. Beauty Pageants: A Middle Ground?

As a fellow feminist, I’m also aware that women can make choices to go into whatever hobby or career they want to, whether it’s sex work, beauty pageants, law, etc. It’s fantastic that women can make these choices in these professions that have greatly evolved in the past 50 years. The fact that a woman with a disability made it this far in a mainstream pageant is great. A little girl, who is also in a wheelchair, can see herself represented. And I’m fairly confident that a plus size girl will also grace that stage in the next 20 years on national TV.

I think pageants are harmless for the most part, when compared to reality shows that depict women as nasty and dependent. It’s harmless compared to how plus size women are portrayed in the entertainment industry, especially fashion.

I won’t stop watching Disney because they lack plus size presence, nor will I stop watching Miss USA (I’m not a fan of Miss America because of other politics right now). The fact that a woman with a disability made it this far in Miss NC USA shows there’s strides being made.

Speak your mind: What do you think of beauty pageants?

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1 thought on “My Opinion on Beauty Pageants as a Plus Size Woman”

  1. Such great commentary, Alex! Just a little thing I found when I had to shop in a “Plus-Size” section of a store was that the fabric was totally different and I couldn’t get the same fashions as in the “Misses” or “Womens” department. They were cheaper and not as fashion forward.
    I agree with your feeling. Different sized people have the same basic needs and desires. I look forward to seeing the advancements coming in the future!


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