I’m a feminist in a pageant?

If you’ve been around this blog, you know some stuff about me. I’m a unionist. I’m an activist. I’m a feminist. I have a lot of -ists to my name and I am proud of the community work I do. So how I became a Miss BC pageant contestant (in the Mrs. category) is an interesting story.

A few weeks ago, Facebook popped with one of those cute little, “Hey – you might be interested in this” ads. I stared at it. How on God’s green earth did Facebook think I needed this? I mean, I totally get the ads for the environmentally-friendly dog house and the endless ads for workout gear. But a pageant? That was a new one to me. I mean, I’m a feminist. A serious politician with serious political goals. How in the world did Facebook decide I would be interested in a pageant?

Naturally, I clicked the link. Because, well, right?!

And then I read the Miss BC website from top to bottom. And to my amazement, it was a good fit. I mean – it was actually an excellent fit. The entire pageant is a fundraiser for Cops for Cancer. The judging categories are for personal excellence, expression, and confidence. You are expected to be a role model before you start typing in your name. And at no point is there a category for beauty or a bathing suit. You can’t pageant smile your way to a crown. You are either a role model for women or you aren’t.

The crown and title winners are pretty impressive, too. After the pageant, these women turn into community leaders, including a city councillor, nurses, and educators. Last year’s Mrs. BC winner proudly said in her post-pageant interview that she didn’t wear make up – and she still won. There’s something to be said for being true to yourself. And these women are doing that.

I am looking at who I am and what I do in my political work, and I am good enough.

It took me zero seconds to decide I wanted to enter the pageant. It took me a few deep breaths and some shared panic with a friend before I hit send on the application, but then I did. And then it started to hit me – I had just entered a pageant. The first in my life.

I watched all of the videos of previous pageants from previous years. I began to fill with that self-doubt that I can muster when I’m faced with doing something so uncomfortable I want to cry just thinking about it. These women walk onto the stage in lovely choreography. If you saw my last cheerleading performance, you know I panicked and got inside my own head thirty seconds into the routine. You know it because you can watch me unravel. You can also see when I knit myself back together with a “you got this,” and I finished strong. But that was a quick piece of choreography and this is a LOT of LONG choreography.

I’ve been “in my head” a lot since I entered the pageant. It’s not a fear of losing or a fear of winning. It’s a fear of not doing my best and letting myself down. When I am feeling confident, I remember how much work I already do in the community and I feel like I have this. And when I am letting the darkness of self-doubt creep into the edges, I am filled with, “NO. I DO NOT HAVE THIS. What the HECK was I thinking?” What can I say? It’s a work in progress. I already know that I will be on stage in a gown as ready as I can be. Between here and there is just some growth. I’m good with that.

Aside from this being the most out of character thing I have ever done – except for becoming a cheerleader last year at my daughter’s urging – the more time I spend looking for sponsors, asking for donations to Cops for Cancer, and working on my entry to the pageant – the more excited I become. For me the pageant marks the moment when I suddenly decided: I am able to compete on a public stage with some of the most talented women in the province because I am one of them.

This may sound like it lacks humility. I don’t mean for that to be the focus. What it means is that for the first time in my life, I am looking at who I am and what I do in my political work, and I am good enough.

There’s a second piece, too. Since I was accepted as a contestant, many of my friends have surprised me by considering the pageant in future. To them, I am a trailblazer. I love that by allowing my light to shine, others are feeling allowed to shine as well. There is something magical that has happened already – and I am looking forward to what happens next.

PS: I made a YouTube video about my first thoughts on the pageant. You might enjoy watching it!