I love the phrase women empowerment. Several years ago when I moved to Los Angeles, I saw a need in some of the most (seemingly) confident and beautiful girls. I remember talking to one girl who was lovely from the inside out yet she had a pattern of dating the wrong guy. Wrong guys who emotionally and verbally abused her. It made me angry. As lovely as she was, she just didn’t know her worth. I realized the problem was bigger than a few girls.
I wanted to do something about it so I texted my friend, Raquel about an idea I had to start a women’s empowerment foundation. She was on board. We named it Deeper Than Diamonds, because as beautiful as a woman is on the outside, she is more than that. But her beauty shouldn’t be overlooked or downplayed in order to command respect or to not offend. No, not all. She simply needs to be empowered that she is beautiful, to have fun in her beauty and to be confident in all the reasons she has a radiance beyond beauty.
Today, it sometimes feels that women empowerment can be more about men, whether it’s getting back at them or hiding from them. In a world where women have been and continue to be oppressed, are aborted or killed because of their gender and young girls are trafficked, the #TimesUp and #MeToo conversations have been important and have yielded progress. I notice that men are much more on guard in interactions with me. But has the political/social pressure on traditional women empowerment organizations opened the door to beauty shaming?
My thoughts on this have been inspired by the recent news that Miss America has eliminated the swimsuit and evening gown phase of competition. As a former Miss USA and competitor in the Miss America organization and coach to several MAO competitors, I’ve had several conversations on it and I realize it’s much deeper than a news headline. It comes down to our femininity and what that means.
I decided to address some statements made by Gretchen Carlson, Chairwoman of the Board in regards to Miss America 2.0.
“We are no longer a pageant, we are a competition.” – Gretchen Carlson.
I understand the intent of MAO by eliminating their swimsuit competition, although I personally really enjoyed it. But evening gown? Why?
As a young girl, I loved pulling out flowy dresses out of my mother’s oak chest. She had saved some of her special dresses for my sisters and me to play in. I’d twirl around and imagine that I was a princess. One reason I was drawn to Miss America and Miss USA growing up is because of the magical glamour element. I’d watch with captivated eyes as the women glided across the stage in grace and elegance. They emanated elegance and grace, something I wanted to learn to walk in as well. It’s why many women are drawn to pageantry…because it’s not just a competition like daily life often feels. There is so much pressure on women today to be everything, to even be like men. In the midst of all the progress for equal opportunity, are we denying the heart of the young girl inside of us who wants to feel beautiful and lovely?
“We’re not going to judge you on your outward appearance, because we’re interested in what makes you you.” Gretchen Carlson.
Part of what makes us is our outward appearance. Is that wrong? Is beauty bad? An evening gown or outward beauty has never been the determining win factor in any pageant or part of life. It’s the girl who radiates. She has this aura about her that is quietly confident which naturally makes others feel at ease. I like to call it The Sparkle Effect. That magic shines through her eyes and smile. And no, it’s not just for some girls, you were made to sparkle too. No matter how “tomboy” or plain, practical, bitter or non sparkly you feel.
“You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14.
It’s true that people look at the outward appearance and God looks at the heart. Most of having that sparkle has to do with our heart condition, our self-worth, discipline, confidence, purpose, gentleness, hope, resilience and the way we make people feel. On the same token, God created our physical design too. Women are the feminine expression of God. Of course, our radiance can be expressed through our daily style and in this new style portion for Miss America. There is just something about getting to create a gown that captures the essence of a woman. When she gets a chance to walk onstage or in a room, that moment brings to life the twirling day dreams of a young girl playing dress up from her mother’s oak chest. It brings the element of fun and play. God created beauty, celebrates beauty and I hope we don’t get to a point where women feel shamed for their beauty.
Women empowerment should celebrate every unique part of every unique woman, including her outward beauty. We should have FUN in the celebrating! Whether you want to be a high powered CEO or a model, a fashion blogger or a Congresswoman, a cheerleader or a softball player, a policewoman or a homemaker. Being empowered is about owning who God made you to be, and that is a part of releasing the sparkle effect.
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