Maybe you’ve never been wild about beauty pageants.
At least, that’s how I’ve always been. To me, they’ve seemed like rather curious, superficial events. All those phony smiles on stage, the odd way the women walk in their evening gowns and swim suits, the contrived way of speaking when answering interview questions — the whole thing always sort of baffled me.
I could never relate. What was the point of these events? What was supposedly accomplished?
So when I was working with “Lisa” on anxiety and she told me she had been selected as a finalist in an upcoming national beauty pageant, I had an opportunity to sit with all of these interesting thoughts.
Certainly Lisa had the looks of a beauty queen. She has that cover girl kind of beauty that smacks you in between the eyes. With thick long blond hair, blue eyes and a lovely figure, she’s stunning in a very natural way.
“It’s just one of those things,” she said, referring to her looks in a rather off-hand way. “I had absolutely nothing to do with this. I was born this way.”
Lisa wanted help with anxiety, and that was no problem. I’ve done that successfully a zillion times in my work.
But being in a beauty pageant?
Well, as a licensed Art of Feminine Presence instructor, I knew I was very good at helping women amp up their personal presence on stage. But most of the women I’ve worked with have wanted to stand out authentically to attract the kind of attention they want. Energetic presence work allows a woman to make a strong first impression, whether it be on stage, on video or in her personal life.
Could the same work be applied for a beauty contest, a setting that, shall we say, isn’t set up for the deepest expression of authenticity on planet Earth? Probably.
But there were some unique twists that I had never sat with before.
(It’s that funny word again, “authenticity”… what do we do with that in the context of a beauty contest?)
First, to better serve Lisa, I educated myself by doing some research about
the pageant world.
I was astounded.
It was a glimpse into a world I never knew existed. Youtube has a plethora of clips on everything from, “How to do the pageant walk,” to “How to do the perfect pageant interview,” “About competition gowns,” etc. Dozens of websites sell (very expensive) pageant gowns espouse tips on what pageant judges want, etc.
The more I learned, the more annoyed I felt. The idea that women can compete against each other and be judged in this way (swim suit, anyone??) never sat well with me.
And here I was, watching videos teaching young women how to walk in high heels and evening gown. I was half amused and half irritated. Was I supposed to be impressed at how well a woman did her pageant circle turn? How deftly she popped her leg, dipped on one hip and posed for the camera?
And don’t even get me started about the swimsuit competition — women walking around on stage with swimsuits and high heels.
“This is nuts!” I thought. “No woman in her right mind walks around in high heels with a swim suit!
Where do they come up with this?”
And then I began to notice a glaring hole in everything I was reviewing.
For all the talk from pageant coaches about how to walk, turn, attract attention, etc, nowhere was there any awareness or understanding about a woman’s presence.
Basically, the message was confusing. Be yourself — but not too much. Be confident — but don’t swing your arms this way or that way.
It was ironic — given that a pageant is supposed to celebrate womanhood and femininity, nowhere in the discussions was there any awareness about feminine essence. There wasn’t much on personal presence either, except perhaps vague encouragements for candidates to “be confident.”
And how, exactly, does a woman go about doing that? That piece of critical “how-to” was always missing. Instead, the assumption seemed to be that if a woman did all the physical cues right, such as walking in the right way, or projecting her voice the right way when answering a question, she would come across confident.
And yet, it’s understandable. If pageant coaches don’t know how to work with a woman’s internal energy, it makes sense that physical cues would be seen as the answer. But presence is not something that comes from mastering a specific walk as much as a quality that is allowed to emerge.
After watching a bunch of videos, I surmised that beauty pageants are about how well a woman presents herself. The rest of what’s really going on, (ie “beauty contest”), gets glossed over, probably because most people already know that it doesn’t make sense to judge beauty in this way. It would be like trying to determine which flower variety out of the thousands available is the most attractive.
But now, aside from physical attributes, people can be judged on “poise” and “presentation.”
And on that I knew I could help.
Maybe I don’t agree with the premise of beauty contests, but I do believe it is useful for a woman to know how to present herself well. It is useful for a woman to know how to attract the kind of attention she wants so that she can attract personal and professional success. And that quality has less to do with how well a woman pops her leg on stage than with personal presence.
I knew I could help Lisa with presence. I could help her access in her feminine essence so she could step into her full amplified energetic presence. It would probably be her secret competitive advantage that no one else on stage would know about.
I also knew that Lisa had no real awareness of her feminine essence or presence yet. She, like many women today, tended to live in her head. (So it was no surprise she was dealing with a lot of anxiety too…)
The question I wrestled with was, could I put Lisa more in
her natural radiance and not have to contradict what her (very expensive) pageant coaches were telling her to do? (How to walk, what to say, what not to say, etc.)
Because true presence is about authenticity…
Meanwhile, the overall message from the pageant world seemed to be, “Don’t be controversial. Judges hate controversy.”
I felt conflicted inside. Lisa has strong opinions on things and she’s a very intelligent, thoughtful woman. How much did Lisa want to win versus truly being her authentic self in this
experience? What did she really want inside? Would we have to compromise to “play
the game”, so to speak?
Even the professional pageant coaches seem to struggle with this issue. (One coach’s advice to contestants: “Be a queen. Not yourself.”)
Lisa was torn on this. She said she was hoping for a balance on the two issues. Only she knows where that internal line is. I agreed to work with her in that way.
We started applying Art of Feminine Presence practices
I asked Lisa to show me her “pageant walk” in the hallway in my office. The first time she did so, I was incredulous. “Seriously?” I thought. “No woman actually walks like that in an evening gown!” It felt so contrived, weirdly slow, so artificial.
I then showed her some simple Art of Feminine Presence practices and asked her to add them into her walk. For one thing, I asked her to have a more energetic awareness in her lower body and to engage with the space immediately around her a bit differently.
Lisa’s entire presentation in her evening gown walk changed. She was instantly much more magnetic to watch. Mesmerizing, actually.
I was shocked. Even after teaching Art of Feminine Presence practices to so many women, I was still surprised that such simple things could make such a huge difference. I could feel it all the way across the hall, 20 feet away.
“How does that feel?” I asked her.
Lisa nodded, saying that it actually felt good to be in her body this way. As she walked up an down the hall outside my office, she said she could really feel the difference between when she was “in” her presence and when she was “out.”
And, best of all, she felt less anxious.
Personally, that was all I cared about. It was the one thing would help her, no matter what. That, plus the fact that now that now her evening gown walk didn’t look so odd anymore because it had a whole lot more of her in it, would only be a plus. I didn’t
care about the technicalities of the way she turned or how her head and shoulders were supposed to
move. With a few simple tips, everything Lisa did now had more palpable energetic and magnetic presence and it looked much better.
And Lisa felt a lot better too.
I was determined that we would MAKE all this pageant stuff look as naturally magnetic as possible, given the confines we had to work within.
So now we have to do the same work for swimsuit as well as evening gown. (I had no idea pageant girls are advised to have a slightly different walk for swim suit than evening gown. Who knew?)
We have a lot to work on before the event, including getting her ready for her interview. Lisa speaks well but she is not used to speaking from her energetic power center. Instead, like many women today, she tends to speak from her head. She keeps wanting a script, to think up her answers first. I keep reminding her that a script is no good in in this context. There’s no way to script an answer to every possible question that could show up on stage. And a scripted answer comes across, well, scripted…
She will have to access a different resource, one of energy and the moment. The judges will feel
that difference, and so will everyone else.
Lisa is doing great with these tips and finding a way to balance it with what her pageant coaches want her to do. I am so grateful I can offer women this powerful work. And meanwhile, I look forward
to helping Lisa go all out for her big day!
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Certified energy healer and mentor, helping sensitive, spiritual, perfectionist women create happiness and success in an imperfect world!
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