Did I mention I was Miss Washington 1999? Yes it is true. I competed for the 2000 Miss America title in Atlantic City. I enjoyed my pageant experience and the $25,000 I earned to pay for college. What an incredible opportunity and memorable time for me. The volunteers and ambassadors that run this worldwide organization are so passionate and I am happy to be affiliated with this famous network.
In terms of self-acceptance, these 2 years of pageantry were a very tumultuous hair time. I was the 2nd black Miss Washington the State had seen in 20 years! As I prepped for Miss America there were many issues on the agenda but for those first few weeks my hair topped the list. The question? “what are we going to do with our newly crowned queen’s hair?” Between my embarrassment, resistance and their plans to fix my hair problems, my hair ended up with its own committee, or at least it felt like it did.
1. 1. You win a local title, generally a county or city title such as in my case Miss Pierce County.
2. 2. You proceed to the State pageant and compete against all of the other local title-holders.
I competed twice for my local pageant and won the title in 1999. During that time I did with my hair what I knew to do; leave it in braids and the week of the pageant take it out, perm it if necessary, and wrap it up in a curly bun for competition. After I won my local title in 1999, I braided my hair back up because that’s all I knew to do…. Well, the pageant hair committee said… NO WAY.
So once again, my hair issues were center stage and this time I had less control than ever. I was vulnerable, nervous, and embarrassed. As the committee said… does she have hair? Her hair is sooo thin? It’s definitely not long enough? She has to get a weave! One of the committee members said to me… “a black woman with braids or natural hair would not be allowed to anchor the news” “And that is the look we are going for, Tina, a young professional.” The concept of portraying my natural beauty was not even considered.
Most of me agreed with the committee, my hair was problematic which I interpreted as my beauty was broken. There was a smaller part of me that wanted to scream… “Leave me alone! I am BEAUTIFUL just the way I am…. I think.”
We are conditioned to measure our standard of beauty by what magazines, TV, movies etc. set as the standard. When in actuality, we should always ask, what is natural and beautiful for me? Then look to media for tips and tricks to enhance and look our best.
If I were competing today, I would compete with my Afro because I am confident that this look expresses my true beauty. And I believe we are moving toward a day when we will see a black woman with an Afro or another natural hairstyle anchoring the news.
Your best you is in knowing what you are, loving what you are so that you can be who are*