Superficial Definitions

Rochelle - Elkhart, Indiana
Entered on April 25, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Pageants are filled with fake nails, fake tans, and overdone hair however; they are also filled with talented girls who are trying to stand out and break away from stereotypical categories. Through the superficiality I discovered my own unique trait, my mixture of ethnicities. My father is Chinese and my mother is a blonde hair, blue-eyed American. The summer before my senior year of high school I decided to do the Jr. Miss pageant at my school. I decided to do this pageant just because I would have to chance to dress up and perform on stage, I did not expect to finish with a new perspective on life.

For the Jr. Miss program, we had a ten-minute interview during the day of the performance. “Number 11” is called. I stand and follow the woman into the next room. Five judges sit behind a wooden table examining my resume. The judge farthest to my right begins, “Using your initials, give us a word for each describing yourself.” As the interview continues the judges ask the stereotypical questions like “What characteristics should a good role model possess?” or “How would you represent our program?” I sail through these questions because I can easily give the stereotypical answer. “A good role model must be honest and caring” or “I will promote world peace.” However, the final question they ask me is my favorite one to answer. For pageant interviews, I can always expect to be asked about my Chinese heritage. I love to answer these questions because I am excited to share how proud I am of being part Chinese. I explain to the judges about how my travels to China and being able to experience the culture first hand have changed my view of life. All these interview questions are very personal and from these interviews I realized that I had to categorize myself.

After the pageant, I remember talking with my mom about the interviews and how I had to define myself. I began thinking about my opinion on race because I feel categorized because I am half Chinese. In my opinion, race does not exist. When considering how to classify people into a specific race, people look at physical appearance especially skin color. Similarly, the girls in pageants are judged on stage on physical appearance, but the judges do not choose a winner solely based on the color of their dress. The judges also score them on their interviews and resumes; these are the factors that show the contestants’ true personalities. In a similar perspective, categories of race cannot include people’s heritages and ethnicities.

My pageant experiences have opened my eyes to how society superficially categorizes people. I learned how to focus on what makes me unique. I also learned that heritage means more than a classification of race. From my dark brown smooth hair to my almond shaped eyes, I am proud of my mixed features and I recognize that my heritage is what makes me unique.