Sunday, January 22, 2006

I Don't Get It

Am reading AOL's article on Jennifer Berry, our new Miss America.  It says:

Berry said an incident in her childhood helped shape her.

"When I was in sixth grade I had big huge glasses, frizzy hair and I was about 5-foot-8. And I remember being in music class and a girl came up to me and said, 'Why did you have that picture taken with those horrid glasses?'

"And I looked at her and I was just heartbroken, and I remember going through middle school being heartbroken regarding the fact that she asked me that. And because of that I learned how to become the women that I am by accepting the person that I am through everything that I have done, and experiences such as that have shaped me."

Okay.  I've looked at the pictures of Berry online, and she ain't wearing glasses and has really straight hair.  (I think she kept the height.)  So how, exactly, is this "accepting the person that [she is]?"  I wonder if she wears contact lenses or if she went so far as to have vision corrective surgery to "accept the person that [she is]."  Does she sit around with a straightening iron every morning for an hour attacking her naturally frizzy hair, or did she get it straightened chemically to "accept the person that [she is]"?  I didn't watch the pageant myself, so don't know for certain whether she participated in such other time-honored traditions as putting vaseline on her teeth, duct tape on her boobs, and adhesive spray on her butt ... all as part of "accept[ing] the person that [she is]."

It's actually funny because I took a scroll through some of the contestant headshots and some of the ladies seemed rather more accepting of the people they were.  Miss Delaware, for instance, definitely went against the norm and kept her beautiful curly hair.

I do -- in some ways at least -- admire the Miss America organization.  Especially because of all the scholarships it gives out.  And I also don't have anything against people trying to look their best, and doing whatever they feel is necessary to change whatever parts of their appearance might make them feel unhappy.  (Hell, I proudly admit putting highlights in my hair 'cause I like the way they look.)  But what gets me about this story is that little sixth-grade Berry was apparently totally happy with her tall, frizzy-haired, glasses-wearing self until some heartless superficial wench told her that her look was "horrid."  And Jennifer's response to that wasn't to tell the kid to go jump, because surely she wore "those horrid glasses" because she thought it'd be nice to actually see, rather than walk around without them for everyone else's viewing pleasure.  Instead, Jennifer's response was to do the sort of the thing where she changed herself to comply with a pageant's idea of female beauty, so she could come away with the crown.

I'm sure Jennifer thinks of it as a great big "in your face" to that girl in sixth grade.  Y'know, "You thought I was ugly but I'm Miss-freakin'-America now."  But it looks to me like something of a hollow victory.  In some way, she seems to be almost thanking that girl for the wake-up call -- for telling her that her appearance needed fixing and setting her on the road to success. 

I totally approve of Berry's words -- her purported message of accepting the person you are and even acknowledging the more difficult experiences of your life and growing from them.  I'm just not sure that changing your appearance when another kid says something insulting is really the lesson she ought to be role modelling here.  Perhaps standing there on the Miss America stage being proud of her tall, frizzy-haired, imperfectly-visioned self would have been the better way to go.


rwdykt said...

My friends and I were watching and goofing on the pageant and I, too, said "what the hell?" after she made this little speech.  What was good was that I was watching it with three straight guys who all got down on her for saying it as well.  

Good to know someone else out there thought she should go into therapy on that one.

lv2trnscrb said...

I didn't see the pageant this year; I think its wonderful that they do give out scholarships and endorse worthy causes, but in the end, it seems to be a bit shallow with looks, bathing suits and evening wear.