The Jewel of the Monongahela (part one of two)
Recently, I was asked to be a judge in a pageant show. I reconnected with a friend from the preschool days who was coordinating a bridal & fashion show. This also included the inaugural Teen/Miss/Mrs. Southeast Asia, Pittsburgh pageant. Not only was I honored to be trusted with this role, I was ecstatic for the chance to immerse myself in Indian culture for an afternoon. What fashion girl WOULDN’T want to dress up, play with tiaras, and get to eat incredible Indian cuisine all day? What I got was something ENTIRELY different.
Sure, I did what pageant judges do–I had my list of items to review from the catwalk to questions, but I did not expect that I would uncover a true treasure in this community in both the culture and the exceptional women I met.
As I arrived, I was overwhelmed by a sea of the MOST divine colors and fabrics I’ve ever seen in my life. Women draped in the finest silks were everywhere, and multiple vendors with tables of saris tempted this fashion girl.
Next up, accessorizing! Stunning jewelry (linked in the photos) and henna tattoos were available to immerse myself completely in the day. The shopper in me was impressed with the detail and reasonable cost for the workmanship. You will undoubtedly see some earrings featured in future blog posts (the colors coordinate PERFECTLY with many of the W by Worth fun summer tops)–LUCKY ME!
I could have been completely happy playing in saris and jewels all day, but I had official judge things to do!
I met my fellow judges on the dais and received my worksheets. Each age group had a traditional attire round, a western attire (gown) walk, and the teens and Miss had a talent round. (the judges taking things very seriously, including pageant founder, Jayesh Mehta of Aum Events. Check out all their events on their Facebook page HERE )
Our first group of contestants were the teens and college girls (miss). Their poise and confidence was enviable (as were their eastern costumes). I particularly loved that two of the teen contestants were girls from my son’s school! Gymnastics and dance were popular talents, and I’ve linked the traditional dance of the Miss Teen winner for your enjoyment.
Each of these young women is a leader in her community, is academically high-achieving, and involved in multiple activities. So why did they want to participate? “To prove to myself that I could” was the overwhelming response. This boldness is the future of Moxie Mama!
When we moved on to the Mrs. category, I was blown away by the beauty, confidence, and frankly–guts of these ladies. Each candidate was highly educated, self-assured, and authentic. I could write for DAYS about these women, but I will have a second post about our pageant recap lunch as part two instead.
I will, however, highlight a few of my favorite moments because they were so impactful to me.
Each contestant shared that she was encouraged to participate in this event BY HER WHOLE FAMILY. I mention this to relate it back to an earlier piece I wrote, “Turn up the Volume.” So many moms assume that doing something for themselves, something unusual like a BEAUTY PAGEANT, isn’t what is expected nor is it “appropriate” for a mom. They believe that somehow taking that time is selfish. The message here was loud and clear–their husbands and kids wanted them to have something unique and bold! Its not only ok but GOOD to have moxie!
I thought nerves had gotten he best of one contestant when she wasn’t easily answering a question of the judges panel. The EPIC hostess, Tarika, offered to interpret and we heard her answer, very animated and chatty, in her lyrical native tongue. While I was appreciative of the interpretation, watching this woman smile and beam with joy in sharing her answer was more than enough.
When asked about their greatest role models, many spoke of the love and support of their own mothers. One contestant, however, shared that her hero was the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” because no matter how much rain fell, that spider persevered.
They spoke of tremendous careers, the joy of being moms, but overwhelmingly they spoke of wanting to do this to prove that they COULD.
Here’s the message–prove that you CAN! One year ago, I NEVER would have expected that I would be starting a blog or judging a beauty pageant. This entire event was new and different for me. I have a greater appreciation for a beautiful culture different from mine, and friendships with incredible women who epitomize the moxie mama life! Just because we reach a certain age or are in the care of little people does not mean we shouldn’t try new things.Maybe, just maybe, you’ll come home with a tiara!