Just as in every area of life, there will be both sides to this job: the serious and the fun. Inevitably, criticism comes along with enhanced publicity and I am willing and waiting to respond to these things. So I just wanted to share a message I recently recieved from someone I did not know, and whose name I will not share, but am sharing the message and my response because I think it was a very relevant concern that many other people might have as well. Although I did not nearly cover everything that is to be said on the subject, I responded with what I believe to be the essentials of my opinion on the issue.
This is what the message said:
"Do you really think the best way to prevent eating disorders is by promoting a program in which old men judge teenaged girls on their "fitness" in bikinis and high heels? good morals! Guess christianity and psychiatry both took a pass on this one. Your dad must be so proud!!!"
Now, not quite understanding the meaning of the dad comment, I chose to ignore that closing remark and address the more important issue like this:
"Absolutely! The pageant circuit is an extremely important area to address this in because just like in modeling, gymnastics, dance, and many other sports, the participants are often at a much higher risk to develop an eating disorder. This does not mean, however, that I will condemn these things, but rather work to show that you can be healthy and fit and succeed in these areas. The physical fitness portion of the competition has helped me very much with staying fit and although many contestants go about it in an unhealthy way, what better way to be an example to them than as a fellow contestant at Miss America? Despite Miss USA's focus on the swimsuit category, the Miss America system puts a small percentage of the score in this category and instead focuses on talent and interview. The four points of the Miss America crown stand for service, style, scholarship, and success. Obviously this says nothing about weight or size, and in the swim suit category the judges look for confidence, not body type. I strongly believe this is exactly where God wants me to be, to not only speak out about my convictinos, but more importantly to lead by example, and through my actions show others at the Miss America pageant and everywhere I go this year that being healthy is more important than what size dress you wear or the number on the scale. Taking care of yourself and not falling to extremes is the most essential point when it comes to eating disorders, and all of this stems from a healthy body image and strong self-confidence each person should develop. For me, this came from my participation in pageants; for others it will be something very different; each person should find what works to promote their self-esteem. Both the Miss America organization and eating disorders have had a significant impact on my life, and that is why I am passionate about both. I do not find this incongruent with the Bible or my beliefs; on the contrary, my faith has been greatly strengthened through this. I understand that each person is different however, so if it is against a person's conscience to compete in pageants, I would never advocate that. My greatest wish is to halt the destructive force of eating disorders and prevent them from starting in our young people through education and motivation. For the rest of my life I will be dedicating my time and efforts to this cause and to all of the people struggling with these fatal diseases. In any way I can, I will be serving as a healthy role model, championing self-confidence and acceptance."
That being said, I also wanted to share a little something that made me laugh:
I was at the grocery store the other day when I saw the little 6-year-old girl who lives across the street from me. She waved and then came running over to me saying, "Teresa, Teresa! Did you know you won MISS NEBRASKA?!"
Ah, the funny side of the job! (: