What’s It Like to Win a Beauty Pageant? 

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Answer by Bianca Peters, Miss Malibu 2010:

In 2010, I won the Miss Malibu beauty pageant. For those unfamiliar with Malibu, think Baywatch and the most scenic Southern California beach and all the beauties it attracts. I’m not from Malibu, nor am I tall, a blond bombshell, etc. I joined the competition on a dare. 

I’ve played sports all my life, and I’m competitive to say the least, but this was a whole different kind of competition. In sports, you score more runs, more touchdowns, more goals. In pageants, it’s subjective. Pageants take months of preparation. Everything is rehearsed, from the swimwear walk and the onstage smiling to the shading of eye shadow necessary for interviews.

Miss Malibu Bianca Peters attends the Women in Film Malibu Golf Classic at the Malibu Country Club on July 10, 2010 in Malibu, California. 

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

I had no idea what I was doing. First comes orientation, where the only thing I remember was how dressed-up everyone was (should have figured—it was Malibu). Then came the fees, which I couldn’t afford, so I asked my employer to sponsor me. In between that and the actual pageant, you are kind of on your own. If you can afford a trainer, makeup artist, pageant coach, great! If not, YouTube becomes your best friend.

As the pageant got closer, I felt less and less prepared. Most of the girls I was going up against were so experienced. They live, eat and breathe the pageant world. I only invited my mom, dad, and grandma on the day of the competition. (I think they came out of pity. They’ve seen me walk in high heels; they’ve told me it wasn’t pretty.)

The most vivid memory of me feeling out-of-place was when I had to get ready for a private interview with a panel of judges—this is where they weed out the girls and decide the top 10 or 15. For attire, I was told business casual. I looked like a 17-year-old about to walk into Chase Bank asking for an application. Everyone else, well, they were headed to a sophisticated day at the races, heels and all. However, if there’s one thing I’ve always been naturally good at, it’s public speaking. Me, my flats, and my high-school-senior-looking cardigan sweater stood in that interview and spoke passionately about living in South Africa to work with AIDS orphanages, making it to the junior Olympics, and dealing with the loss of a sports scholarship because of an illness.

I passed the first test. Then came the painful swimwear walk in heels (I still cringe when thinking about that). Surprisingly, I made it to the top 10. Next up was the evening gown competition. Mind you, my evening gown was my prom dress that I paid $60 for. Passed that test as well. How I was not cut by that point was a shock to my parents. Finally, the last test, the top five Q-and-A portion. You have no clue what your question could be; all you can think about is not messing up and hopefully not saying, “Could you repeat the question again?” in front of about 600 people.

My question came from Khloe Kardashian: “A lot of people spend time on social media. Do you think this is a good thing or bad thing?” I answered quickly, breaking down what social media was and how it’s just a medium to connect one person or idea to the next. An answer without passion, without something personal tied into it, would have been just a bland response. But I believed in every single word coming out of my mouth, from praising the benefits of social media to exposing the downfalls. Honestly, I think I just wasn’t worried about looking perfect while answering. I speak with my hands, the expressions on my face, and the inflections in my tone. In that moment, my goal was to stir some kind of emotion in the judges’ hearts, and in that moment, that’s where I believe I won.

After naming all the other runners-up, I was crowned Miss Malibu 2010. All I really remember from those few minutes was seeing my grandma, who barely walks and barely smiles, desperately making her way to the stage with a grin from ear to ear. That little memory is the best way to describe what it felt like to win my first pageant.

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