EST. May 2000 (AD)


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Letter from a Pageant Princess

By Mary Beth Houkstra

Dear Editor:

"Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful". If I didn’t find tattoos low class and possibly disqualifying that is what I would have tattooed on my back.

I have heard so much unjust criticism of pageants recently that I felt that I had to write about my own wonderful pageant experiences.

I did my first pageant when I was 2 months old. (Actually it was the first pageant that I didn't win Supreme. Do I blame my mother?  No, not really. Could she have dressed me better? Could she have jiggled me more? Could she have swooped me in front of the judges more? Yes, yes and yes. However, this failure and my constant reminding her of this failure set me on a life course of success at any cost.)

People watch the children on Toddlers and Tiaras and Little Miss Perfect and think “Oh, those poor little things, they are nothing but meat puppets” but I am here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. I personally lived for pageants; I yearned for the thrill of winning and for the validation of my extraordinary beauty. I would go to any lengths to attend any pageant. I remember when I was six my mother came down with shingles and said we would not be able to go to the Axles and Anchors pageant in Leverage, Kentucky that weekend.

 I was devastated and it took me threatening to smother my brother in his sleep to convince her to take me (I won Ultimate Grand Supreme.) I was inches from jumping off the barn roof when it looked like the birth of my baby sister would interfere with the Glamorous Ball Bearing Beauty in Generous, Arkansas (Ultimate Mini Supreme) and I told my mother that I would tell the police that daddy touched my pee pee if she didn’t enrol me in Castron Oil’s Cutie Pie Pageant in Havenough, Michigan. (Ultimate Novice Supreme.)

I loved pageants and I would do anything to win. I loved to practice, I loved my flipper, I loved my wigs and I loved, loved, loved my crowns and sashes, loved them.

Then disaster struck.


When I was 13 I gained 40 pounds in preparation for a growth spurt that never arrived. Pimples dotted my moonface, my nose grew along with my waist. My costumes became more expensive as the seamstress started to charge by the yard, but still I bravely competed.

My last childhood pageant was terrible. I remember vividly clog dancing in cowboy gear to “I’m Too Sexy”. The big finale had me grab one cowboy-booted calf up in the air and hop around in a circle while shooting a six-gun with the other hand.  I was halfway through my turn when I fell through the rather flimsy stage. I will always remember the look of disgust on the judges’ faces as the Pageant Director, my mother and father and my coach Miss Anna tried to pull me out of the rather large hole. The mortification was complete when I won “Best Personality.”

I had my wake-up call. I realized that fat kids don’t win beauty pageants, fat people have to be nice and they have to develop “personalities”.  They have to do this so that they can get jobs and hail cabs so I started a rigorous program of dieting and exercise. I followed the HW soup diet and the quick weight loss program and tap-danced every day until I fainted. After six months I was able to re-enter the pageant system, this time as a teenage contestant.

My return was triumphant. I won Ultimate Grand Supreme and Most Prettiest.  A string of pageants followed and I won a high title in every single one of them. Eventually I moved up to the national pageants until I reached the mother of all pageants-- Miss Universe.

I was a favourite to win not only in my household but also in my hometown. The prize was so close I could almost taste it but the sour grapes and bad attitude of a foreigner kept me from attaining my dream and almost ruined my life.

As in the children’s pageants, the contestants in the Miss Universe pageant were so jealous of my beauty they wouldn’t even talk to me. We were together almost constantly because at that time, the contest was a month long and we were sequestered in Los Angeles at the Lafayette hotel. I was unfortunately forced to share a room with a commie pinko from some unpronounceable country like Kazetstan or Canada.

Suzette was of course, envious of me and went out of her way to annoy me. She’d talk foreign and eat weird foods and she was constantly borrowing my things. I took everything in stride as my eye was on the prize, however one day she crossed the line and borrowed the most personal of items, my butt glue. I was horrified so in retaliation I bound and gagged her and stuffed her in a utility closet for three days.

The officials called it kidnapping and I called it teenage high spirits but no matter the name my pageant career was over through no fault of my own.

I returned home and married a successful man with a car dealership. Honestly if I were not barred from performing pageants I would still be competing in the Mrs category. Luckily I can remain active in the pageant world by coaching other people’s children and creating contestants of my own. My children Seborrea and Psoriasis love pageants as much as I do and more than they love each other.

Pageants made me what I am today, a strong, thin, confident woman. Pageant expert Rhonda Shappart writes that pageants give a child recognition, confidence, personal development and communication skills.

Shappart writes this about communication: “The ability of articulate ones thoughts into written and spoken words is priceless. We live in an age where masses consider quality communicate as texting or posting an update on Face book.”

I think that says it all and I couldn’t not agree more.

Also, I think people who hate pageants are probably dogs and wouldn’t place.


Mary Beth Houstra