Greasy hair and burning bras: the time I won Miss Congeniality.
Illustration by Jess Smart Smiley
During the spring of my senior year in high school I ended up in a beauty pageant over a bet with my best friend. She was gorgeous. I was not. She was a cheerleader. I wanted to burn my bra.
I found Susan at her mother’s dining room table sobbing over a clutter of pamphlets. She was overwrought because she thought she wasn’t pretty enough to participate in a pageant and shouldn’t apply to enter one. By small-town Tennessee standards of beauty in 1989, Susan should have been particularly competitive. She possessed a sense of finesse I did not. In fact, I was, in many ways, Susan’s foil: I didn’t wear make-up, bit my nails, and on most days I neglected to wash my hair. I attempted to comfort her with logic, and a bribe.
I leaned against the table. “If you stop crying, I’ll prove that all they want is money for entrance fees. It has nothing to do with how you look.”
“How do you know that? Have you ever seen an ugly pageant contestant?” She dabbed her eyes wi…