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Miss New York USA 2010

Some reflections on pageantry

So it’s back to being a civilian again.

I applied a slick of black eyeliner and donned my skinniest jeans to commemorate the thinnest that I have ever been – I’m doing some guilt-free gorging on sushi, Chinese food, and lattes for a few days.


My first proper post-pageant meal at Peach Farm in Chinatown. I DEMOLISHED this and got a horrible stomachache.


Final makeup

Being in a pageant made me realize (although my friends have been telling me for a long time) that I’m thin. For some reason, I assumed that every other contestant was going to be rail thin and super toned. Not so – the diversity of bodies on display was surprising, and I may not have been the leggiest or the blondest, but I realized after in the flesh, side by side comparison, that I should probably, you know, chill out. I have a lot be thankful for.

Thanks for all your support which is been so amazing – all the well wishes were much appreciated. I do wish, however, that I can avoid the look of disappointment on peoples’ faces when I tell them I didn’t place. I feel that I need to qualify not winning anything with a statement like, “Well, I messed up my interviews,” or note that a lot of other contestants were convinced I’d make the top 20, and this feels like cheating what little insight I’ve gained from doing this. I wish that  could more eloquently convey that brief hour or two of realization after not making the top 20 that I deserved to be up there without seeming self-righteous or a sore loser.

I’m beautiful the way I am! No, honestly, I am. I hadn’t really believed it, but it finally seemed like the truth.

But losing is painful. I wonder how the other girls felt.

What fascinated me most were the girls there. While the girls in the top 20 were the kind I expected to find, the vast majority were far more interesting in their rationales of being there. A pageant, I realized, is really about the experience for some of them. It’s an opportunity to wear a pretty dress, walk down a runway, have your photo taken, and feel like a queen for two minutes. It’s a fantasy you buy.

But who am I to say that these girls don’t deserve to spend their money and feel like they’re beautiful too?


Evening gown prelim makeup

There was such a sadness to the fantasy. I came in convinced I couldn’t win, realized that I was perfectly qualified to win, and left sad I didn’t win anyway. Other girls seemed to come in not realizing the sharks they were up against. They wanted to believe they could be models, despite coming up many inches and pounds short. A lot of girls didn’t understand what it meant to be in a pageant – that there were a certain kind of shoe you wore, a certain kind of dress you buy, an entire, fairly rigid series of rituals in preparing for competition.

These questions interested me a lot more, in the end, than what it meant to be Chinese in a non-racially defined pageant. However, it’s worth noting that there was one other Asian girl there, who had won the New York title of the Miss Earth pageant, a cum laude grad from Penn with dancing awards under her belt. I felt like she was competition, and we never gravitated towards one another. She ended up making the top 20, but not going beyond that.

I’ll post some more photos later, perhaps some more thoughts, but it’s been an interesting – and utterly exhausting – journey. I’m glad to have met some fantastic people along the way, and I hope there’s bigger and better stuff in store for me.


2 Responses to “Some reflections on pageantry”

  1. Ok so do you feel like NY USA was rigged? I’ve been contemplating competing for a very long time but have always heard the top 20 is an absolute joke and well, looking at you and looking at the top 5 – and you not making it-makes me further believe its an absolute joke. Thoughts ,comments?

    Posted by Curious | December 21, 2009, 2:33 pm
    • Well, I feel like the girls in the top 20 were, on average, better looking than the ones not in the top 20. There were, of course, some girls who didn’t make the top 20 who I thought would have and vice versa. As for whether it is actually rigged, I really have no idea – while straight up looks were 2/3 of the score, I did a pretty terrible job on my interviews (due to how much I felt it was necessary to emphasize how goshdarn smart I am). The scoring does seem pretty inexplicable in a lot of ways, but I wouldn’t say rigged – just you know, wtf?

      Posted by Lingbo Li | December 21, 2009, 4:10 pm

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Lana Lingbo Li

I'm a world traveler / enthusiastic eater who's now blogging and producing videos over at HelloLana.com. Visit me there!

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