Miss America Swimsuit or Not

I am not for or against the swimsuit competition, but I do believe it would be a beautiful new change to exemplify something more than how we look.

I grew up in a Hollywood family. My mother was Miss California and my father was a disc jockey in Hollywood who hosted many of the Miss America preliminary beauty pageants. My father often brought me to these pageants, believing he was doing a good thing and that these women would have a positive influence on my life. As an insecure, overweight little girl and a very overweight teenager who was already intimidated by my beautiful mother and my father’s powerful connections, these competitions only deepened my insecurities. I remember every time I watched the swimsuit competition becoming more aware of my weight.

The moment everything changed for me was when I was attending my High school prom and our Homecoming King called me “Sheri the Whale.” It wiped me out emotionally. I decided that night I would prove my worth by losing weight. I started entering beauty pageants and then winning them, but no matter how many pageants I won--even winning a national crown--I never felt beautiful for more than a crowning moment of man’s praise.

This was the beginning of what I call “Barbie Bondage,” something we women and young girls around the world face daily.

Today I am 57 and fighting stage four cancer. I have had time to look back on my life and realize not only does beauty not last, but there are so many things beauty cannot do for you, including leaving a legacy.

I wonder how much more I would have thought of myself if those pageants I watched as a child had put the emphasis on more than a beautiful body and face.

What if we redefined a new generation role model by taking beauty to the next level--a level that cannot be seen on the outside, but seen through our character, our confidence in Christ, our compassion for the world, and our calling to love and live a life free from the need of approval? What if beautiful lips represented words of life that were spoken? What if beautiful bodies were ones that honor God by conveying a message of health for the right reasons and in the right way? What if beautiful eyes meant helping others see the best in themselves?

I realize we are only talking about a beauty pageant and a swimsuit competition--which seems extremely shallow, worldly and insignificant. Yet, we’re also talking about a role model, a national name with more influence than we would like on our daughters & young girls in the upcoming generation. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a role model named “Miss America” transformed into positive influence for a society that has long suffered so greatly from “Barbie Bondage”?

"And the winner is...our girls.”

© 2018 by Sheri Rose Shepherd. Used with permission.

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