I Will Not Apologize For Being A Pageant Girl

I Will Not Apologize For Being A Pageant Girl

Less bitter, more glitter.
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Everytime I tell someone I do pageants I get this ‘trying to be polite, but not working’ look of confusion. “So like, toddlers and tiaras right?” *Inner monologue “NO NO NO NO NO 100X NO* Well no, let me be the first to tell you that not all pageantry is like Toddlers and Tiaras and certainly not every pageant girl is like the girls who fumble onstage and talk about ‘the Iraq.’ By the way, on stage questions are one of the hardest things I have ever done, so I probably would have been just as nervous as she was, as would you, so give her a break. *End rant* There are so many positive aspects of pageantry that are life changing for the young women who compete in them.

I began participating in pageants at 15 years old and if I could paint a picture of who ‘Katlynn Kennedy’ was at 15, she would be a lost, insecure, incredibly fashion challenged, teenage girl with no direction or goals. A friend of mine had been participating in pageants for years and suggested maybe I try one. “Well alright, but there is no way that I could ever win one of those. I am so not a pageant girl.” Well, I was wrong and was honored to win the title I competed for.

The moment that crown was placed on my head my life was forever changed. There are so many stigmas and stereotypes about pageantry and I am fed up with getting the look of ‘are you serious?’ when I tell people I compete in pageants. Over the years of competing and holding titles I have had highs and lows, I have learned how to lose and win, I have gained valuable skills that I will use for the rest of my life, and I have become a better and more confident Katlynn Kennedy.

Every time I enter a pageant I spend months preparing for it and my life becomes pageant prep. Pageant girls have to dedicate their free time to educating themselves on current social and political issues to prepare to stand before a panel of highly accomplished judges while they ask you questions for 10 minutes on anything their hearts desire. We spend our mornings reading a newspaper (or four) and watching the news at all hours of the day.

We have to work out every day and eat healthy, minus the occasional cheat day, to prepare for the swimsuit competition, which is no small challenge. Walking on stage in three-inch heels and a swimsuit is the most terrifying thing ever, but it is also the most exhilarating. You can find us in school, at fundraisers, in your community spending time working with service organizations and advocating for issues that are close to our hearts. Our feet are bleeding, fingers blistered, and vocal cords tired from practicing our talents until we could do it in our sleep backwards and forwards.

Yes, this is a lot of work and it takes over your life but I wouldn’t give it up for the world and I wouldn’t be who I am without it. Pageants have taught me not to give up when I am tired. They have taught me that when one door closes another one open. They have taught me that you never stop learning and that one never gets poor by giving. They have taught me to be the only person who can tell me my self-worth.

Pageants have prepared me to be a successful and empowered woman in a society where women are the underdog. I could honestly go on forever, but I think I can speak for all pageant girls here and say next time you meet someone who participates in pageants, instead of judging them know that crowns aren't made of rhinestones, they are made of discipline, determination and a hard to find alloy called courage.

Cover Image Credit: Katlynn Kennedy

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

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This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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