My name is Kiara Imani Williams. I am 25-years-old, and I am a third year law student at the University Virginia School of Law. I am an intelligent, independent, African-American woman.
I am socially conscious and politically aware. I am an activist. I am a philanthropist. I am a feminist.
I am a feminist who competes in beauty pageants. Yes, the type of pageants where women walk across a stage in a bikini and high heels, and work to convince a panel of judges that they want “world peace.” In fact, I am the winner of Miss Virginia USA’s 2015 “Miss Congeniality” award. (No, I am not kidding).
I subject myself to being objectified by a panel of judges who over analyse my body, my clothes, my facial beauty, and my poise.
I wear hair extensions, makeup, and fake nails. I wear butt glue to keep my bikini in place when I walk, and I twirl and turn on stage in overpriced evening gowns.
The purpose of this post is not to defend the institution of beauty pageants, but to ask for acceptance. After two years of competing in various pageant systems, I am well aware that they are problematic in many ways. They glorify a European standard of beauty.
I can admit that walking across a stage in a two-piece is not necessarily indicative of one’s commitment to living a healthy lifestyle.
So why do I compete?
Why do I subject myself to such an objectifying activity?
How can I call myself a feminist if I am participating in a system that reinforces “unhealthy ideals of attractiveness”?
These are the questions I am constantly asked by my peers who find out that I compete in beauty pageants. I want take a moment to answer these questions.
My answer is actually quite simple. I compete in pageants because I like them. I like to dress up, I like make-up, and I like to perform.
I have fun choosing my evening gown. I like challenging myself to eat healthy meals and remain physically fit. I like speaking at local schools and making other public appearances. I have fun meeting different women across the state who enjoy the same types of things I do. I like being put in a position where I can mentor young girls and talk about the importance of education.
I fully believe that pageants have the incredible potential to provide access to education, leadership training, and public relations skills to many young woman.
Having worked internships at MTV, Fox News, and Disney ABC Television since I started competing, I can honestly say that the skills that I have acquired in pageantry have contributed more to my success than any other activity.