Think plus-size women don't belong in beauty pageants? Think again.







As Miss Utah recently found out, slip up on the Miss USA stage and your faux pas will make headlines around the world. Now two other beauty pageant contestants are gaining worldwide attention but it’s not because they couldn’t answer a convoluted question about gender pay gaps.

Meet Allison and Jenny, the subjects of There She Is, a 20-minute documentary about beauty queens. They share an innate love of rhinestones, glamour, getting their hair and make-up done and shopping. But unlike Miss Utah or Miss USA, they are a size 22 (Aus size 26).

There She Is focuses on the American Beauties Plus Pageant for women sizes 14 and above who challenge the stereotypical notions of beauty that we have in society and which are present in the beauty and fashion industries.

These ladies don’t have to don a swimsuit or have a special talent, the 22 contestants in the plus-size pageant are judged on their offstage interview, casual attire, evening wear and an onstage question.

The release of There She Is coincides with another event celebrating women of all shapes and sizes, the fifth annual Full Figured Fashion Week (FFFW) held in New York.


According to ABC News, the plus-size fashion business is a $17 billion industry in the U.S, yet FFFW receives little fanfare, and as you can see in the full documentary below the plus-size pageant is also a low-budget affair. There is no sponsorship or life-changing amount of prize money and no media contingent covering the event.

Whatever you think about beauty pageants and women competing against each other for their superficial looks, plus-size blogger Shannon Sutherland has a point when she argues that this documentary highlights the importance of a more diverse ideal of what is considered beautiful in mass media.

“It didn’t change my opinion of beauty pageants. I still don’t like them and would never compete in one. But after watching these two women passionately participate in something they love, which just happens to be a beauty pageant, I feel that in order to even the body type playing field, we need strong women like Allison Kophach and Jenny Flores out there participating in activities that society believes they shouldn’t be in.

“Allison and Jenny’s participation in a beauty pageant doesn’t enforce the idea that beauty (“traditional” or not) is paramount, but rather creates vital visibility.”

And as Allison, the 2011 winner, says, “It does matter if you are a size two or 22 learning to love yourself is a hard, hard thing because it’s a hard, hard world out there.”