In August 2018, I was crowned Ms. Maine American Women of Service. In February 2019, my crown was taken from me and everyone has been left to ask: what happened?
In pageantry, things happen. Bullying happens. When confronted with a bully, you have one of two options: keep quiet or speak up. I chose to speak up.
As a close personal friend, UNM Miss Maine (hereafter MM) taught body positivity and confidence in herself and others. She talked about how her family was so proud and supportive of her. She also shared her struggles and how she felt terrible after every conversation with the state and local directors and volunteering with other queens her age. MM was told she needed to lose weight, she needed to do this and that, and she was not supported by her local or state director.
MM thought long and hard about her decision to step down. It wasn’t something she took lightly. When she told the director, the director immediately posted it in the Local Pageant Director’s Facebook group- a group that I was in because my sisters and I discussed co-directing a pageant. The director and other local pageant directors started to pounce on the post as soon as it was up. They used hurtful and destructive language to talk about the ways in which MM failed the organization, failed their expectations, and failed in that she was not who they wanted her to be. I was taken aback at how these grown women were bashing a 19-year-old on Facebook behind her back.
I spoke up. I shared the posts with MM. Not long after, the director sent me a letter stripping me of my title.
Sharing the post, in the eyes of my director, is a breach of a contract that the director refuses to provide me. I’ve asked for the contract on three different occasions and am met with nothing.
Sharing the post, in the eyes of my director, is sharing confidential information. Confidential information would not have been on Facebook as Facebook is a public domain for the free exchange of ideas, per Facebook’s charter for incorporation.
Talking to my sister queens, in the eyes of my director, is defamation of character. I reached out to former queens to see how the state director had treated them, and they’ve been mistreated too! Several complaints have been filed with the national director. When the national director told the Maine director what was happening, the solution was the Maine director sending emails telling queens that they were banned and had no right to contact the national director with complaints about her.
My title was taken because I stood up for my friend and prevented her from being bullied further. Why did that happen when The Maine Academic Scholarship Pageant system, the USA National Miss system and the American Women of Service national platform is Crown C.A.R.E.S.- a platform that teaches kindness, respect, inclusion, love, cares, courage and friendship? This is a platform that sends its titleholders into the schools to read to children to help them understand bullying, to promote the awareness of bullying, and to teach kids how to stand up to bullying.
I sincerely don’t understand. Maybe you can help me! The American Women of Service national platform is on this website: https://www.americanwomenofservice.com/national-platform. The website states their national platform is The Crown C.A.R.E.S. (Creating A Respectful Environment in Society). This platform is an extension of the Crossroads Youth Program Crown C.A.R.E.S. (Creating A Respectful Environment in Schools). As we grow into adults we can take the same principles of the program – Kindness, Respect, Inclusion, Love, Care, Courage, and Friendship, and put them to use in various outlets of our lives. As adults we have the ability to influence our youth, teach our peers and set an example as the ultimate role model.”
The Maine American Women of Service Pageant is associated with the Maine Academic Scholarship Pageant (MASP). Their website it says, “It is our goal to provide girls and young women with the tools to enhance and develop communication, self-presentation and interview skills, allowing them to become resilient, community minded adults.” (Check it out here: https://www.crossroadsproductions.me/about-us)
In another section on the MASP website, it says that their platform is also Crown C.A.R.E.S. In addition, this website says, “each titleholder will spend their year visiting schools and promoting awareness, reading to children and help to understand how to stand up to bullying. MASP believes that community service is one of the most important ways to teach our children gratitude and respect. Join us in the fight against bullying.”
According to the New Oxford Dictionary, a bully is someone who seeks to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone else. Harmful language behind someone’s back is of no use to the conversation, and it inevitably hurts the person you’re talking about when they find out.
To the directors involved or associated, there are lessons to be learned here: one is about what confidentiality means, and the other is about living up to the expectations that you place on others. The letter that I received stripping me of my title was received at 11:30 on Sunday morning, but my aunt, dad and other community members were talking about it at church that morning at 10:30. “Oh, did you hear what happened to Katherine? Her crown was taken.” Information provided by one of the directors. To find out through conversations at church as opposed to from my letter is unacceptable considering the information being confidential. In addition, the expectation that you represent- “As adults, we have the ability to influence our youth, teach our peers, and set an example as the ultimate role model” -is not the influence that you’re making on your contestants and queens. You have the ability the make a positive influence on these women, please use that opportunity to make a positive impact instead of what has been happening.
To my fellow contestants, sister queens, and future queens, I am not writing this to keep you away from MASP or any other pageant system. I am writing this for your awareness, so you know the truth about why I am no longer Ms. Maine American Women of Service. Through my experience and service as Ms. Maine American Women of Service, I’ve found that this system is not for me because it isn’t what it’s made out to be. I wanted a pageant system that promoted kindness, respect, inclusion, love, care, courage and friendship. Unfortunately, through the organization’s actions, I’ve come to realize that they do not. I am not embarrassed or ashamed about what I did. I stood up against people who were bullying my friend.
Bullying happens, and when it does, you have two choices. The consequences might be painful, but it’s a beautiful thing to stand up for what’s right.