“I’m Miss World…” Backstage at Miss Teen Queen UK

I went to the finals of the Miss Teen Queen UK pageant at Alexandra Palace with my incredibly talented photographer friend Leonie Morse and it was a fascinating experience. I’m not a knee-jerk hater of beauty pageants in principle, and this was certainly not what most people would associate with the whole ‘tantrums & tiaras’ world we see on TV. Instead the atmosphere backstage was remarkably calm with no bitching and all the girls seemed to get on really well. There was a huge amount of diversity – girls of all shapes and sizes and from varying backgrounds, and most seemed fairly pragmatic about the experience and where it might lead. The only moment where we felt quite uneasy was when the girls modelled swimwear – it just seemed unnecessary to send them clopping down the catwalk in teetering heels and skimpy bikinis.

I know we shouldn’t judge people on appearances, but that happens constantly in ‘real’ life – a pageant just formalises it, without hypocrisy. And unlike a ‘proper’ fashion show, where the models all look like 6-foot clones, this was a veritable festival of ‘real’ beauty. I couldn’t help wondering though, if some of the girls were being given false hope. There was only one out of 80 who could have actually made it as a professional model. The rest, at best, could do the Hollyoaks-Strictly-ladsmag-wag route, so if they were being told they could achieve more, that’s wrong. But if they’re realistic about their expectations, or were simply doing it as a bit of fun, I honestly couldn’t see the harm. Heck, even me and Leonie wanted to put on those crazy over the top frocks and run around in them!

Of course you can make a very strong argument against the very concept of beauty pageants – they’re shallow, superficial, they make girls think all that matters is their looks etc etc. But I just can’t bring myself to judge and condemn these girls for taking part and enjoying themselves – having spoken to them, that would be wrong.

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