The most common stereotypes of pageant girls focus on physical beauty, and the expectation of unintelligence. However, this stereotype is inaccurate and based on outdated beliefs. For example, the current Miss USA, Deshauna Barber was the first woman actively serving in the United States Army Reserve to win Miss USA. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and has since gone on to complete an MSc in Computer Information Systems.
I also see myself as challenging this stereotype. My name is Ashleigh Wild, I’m 19 years old and was recently crowned Miss Teen Great Britain 2016/17 (MTGB). I live just outside of Blackpool and I’m a Law Undergraduate at Lancaster University.
A month before my first A-level exam, I unexpectedly lost my dad to a condition that has very little awareness yet takes the life of 44,000 people annually in the UK alone, Sepsis. The stress of exams and the grieving process made it an extremely difficult time for me. Although I went on to gain 3 A-levels, including an A* in Law, without my goal to one day become a barrister, my exams, and the MTGB competition to keep me moving forwards I don’t think I would have been able to become the person I am today following the huge loss I suffered. They all gave me a purpose, something to focus on.
MTGB also gave me the opportunity to do something positive. During the competition I travelled to 70 different events and raised £2,209.27 for charity (including £1,376.95 for the UK Sepsis Trust) by taking on challenges I never would have otherwise, such as a 10,000ft skydive, and a 12-mile military-style obstacle course (Tough Mudder).
Not only did taking part in the competition allow me to help other people, it has helped me succeed in my day-to-day life more than I ever expected. For example, just after starting at Lancaster University, it was the Grand Final of MTGB. MTGB is judged in two sections; interview (50%) and on-stage aspect (50%). There were 65 contestants from all over Great Britain, and I scored the highest out of all candidates in the interview section, meaning as well as winning the title of Miss Teen Great Britain 2016/17, I was awarded with the “Best in Interview” award.
I have been able to combine my interview techniques, self-expression, liaising and people skills learnt through pageantry on a daily basis, whether that’s in my part time job, studies or just general communication. They have taught me how to balance my social life and my work/study life effectively, as well as keeping my health and wellbeing a number one priority.
People enter pageants for lots of different reasons; to build confidence after being bullied at school, to overcome mental illness', to make friends and to raise awareness of a condition close to their hearts. Since being a part of MTGB I've become an ambassador for the UK Sepsis Trust, I've raised over £1,000 for that charity alone and I've also educated over 19,000 people about the condition via an awareness video circulated on Facebook
As I said at the start, the ordinary view of pageants is outdated, and I hope reading this blog has changed your view of them. I hope I’ve inspired you to never give up no matter what life throws at you. If I can achieve my dreams, then so can anyone.