In Hawaii, we live in bikinis. In my teens, I surfed, sailed and swam… if I wasn’t in the water actually using my bikini, it was on under my clothes. I mean, I live in Hawaii. I have no problem with women and girls wearing bikinis. However, as a teen, walking on stage in a swimsuit would have given me severe anxiety.
Those were the days of second-guessing, comparing and insecurity. In my teens, I was confident – on the outside. But on the inside, I couldn’t help but wish my thighs were thinner, my nose was narrower, my hair was straighter and my skin was tanner. I had so many insecurities! … and wanted to change so many things about my appearance. I rarely felt pretty and constantly compared myself to others.
I remember watching the Miss Teen USA pageant in high school. A girl from Hilo was Miss Teen Hawaii USA – she was strikingly beautiful, skinny, tall… and looked amazing in a swimsuit. I remember putting my bikini on and staring at myself in the mirror. What could I change to look more like her?…
I’m naturally tall and skinny. BUT, I tried over the counter diet pills! I’m naturally athletic, was training & teaching martial arts, swimming and surfing regularly. BUT, I bought and signed up for numerous fad workout/diet programs that promised overnight results! The point I’m trying to make is that TEENAGERS NEED GUIDANCE. I was healthy and athletic but because I felt I didn’t look *just* like the girls I compared myself to – I felt ugly. Fat. Lesser than. These were unhealthy, unrealistic and quite frankly… dangerous… thoughts.
It’s been so many years… I haven’t reflected on those moments since they happened nearly two decades ago. But as the Miss Universe pageant announces they will swap swimsuits for athletic attire at the Miss TEEN USA Pageant… I applaud them for trying to set a positive example for our teens! In this social media age… teens are bombarded with content online and in the media. The most high profile teen competition for girls is making a very bold statement. It will be interesting to see HOW they present this change and feature the competitors this year. I, for one, support it.
P.S. – Personally, I have no problem with the swimsuit competition. I am all for empowering women, equal pay and those sorts of things – but I wouldn’t consider myself a feminist. I think the swimsuit competition is just fine… this move to athletic attire will still carry on pageant tradition and feature the girls physiques – but by also sending an empowering message to teen girls that this phase of competition is REALLY about strength, confidence, fitness, leading a healthy lifestyle and feeling comfortable in your own skin. Here is the BREAKING NEWS article from USA Today.
**Malika Dudley is a former Miss Hawaii. She competed for the Miss America crown in 2006 and was honored to be chosen by her fellow pageant sisters as Miss Congeniality. The surfer and barre enthusiast lives in Wailuku, Maui with her two children and husband. Click HERE for more information on Malika.**