Archive for Fun & Misc

Girl. You’ll be a Woman. Soon.

neil diamondIt’s been an interesting 11 days with the #krewedecrown – the team of 8 Baton Rougeans who served as official Social Media Ambassadors for the Miss USA pageant.  I was exposed to an industry and experience which has never held that much allure for me beyond the dress-up games I played as a child.

I was a bit unsure about tackling this gig being neither a fan of the systemic objectification of women nor a proponent of promoting the princess as role-model. Capturing a crown by sashaying around in full hair and makeup and having super shiny white teeth seems so, I dunno…silly.

Then again I wholeheartedly believe that it’s not up to me…or other women…or men…. to tell any individual woman how to act, dress, behave, or live her life.  Feminism means allowing each individual woman to choose her course. It’s oppressive to dictate what women can’t do and it’s just as oppressive to tell them what they should want to do.  So if Brittany Guidry from Houma, Louisiana thinks gaining titles and crowns is important to her then she surely should have every opportunity to do so.

Choice feminism, right?  When a woman makes a choice for herself (what to wear, what career to pursue, when/if to have children) there are generally no negative consequences; she is doing her thing.  Making her choices.

But the young women who choose to enter the pageant world have started down a path that has ongoing societal consequences and implications; things that go way beyond their individual dream of living in a high-rise apartment in Trump Tower for 12 months. Venerating unrealistic physical loveliness and doing so in a venue at which we ‘crown a queen’ based on her stroll across a stage in ridiculously high heels and a bathing suit is troublesome in 2014.  While monitoring the twitter stream last night I saw comments from viewers including one from a television viewer (paraphrasing): “I wish I looked like that but I eat too much.”    

That’s some sad stuff right there.

Look…I like the sparkly and shiny. I too was caught up in the collective virtual orgasm (mostly females, a few males) that rippled throughout the BR River Center when the contestants came parading out in their evening gowns.  I stood on the red carpet (official duties) and marveled, albeit somewhat cynically, as holders of flawlessly luminescent skin and lush eyelashes posed in front of me for pictures.

We buy into this stuff.

But women have many more options in 2014 than they did in 1952 when the Miss USA pageant began as a local “bathing beauty” competition.  Sadly I didn’t see a whole lot of attention focused on individual contestant’s accomplishments, education or goals even though we are 62 years hence; the addition of evening gowns and bigger hair seems to have been the major adjustment to the competition since its days as a “bathing beauty” competition. While a number of contestants have attained undergraduate degrees, some are pursuing post-graduate degrees and others are working in professional roles, that didn’t seem to be as critical to judging their worthiness as whether or not they could shimmy and shake fetchingly while Marc Broussard played “Iko Iko” in a nod to Louisiana.   And sadly, from pageant organizers to media to hosts to attendees, the word of choice when referring to the contestants was “girls” which drives me absolutely batshit crazy.  Infantilizing. Reeking of “be a good girl” or “isn’t she a pretty girl?” Ugh.

These are women.  And each individual woman can – and should – make the choices that are right for her.  Power to the contestants if this is what they wish to do with their lives.

I would like us, however, to collectively make some changes – intentional changes – to this beauty world.  We need to step away from the bright lights and glossy lipstick and seriously think about the potential lingering effect this pageant world has on on girls and boys and women and men.  The glamorization of unrealistic and unattainable physical beauty coupled with the downplaying of real accomplishments and potential capabilities is maddening.

Over and out. Reporting live from the red carpet.

*********

image: flickriver via Creative Commons

Goals: Making Them Stick

Stick ItFor the last few days (we’re on day 2 of 11) I’ve been serving as a Social Media Ambassador for Visit Baton Rouge and covering the Miss USA Pageant activities going on here in town; thus far it’s been a whirlwind of sequins, hairspray, high heels and photo ops.  Everything – I mean everything – is a photo op.

It’s a happy, cheery, candy-coated world of filtered loveliness – in a good way.  Everyone affiliated with the Miss Universe/Miss USA organization is smiling, friendly, pleasant, and seems genuinely excited to visit our lovely city.  It’s a bit of a change from the normal lot I hang out with (and love!) at HR and Recruiting events where there’s cynicism and sarcasm and the conversations are punctuated with world-weary sighs of jaded resignation.

Aye me.

These Miss USA contestants have their lifelong (for as long as lives are at ages 20 or 22 or 23) dreams on the line.  I’m sure that underneath much of the PR-smiley joy that is shared with the adoring public there are times when a gut wrenching stab of fear causes Miss Whoever to wake up at 2 AM in a cold sweat as she feels a twinge of anxiety about the whole deal.

As I’ve observed the poise and professionalism with which these contestants pose for pictures, converse with children and hug the old geezers men that inevitably want a hug I’ve wondered how they keep that energy on high.  After all, in their relatively short lives, they’ve done this stuff a million times; a lot of them began competing in Miss Teen USA pageants and have been parading around with sashes for years.  I would have grown tired of it long ago.

But you know what it comes down to?  Each of these contestants is very clear on her goal.  Before she signed up for this fishbowl life Miss Whoever knew it was all about being triumphant.  Wearing the crown. Getting to go on speaking tours with Donald Trump.   Being called Miss USA.  I’m sure she’s imagined herself, envisioned herself, gliding triumphantly down the runway over and over and over.

I can guarantee you that everything Miss Whoever has done over the last 5 or more years has been with a determined focus on achieving her goal.

That goal became sticky.

So Miss Whoever will persevere, eye on the prize, until the last musical note is played on June 8th.  Whether she rides on out with the crown on her head or heads out of town after being relegated to “not the Top 5” she will have given it her all.

No messy residue left behind. But sticky nonetheless.

**********

Behind the Scenes fun:  this picture of Super Stick It! was taken in the wardrobe/make-up room at the contestant’s hotel. This, my friends, is apparently the magical elixir that makes sure a bosom doesn’t pop out of an evening gown and alleviates that pesky problem of one’s swim suit riding up into one’s lady bits.

“Stick It! is the entertainment industry’s double-stick tape that can be applied apparel-to-apparel or apparel-to-body. It is hypoallergenic and resistant to heat and moisture. Its unique flexible soft material design is almost undetectable and comfortable to wear. Stick It! stays put, yet is gentle enough to use on fine fabric. It leaves no messy residue behind.”

Beauty Queens on the Bayou – #MissUSA #goBR

site_promo1398180413LivefromBatonRouge2As a child (ages 6 through 10) there were two things I always role-played in the comfort of my home – Office and Beauty Pageant.

When playing Office I would move a dining room chair into the living room and place a TV tray in front of it. On the TV tray I placed (neatly!) a pad of paper, multiple pens and pencils, a stapler and/or tape dispenser, and my Fisher Price telephone.  I slipped on a jacket from one of my mother’s suits, clipped on a pair of her earrings, and spent glorious hours being super efficient while taking (imaginary) phone calls, writing (imaginary) work orders and ordering (imaginary) minions about to do my business.

Beauty Pageant was my go-to-role-play when I was freshly scrubbed and released from my mother’s tyranny of the bathtub.  Feeling super chic in my long flannel nightgown, accessorized with my bathrobe artfully flung about my shoulders and a pair of my mother’s peep toe high heels, I prepared for my crowning. I lined up my dolls on the sofa, grabbed a bouquet of artificial flowers to hold in my arms, and, suitably attired, made a grand entrance into the living room.  I humbly acknowledged the (imaginary) thunderous applause as I sobbed uncontrollably and blew kisses to the (imaginary) adoring throngs.

The Beauty Pageant dream died out l-o-n-g ago. Playing Office however, came in handy when I decided to spend 25 years working in Human Resources.  After all, starting at age 6 I wrote memos that no one read, had phone conversations where no one listened, and assumed that ordering people around signaled my authority and influence……….

But you know what guys and gals?

For the next 11 days I get to play Beauty Pageant!!!

OK – I don’t think it’s called a Beauty Pageant anymore; the correct terminology appears to be competition.  And while, obviously, the women who compete are physically lovely the various systems/organizations that run these events have worked pretty hard to make sure the programs also highlight talent and scholarship and accomplishments – stuff that goes well beyond great hair, long legs and super white teeth.

Although I doubt I will get to try on the crown or anything, I will be front and center to the hubbub as an official Social Media Ambassador for the #MissUSA 2014 pageant working in conjunction with Visit Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Social Media Association.   This, I have to tell y’all, is quite thrilling.

Naturally, while circling in the orbit of these 51 impossibly beautiful and accomplished contestants, I’m sure I will feel incredibly dowdy and frumpy. I’m already imagining that I will overhear Miss Idaho quiz Miss Wisconsin with a whispered “Who is that woman in the sensible shoes with the Coach bag?  She looks like an HR lady.”

For you however, my dear and loyal HR Schoolhouse readers, I shall persevere.  I shall tweet and Instagram and blog and snap pictures of Nene Leakes (!!!) and Larry Fitzgerald. I shall, if allowed, provide coverage of every flute player, baton twirler and opera singer I can find. My intent is to explore and assess the HR/work/talent related dynamics of the whole event and organization which I find incredibly mysterious and fascinating. I’m willing to bet that I can find a whole new spin on ‘authenticity’ and ‘brand’ in the pageant world.  Just a guess.

I also intend to give you a glimpse of the cool things that are going on here in Baton Rouge. So be warned – if you are following me on the twitterz you will see all sorts of stuff with the hashtags #MissUSA #goBR and #krewedecrown.  Roll with me.

Plus, even though I totally do not meet any of the qualifying criteria anymore, I might still get the inside scoop on becoming the next Miss USA!

Not sure though if my flannel nightgown would still be suitable for pageant competition.

The Road Untraveled

The Road Untraveled

Discovering unchartered territory is not an easily accomplished task.  Setting out on a pathway in either a bustling urban landscape or in the solitude of a remote location usually means encountering the artifacts left behind by those who came before.  Who amongst us has not set out in peaceful seclusion on a windswept dune, confident that a human traveler had not trod the same isolated path for decades only to step, quite unceremoniously, on a discarded beer can?

The thought we had when setting out into the pristine isolated wild that we were the first human to make the trek is dashed.  We feel let down and saddened that we cannot avoid the inescapable evidence that we are not the first person stepping in uncharted land.

We like to think that our choices – the paths we view ahead and upon which we choose to walk – are unique.  We search for importance and meaning. We don’t want our decisions to be trivial; we want the weighty choices in our life to have significance.  And it’s part of the human condition, isn’t it, that we inevitably find ourselves wondering at a later time “what if I had…” “Would it have meant more if I had done…?”  “Why didn’t I…?”

Yet we are forced to make choices.  We must determine which road we shall go down even when we have neither guidance nor enough facts upon which to base our decision.

But choose a path we must.

There is, at the end of our days, no need to look back (perhaps with a sigh of regret) and wonder what we missed.  It’s useless to speculate on the unknown that we never encountered.

While there may not be one right path there is, inescapably, the path we choose.  And then there’s the other path.

Not better.  Not worse.  Merely untraveled.

****************

The Road Not Taken

(4th stanza)

(by Robert Frost)

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference