I had been meaning to enter the competition for Hastings Carnival /Miss Hastings for a long time but had not had the confidence. Even so, I couldn’t shake the desire to try, so in 2013, I plucked up my courage and entered.
The competition is actually just a public interview, unlike American pageants there is no talent section or modelling but you do have to wear something nice and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to trot out the shoes I bought with my birthday money. These shoes are the Best Shoes Ever. They are Irregular Choice ‘I’m Bossy’ shoes in green and they have little bunny buttons sewn on the toes. (You can see them here http://www.polyvore.com/irregular_choice_im_bossy/thing?id=28626862)
The only problem is I had nothing that went with them, so my friend Sue and I made a pink polka dot skirt and sewed little rabbits along the hem. A few days before the competition, my poor little Emi came down with a bug and subsequently passed it on to me, albeit much more mildly. I was really worried that I was going to unable to participate through illness, however I continued to prepare and even managed to get down to the nail salon the day before (accompanied by Elliot to make sure I was OK, even though the smell of the nail stuff gives him a headache- there’s love for you). I got pink polka dot to match the skirt.
A couple of hours before the competition, I began getting ready, dressing in the pink polka dot skirt, plus a cute cream cardigan and the Best Shoes Ever. A friend came over to do my make-up, watched like a hawk by Emiko, who is fascinated by her as she looks rather like her ‘Operetta’ Monster High doll. There was a mild panic when she accidentally dropped the mascara brush on my skirt but with a little soap and water we did get it out eventually. I added a few accessories, a bracelet Sue made me and a turquoise necklace Elliot bought me, then we said goodbye to Emiko and her babysitter and drove over to the venue.
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who had turned out to support me and began feeling quite excited and happily nervous. All the contestants were rounded up and taken to a room downstairs for the pre-contest briefing and the opportunity to meet last year’s winner, the Mayor of Hastings, and the rest of the judges. We had a wait of ¾ of an hour until the pageant began, so we started chatting amongst ourselves and getting to know one another. I mostly talked to one of last year’s princesses, who told me she was a cheerleader and rode horses. She seemed very nice, as did most of the girls.
Finally, it was time and we were guided out to parade in front of the audience and judges, before going backstage. From there we were called up one by one for our interview. When it was my turn, I stood up straight, smiled my best beauty queen smile and walked elegantly (I hope) onto the stage. Taking my seat on the bar stool, I answered a series of questions from the compere.
“So, tell us a little about yourself,” invited the compere.
“Well,” I smiled charmingly, “I volunteer as a Girlguiding Leader with the Rainbows, I love to dance and I am learning to play the flute.”
“And how long have you lived in Hastings?”
“I was born here.”
“In the Old Town?”
“Er, no, central Hastings”, I answered, caught off-guard for a moment as there are no hospitals near the Old Town. There are none in central Hastings either, so it was a stupid answer to the question and internally, I was thinking ‘I probably should have just said yes.’
“What prompted you to apply for Carnival Queen?” he continued.
“It seemed like a good opportunity to promote our lovely town and at the same time make friends and enjoy new experiences,” I responded.
“What is your favourite thing about our town?” the compère asked, as he had to every contestant. Knowing that every girl before me had said the same thing I was planning to say, namely that the town’s events were the best thing, I ad-libbed from my practiced answer a little at the beginning, before ending with my rehearsed response:
“I think Hastings is a place where people can really be themselves and feel free to express their individuality. I also love the sense of community that comes with events such as Jack in the Green, Pirate Day and of course, Hastings Week and the Carnival.”
“Thank you; let’s have a round of applause for Elizabeth!”
I stood up and walked off-stage past the judges, smiling and waving as if I were the Queen of England, catching a glimpse of my adoring fans (Elliot and my friends) as I walked past. Once all the contestants had been interviewed, we were allowed to hang out with our friends and family until the judges had finished deliberating.
All of my friends asked me how I was doing and I told them I was having fun. Rosie wanted to know if I’d been nervous and I told her truthfully I’d been more nervous about the flute exam. Elliot was disappointed that none of his photos had come out well. One friend had brought all her kids to support me, which was nice. Soon enough it was time for the results, so along with the other eight finalists, I walked back on-stage and seated myself to await the announcement.
The crowns and sashes were laid out on the table and the thrones were positioned at the front of the stage. The compère seemed determined to draw out the suspense as long as possible, listing the various prizes for the winners, but even so, I was surprised when one contestant’s mother, standing far too close to the stage, yelled out:
“Get on with it!” but the compère continued unperturbed. The title of Second Princess, he informed us, went to a 14 year-old, the youngest contestant. That was when I knew I hadn’t won. I just had a gut feeling about it, so I was graciously accepting when First Princess went to one of last year’s Princesses and the titles of Old Town Carnival Queen and Miss Hastings went to a girl who’d previously been the Hastings May Queen. Not so the rude mother, who shrieked:
“What a crock of sh*t!” and stormed out, leaving her poor daughter on the stage to face the embarrassment of everyone pointing her out and muttering to each other. While I felt sorry for her, I felt even sorrier for the new Carnival Queen, having her victory moment marred by such an outburst.
My friends all said they were genuinely surprised that I didn’t at least get Princess but I didn’t really think much of my odds to begin with which is why the goal is ‘compete in a beauty pageant’ and not ‘win a beauty pageant’. You might be wondering why I would bother going for something I believed I had low odds of winning but then if I never entered then my odds of winning would have been 0 and not 1-in-9, so there you go.
P.S. And yes, I did spend the next morning crying in my bathroom but I know in my heart that in the eyes of my friends, fiancé and family, I am beautiful and will always be a Queen. I’m not giving up.
Thanks go to Alun Sambrook for the use of his images.