Monday, July 24, 2006
And the winner is... were the words that I heard on that June night in 2002, not really expecting to hear my name, but hoping at least I had done my best as a contestatnt. To my utter suprise, the Mistress of Ceremonies, Dolly said, " a good buddy of mine, Cassausdra Manchester!" The audience errupted with cheers and well wishes from the darkened lounge. Fellow contestants stood steadfast and then offered there ceremonious well wishes. The crown was placed on my head by then, MGA Alexa Breckenridge and I was off to represent the title MGNLR 2002-2003, yet later discovering that all the glitter isn't gold. Flash forward to the 2006. The pageant season is again in full swing and I had to take a look back at the significance of that experience. My alter ego was something thatI dreamed up and was a creation that I had crafted over the years. But, the fact was that this character had always lived in me because it was apart of my self confidence, creative outlet and imagination, despite the reality that often I didn't really know what to make of it or how to exploit it. My winning the pageant was a small validation of all those things past, as well as, my embrace of all those who felt really proud of it. Of course those in my camp, long time companion James who served as Co-producer and friend Micheal who served in all capacities assured me to believe that I was a winner. This inner circle of love had actually prepared me for the tempest that was brewing on the horizon. Their support allowed me to withstand the lies, inundo, untruths and mischaracterazation that were espoused by disgruntled agitators. Consequently I was summoned to appear before the pageant Board of Directors on trumped up allegations that were being manipulated by forces "from the shadows" and further coerced by the State pageant promoter whom had differences with Dolly D productions, and a 20 year old business maneuver made by myself. I made the decision to not be apart of this mean spirited witch hunt that smelled of tacky ego's with vague recollections and small minded individuals who were being used as puppets to instigate this madness. The pageant agreement and subsequent fees associated with it did not state that my background would have any adverse affect on the outcome of the pageant. I contend that if there were going to be any issues, none of my money should've been accepted upfront. For those unaware, pageantry is an expensive venture where the contestant usually bears the all the cost involved. Even though fundraisers are held, these don't cover all cost. I actively sought out sponsorships and private donations to offset expenses. After the win, I was fortunate to have a sponsor who compensated me accross the board. Others are not so lucky. Yet,apparently those naysayers didn't abide by the good sportsmanship rule and accept this a fair outcome. This entire ordeal became a "reality check" to me about the pageant system and why these pageants have diminished in significance within the community. Historically, these pageant productions deemed themselves as avenues to creativity thusly producing pride and sportsmanship. However, I take exception that these "pageants" have subcumbed to real competition resulting in rather contrived "recycled productions" with often manipulated or questionable results. In my case, bold statements such as, "I wasn't expected to win the title", " I had secured special help," and that I should abdicate the title "because I wasn't prepared to take it to the state level," were hurtful and condescending. All of this engineering from somewhere over the "symbol of excellence," meanwhile participants who quietly acknowledged this misdeed, but didn't rally the cause. As I understand there have been many other cases using these tactics throughout pageant history. As for me, I resloved that I would rise above it all and continue to represent no matter the tensions. I felt that I exuded the real excellence that pageants tout, by remaining professional and meeting all scheduled commitments,even without participating in the state competition. I chose my comments carefully about the system while reigning and concluded as I started, a true winner in the eyes of the people who stood before me on that prideful night in June 2002. It was their support, belief and encouragement to which I owe a hearty thanks. Best wishes and good luck to this year's contestants, hopefully all that glitter's is really gold!