Why My Friends Aren’t Prettier Than Me

By Urma Redmond

“Ladies, this pageant isn’t a competition between you and the next girl,” our pageant mom was telling us. “This is a competition with yourself.”

Yeah right, I thought skeptically. It was the first day of Miss Black and Gold rehearsal, and I was already scoping out my nineteen soon-to-be-pageant sisters. The one sitting up front had a better curl pattern than I did. The girl across the room was so much prettier than I was. The girl sitting right next to me had a better body than I could ever work for. I felt a bit discouraged as I tried to finish listening to our pageant mom speak. How was I supposed to compete against these girls? There’s no way I could win a title: I can’t even compare to them.

I soon learned that I was never meant to compare myself anyway.

There was a shift that happened to all of us as we dug deeper into our pageant rehearsal. We figured out that pageants were not just about showing off your good side, giving a special wink to the judges and wanting world peace. It was work. Our rehearsals, as fun as they could be, were draining. Between prancing around in heels and finding your voice to impress the judges, it took a toll on all of us. In the midst of body-aching and soul-tiring practices, we needed support and love.

I’m not sure how we all got on the same page, but it happened quickly. We started to really view each other as “sisters”, instead of competitors, and there was a mutual understanding that we had to be there for each other during this pageant. So instead of keeping to ourselves, we reached out to one another. We gave suggestions on which dress would look best on whomever. We ran through our opening number together outside of rehearsal time, often with a few bottles of wine and plenty of laughter. We sat quietly in the corner with each other whenever one of us started to feel anxious about being on that stage, reassuring each other that we were going to knock everyone off their feet. All of us were going through some form of pressure, and with the constant support and positivity we gave each other, we all emerged as diamonds.

The night of the pageant was magical for us. We held hands and prayed together before the opening number, and used those same hands to high-five each other after putting on a phenomenal performance. We cheered when our one pageant sister sung her talent flawlessly, and we all gave snaps of approval when another did her bathing suit walk perfectly without missing a beat. When it was time to announce the winners, we hugged each other with excitement and were genuinely happy for those crowned.

There was a lot of love in the atmosphere that night. Black love, sisterly love, all of that. I never would have imagined it would have formed from a pageant, where young women have to “compete” against each other in beauty, intelligence and talent. In the pageant, not only were we recognized for our own individual greatness, but we also we appreciated everyone’s aura. It was an amazing realization: women really thrive off admiring and appreciating each other.

After the pageant, it became easier for me to stop comparing myself to the next girl. I stopped feeling envious whenever another girl was taking all of the attention within company. I stopped side-eyeing the smart girl in class whenever she made a good point. I stopped looking at my own friends and secretly wishing to have everything they did. I no longer felt inferior to my friends, who were all gorgeous and ambitious and incredible. I realized that my friends aren’t prettier than me: we were all the same amount of beautiful.

I want to encourage women of color to stop comparing themselves to the next woman. It’s simply unfair: it’s unfair to you, and it’s unfair to whoever is being held to this high pedestal. As women, we have this nasty tendency to become jealous of another girl for a quality she may have. Instead of becoming inspired by that quality or just complimenting it on its own, we feel the need to prove ourselves better, or eliminate it entirely. It’s robbing both of the parties. Why can’t we allow every one of us to great?

It’s especially hurtful for women to turn against each other in “competition”. Women of color have always been compared in a negative light against other races: whether it’s been a pay wage gap, a new fashion style or how they carry themselves. It’s not helping us thrive when we purposefully pit ourselves up against one another. Society has already done that enough for us. Comparison is a thief of joy, and we cannot let anything else steal our joy away.

Queens, don’t ever feel inferior standing next to another sister. Feel empowered instead. Don’t worry about who’s the prettiest, or the smartest, or the most fun. You are not in competition: you have already won by simply being.

Smile at your sisters today. Happy living.

LiveKaren Spears