MIGHTY CULTURE

Why beauty queens make tough-as-nails warriors

Cultural norms create a lot of stereotypes about the ideal warrior. We all know that warriors must be strong in both mind and body. Yet, there is still a perception that only men can fill military ranks while women, known as the "weaker sex" (except when it comes to childbirth), of course, must sit at home and wait.

Then, there's the notion that even if a woman were a strong warrior, she couldn't possibly also be attractive, right?


But wait! 2017's Wonder Woman wasn't just an exciting piece of fiction, it also challenged every stereotype we hold about today's warriors. Its star, Gal Gadot, was Miss Israel, but she also served in the Israel Defense Forces, proving that beauty and being badass are not mutually exclusive.

Now, a cadre of millennial beauty queens who serve or have served in the military are exploding stereotypes and breaking barriers everywhere with a wave of their scepters (or maybe their 9mms). This is because warriors and beauty queens actually have a lot in common.

Physical and mental conditioning

On deployment, MREs are more likely on the menu than yogurt, fish, vegetables, and fruit. But while MREs might nourish you enough to get the mission done, they're not exactly packed with beautifying supernutrients.

Allison (Alli) Paganetti-Albers, Miss Rhode Island USA 2005, former Army Capt., and host of WATM's 'Troop Soup,' had to be lean for competition, but was required to stay within Army height and weight standards. She was restricted from going on a diet that would jeopardize her ROTC scholarship. Her first commitment was to her Army contract, so she chose to stay within those standards and won her pageant anyway.

The toughness that comes from military training and experience translates into confidence on the runway. And the opposite is also true — pageantry helps in achieving military goals. Staying on task, thinking positive, turning off negative feelings, and pushing away fear of failure are all essential to thriving in the pageant world, and help build a strong discipline.

Teamwork and being part of something greater than one’s self

In the military, the team is everything. You depend upon the people to your left and right. The satisfaction of being part of a great military team is unmatched.

But aren't queens just about themselves? Not really. Amazingly, the stereotype of extreme cattiness typically doesn't exist.

"Pageants should be part of something greater than self. There's no room to tear each other down. If you don't feel a sense of teamwork in pageantry, you're doing something wrong. There must be a sisterhood and collaboration," says Alexandra Curtis, Miss Rhode Island America 2015 and Rhode Island National Guard Sgt.

Another way beauty queens are about others is how they use their platforms. Besides her work with the ALS Association, Alexandra is very much into helping young women get into politics. She was inspired by women who blazed the trail before her by combining political office with Reserve and Guard careers. And her sister queens devote time to great causes, such as helping wounded veterans, visiting with active military members, and inspiring schoolchildren.

There's an extra sense of community responsibility among these contestants because they're military women. They feel they have to be good role models in both careers as they represent the country first, themselves second.

Goals and obstacles

When you're serving, the goal is accomplishing the mission. In pageantry, the goal is winning the title. But both military and pageant careers require facing down hurdles — just ask Marina Gray, Miss Maine USA 2018 and National Guard Sgt. Marina broke out of poverty and neglect when she became legally emancipated from her parents at age 16. From that moment on, she lived on her own and supported herself.

She enlisted in the Guard as a way to help pay for college. Her love of the Maine Coast helped, but her outlook was most important. She grew up religious. "The best way to beat adversity is to be optimistic. Don't ask 'why me?' Think: 'It happened to me because I could handle it'. Things happen for a reason."

Marina felt some discrimination from her male peers, not because for being a beauty queen, but because of her gender. She dealt with it by working even harder and became a 2015 Soldier of the Year, a 2017 NCO of the year, and earned various fitness awards. "I've faced much adversity in my life and the way I've overcome all my road bumps is what I think makes me a beautiful person. I think character shines much brighter than any shade of lipstick."

Yes, these women are gorgeous, but don't be fooled by their beauty. They're also about grit and determination. In their commitment to the warrior ethos and pageantry, two seemingly different careers, queens and warriors are more alike than not. They've tossed a couple of grenades at the notion that you cannot be beautiful and talented and strong and brave at the same time