Standing in front of the elevator were two giants. No, scratch that. Standing in front of the elevator were two amazons. One wore a skintight purple dress, with waterfall earrings and long dark hair falling to her waist. Her face was pretty enough, but what was most striking was her long and lean figure. She towered over me.
The second amazon, surpassing all logical reason, somehow managed to eclipse the first in beauty and stature. She was more than six-feet tall in heels, wearing a ruffled beige dress that matched her highlighted gold hair, a wide smile and minimal makeup. As she fluffed her hair in the mirrored door of the elevator, she spoke to the dark-haired girl in a soft Russian accent.
This was my competition.
I was clearly in for the two most masochistic hours of my life, surrounded by amazons in cocktail dresses. The only thing that stopped me from leaving was the $10 I spent in cab fare. (My EI claim has yet to be processed, so right about now, $10 is of the same value as the soul of my yet unborn first child.)
Leaving the two giants staring at themselves in the lobby, I went up to the 11th floor. It was completely devoid of amazons. Or anyone, for that matter. I had to be in the wrong place.
For the second time in less than five minutes, I turned on my heels to walk away, when I heard the receptionist call out to me. "It looks like you're here for Miss Universe. It's one more floor up." Instantly, a little self-confidence came back. If the receptionist knew, just by looking at me, that I was there for a beauty pageant, maybe I wasn't out of my league after all.
In the pre-interview room, I surveyed the competition. I didn't even have to be discreet about it--everyone else was doing the same. I was immediately relieved by two things: First, the amazons were nowhere to be seen. Second, I wasn't the fattest, the shortest, exposing the most cleavage (a girl with a see-through shirt and a low-cut bra won that prize) or even the oldest. But I was, quite possibly, the whitest. (Well, with the sole exception of a girl who was maybe white once upon a time, prior to her addiction to Fabutan.) And being a white girl from Canada is a clear disadvantage in the Miss Universe Canada solar system, where everyone else is exotic, with thick eyelashes attributed to their Eastern European, Persian or South Asian ancestry.
After spending five minutes filling out a questionnaire, we were called into the interview room for an information session and group interview.
And there they sat. The amazons. I had reason to be intimidated. The dark-haired girl was a two-time competitor. And the golden-haired giant? The current Miss Universe Canada.
First were the introductions. One by one, we introduced ourselves. Sure enough, all the cliches were there, including the 20-year-old from Brampton who wanted to become a lawyer because, like, she loves watching Law and Order. But for the most part, they were normal girls. Their moms or friends had convinced them to sign up. They had modelled in the past. They were students, or young professionals or just trying to find their way. They wanted to work in Kenyan orphanages or to start their careers in international development. They wanted to challenge themselves. They were just normal girls.
I am not a normal girl.
Then it was time for the beauty pageant question and answers. You know the ones. How do you feel about the death penalty? If your life was a book, what would the title be? Or, in my case, "What's the difference between wisdom and intelligence?"
I bombed it. While another girl was floundering on the abortion question (yes, the same girl who wants to be, like, a lawyer), a question I could have answered with ease, I was stumped on the difference between wisdom and intelligence. I tried to stall. I went for the laughs instead. "I'm feeling neither intelligent nor wise right now," I joked. A girl's cell phone went off. Everyone was staring at her. I answered quickly, while her cell phone was still serving as distraction, in hopes that my feeble answer wouldn't be heard.
And then, as quickly as it had started, it was over. My brief reign as a Miss Universe Canada applicant is over. It's unlikely I'll get much further in the process. Because at the end of the day, I was the whitest girl, one of the oldest, one of the shortest and, yes, one of the fattest girls there. (Relatively speaking, of course. In a room full of 20-year-old amazons-in-training, it's easy to be fat.) That, and I couldn't figure out the difference between wisdom and intelligence.
But here's the weird thing--even though this may have started out as a ironic experiment, I'm kind of sad that it's over. Because the truth is, after listening to the founder talk yesterday about the organization, I really do believe its sole purpose is to provide young women, particularly those who are interested in humanitarian causes (and who happen to look great in a bikini), with opportunities and support to achieve their personal and professional goals. And that's exactly the kind of support that young women today really need.