Wednesday, December 22, 2010

With this sweet sauce, I thee wed.

Two things I have been considering at length on my winter holidays:

1) The most appropriate Craigslist gig ad to reply to. (I haven't found the right gig yet, but I'm forwarding the best ones to their rightful owners. This one was for ChloƩ.)

2) After awarding a server (who dropped an f-bomb while reciting our specials and called us smart-asses) the last "beard tip" of the season, I've begun to wonder whether the nature of my friendship with ChloƩ confuses anyone. (Speaking of which, if you'd like to help celebrate our 8-year friendship anniversary, it will be taking place in trivia form at Czehoski on January 19th.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Research through Living

The answer is yes, I still blog. I'm just waiting for some quality material to come my way.

(Let me know if you see anything interesting in the craigslist gigs section.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guns in the Air

The best part about this videos is the commentary from Team J-Lock. (Specifically, Nina chastising Carla for laughing. But how could you not?)

Yes, the pageant opening number had the "n" word in it. We're fine young ladies and role models. (I may not be the most politically correct. But even I thought it was a little inappropriate.)

Thanks to Nina for the video footage.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pageant Conspiracy Theories

The spotlights were beating down on us and my fingers were crossed at my sides. With the swimsuit and evening gown competition finally over, it was the moment everyone had been waiting for. They were announcing the top 20 girls. I was hoping and praying—praying that they wouldn’t call my name. I had everything I wanted already. I was the People’s Choice.

After they finished announcing the top 20, I happily strutted to the wings to listen to the interviews. But backstage I couldn’t hear the question and answer period because I was busy consoling the losers, as we had quickly named ourselves.(In retrospect, I really wish I could have heard the interview portion of the night though. Apparently one of the girls responded to a question about “oral health” by talking about “aura health.” In prepping the other girls to answer questions, my particular area of expertise, I had no less than two people ask me, “But, Jessica, is capitalism a sin?”) Their tears surprised me, maybe because it hadn’t even occurred to me to be upset. I hadn’t been there to win in the first place.

“You can compete in other pageants,” I told them. “There’s still a lot of time.” I told them they deserved to be there, that they had worked hard and performed well. But nothing seemed to work. Mascara was running down cheeks and hands were clenched in frustration. So, I took a new tactic—I told them what I honesty thought.

It all started last Wednesday during our interview rehearsal process. Denis Davila, the pageant director, was giving us a pep talk and preparing us for Thursday’s interview. “Even if you’re not chosen, I don’t want you to be upset,” he reminded us. “Think of all the friends you’ve made along the way.” It was a heartfelt speech, meant to remind of us of all of why we were there. It was also meant to remind us that some of us would lose.

Denis is a bit of an enigma. For months now, I’ve been waiting for some sort of sleaziness to shine through. I mean, the guy is a beauty pageant director, after all. But there’s been nothing. Denis is a seemingly genuine individual. You want to be friends with him. You want him to mentor you. You trust him.

But listening to him on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think that there had to be some dirt on Denis. In the words of Tim Falconer, there had to be a fly in the ointment.

So, I started searching.

What I turned up was basically all heresy and unjustified allegations. Pageant conspiracy theories, if you will. But they were enough to make me consider the possibilities: The judges are always personal friends of Denis. In the national pageant, the winners are always from the GTA. Denis prefers Eastern European women. Girls who compete more than once basically buy their way to the top through their registration fee. But finally, the most jarring allegation—the winners are pre-determined and perhaps even “groomed” to win.

As I shared my thoughts with the girls backstage, the tears stopped. And although I may have been the instigator, I wasn’t the only one who had connected the dots. It wasn’t hard for everyone to reach the same conclusion. The judges barely watched us on stage. They were too busy BBMing. They were personal friends of Denis. And then there was the most conclusive proof; we were told that points would be deducted for being late. Yet, girls who were perpetually late (by hours) still managed to win. Denis himself even admitted on Wednesday that if he didn’t agree with the scores, he would move girls into the top 12.

That’s not to say that the top 20 or the top 12 girls didn’t deserve their spots. They are beautiful, stately and some are previous titleholders. And quite frankly, they are Miss Universe material. However, there were other girls who had worked hard and perhaps also deserved to participate in the national competition. I’m just saying that in order to make it to the national level, I think you had to come into rehearsals on day one with the walk, the look and the attitude. It didn’t matter how you performed on the night of the pageant or even whether you showed up on time and demonstrated professionalism throughout the process. The results had been predetermined.

So why even bother hosting a preliminary competition?

Well, the Beauties of Canada organization is a business, like all other sinful capitalist activities in life. The preliminary competition, depending on the corporate sponsorship levels, may be a money-generating event that helps to generate publicity, pay salaries and fund the national competition. The registration fees from the girls Canada-wide are just the bread and butter. It’s as simple as that.

That’s not to say that I think the organization is diabolical in any capacity. I can honestly say that I came out of the Miss Universe Canada 2011 preliminary competition with improved self-confidence and an amazing experience behind me. (Well, at least until the pageant photos of me in a bikini surfaced. I’m now sorely regretting eating the catered bagels and pasta salad prior to competing.) And, as Denis hoped we would, I made friends. Among others, I loved Darcy’s determination, Alena’s sense of humour and Jaclyn’s sincerity. With the exception of a couple of catty bitches (another thing I can openly say now) everyone was so lovely and supportive of one another.

And as we waited backstage, I almost started crying too, but for a completely different reason. For the second time this Fall, I had successfully carried through on something that I was scared shitless to do. I know group-leading a team of medical professionals through Guyana and dancing to Usher in a bikini may seem at the surface to be two completely separate activities, but for me, they were both a challenge. I had sacrificed my weekends for over a month to do something that I had never seriously visualized myself as being capable of. And even if I didn’t place in the top 20 (regardless of whether or not the competition is fixed), I won the People’s Choice Award. For the first time in my life, I won the popularity contest—and not because I’m the most beautiful or the best dressed or the queen bee. I won the popularity contest because my friends and family love me—potbelly, scars, sarcasm and all. My family and friends love me regardless of whether I’m the editor of a feminist magazine or if I’m a beauty pageant loser.

In the dressing room after the show, I hurriedly slipped out of my canary yellow evening dress and threw everything in my bag, save for my sash and my award, which I proudly carried with me into the lobby to meet Team J-Lock. But before I could leave, our runway instructor approached me, “Everyone really thinks you should go into acting,” he told me. (I don’t know who “everyone” is, but I was flattered.) “I’m way too old,” I told him. “I think I missed that train.” “No way,” he said. “You really should be an actress.”

An actress? Really? I am too old. But then again, I’m also too old to be a beauty queen. And if nothing else, it sounds like another adventure.

Anyone want to take some head shots for me?

Monday, December 06, 2010

The day after the party

I have pageant hangover. I'm sitting on my couch with Sir Brockton, watching the snow outside, refreshing my Facebook and reluctantly thinking about going in to work this afternoon.

My dog still loves me, I guess. Even if I have a potbelly.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Living the Dream

I wonder if I'm ever going to get sick of saying, "I am. . .the People's Choice!"

Probably not. But I think Jay's going to tire of it pretty quickly.

Thanks to everyone who voted! I may not have placed in the top 12 (or even in the top 20) and I may not be going to nationals, but this made my night.

(We're going out for brunch with my mom now. It's the first Sunday I've had off in literally months. But don't worry. There'll be dirt to come later.)

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Two Rules

Okay, so here was what I was going to post prior to my shitastic day:

I was going to blog about bikini waxes. Yesterday's was my first-ever. The look at my face says it all.

Turns out, there's not much to write. It was not pleasant and it likely won't be repeated.

And as for spraytans, we've already covered that. (Oh, hello there chemical spaceship. So we meet again.) Needless to say, it was a busy day.

While Saturday, the big day, is focused around evening gowns, silver potato sacks and bikinis, yesterday was actually the first part of the judging process. Our performance is marked on three things: evening gown, swimwear and interview. And while interview questions will feature into tomorrow night's pageant for 20 arguably lucky finalists, everyone had a chance to wow the judges in an intimate setting prior to the show.

Now, there are two key rules as a Miss Universe candidate:

1. Don't be late. (Every piece of correspondance from the Beauties of Canada desk, since day one, includes these three words, usually bolded and followed by twenty exclaimation marks.)

2. You must wear your sash during all pageant activities. (This is basically so they can tell all 40 of us apart. They're like giant nametags.)

Although I didn't even have time to shower yesterday, I somehow managed to dress myself and was on the streetcar by 2:00, leaving plenty of time to arrive early for my 3:00 interview. "You look so elegant," a woman told me in a thick Eastern European accent as I exited my building. I did look good, in a navy blue pencil skirt and my grandmother's coral-coloured sheer blouse. For the first time this week, all was going smoothly. I even had my work notes stuffed in my purse, so I could work on them while I waited for my interview to start. All was well.

And then I checked my Blackberry to reread the email with the address of the interview location.

"Don't forget your sash!" The reminder was written in red italic font, directly beside the address.

I forgot my sash.

Suddenly, the smugness was gone. So was my elegance.

I frantically jumped up and off the streetcar at Augusta. The feat to accomplish? Go all the way back to my condo in Parkdale, grab my sash and then get all the way back to Bay Street in 25 minutes. It cost me $40, but I managed it with the help of a friendly cab driver, with only two minutes to spare.

As soon as I arrived (with my sash concealing my amazing blouse), we were instructed to file into a board room in alphabetical order. In my group (letters "E" through "J") we sat down with the judges--five women, including a former Miss Universe Canada, and one man. It was brief--for a group of five girls, there was only 20 minutes allocated to the interview process. Basically, we each had less than three minutes to speak.

These were the questions:

1. Are women's rights still important? Why?
2. What do you think of chivalry?
3. How do you spread love in the world?
4. Tell us about a recent humiliating moment.
5. What would you do as Miss Universe Canada to create change?

I rocked it. Or at least I think I rocked it--even with a pounding heart and shaking hands. (I hid them under the table all the while thinking, "Oh man, if I'm nervous now, what happens on Saturday?") I tend to do well in interview situations. I somehow managed to use the word etymology in one of my answers, as well as a brief rant about "Ms." vs. "Mrs." which resulted in a couple of "Right on sister!" head nods from the empowered female judges.

In conclusion, I think they liked me with my clothes on. But really all that matters is that they like me with my clothes off, too.

Rehearsals start at 11:00 am tomorrow. This will likely be my last blog post before the big night. Remember, it's not too late to vote! A final thank you to all my sponsors, including:

Jane Baldwin
Bryan Cox
Janel Goyette

Shit Storm Update

2:24 PM Update: Dog is on antibiotics and dry-heaving now. Manicure is, as predicted, ruined. House is clean. Hair is still greasy. I cried three times: once at home, once at the vet and once on the streetcar. Also, I haven't eaten yet today.

Time to go to the airport!

Shit Explosion

Holy shit, my life exploded. Quite literally. As of last night, Brockton has a case of explosive diarrhea. It fits in perfectly with the theme of this week--a dead car battery in the pouring rain, a lost TTC pass, a $40 cab ride and now a dog with diarrhea.

So now, instead of blogging about my fabulous French manicure and yesterday's interview with the Miss Universe Canada judges, I will be ruining said $40 French manicure by scrubbing shit off my dog's forehead and my floor. I will also be fitting in a visit to the vet somewhere in between taking my dog outside every five minutes, cleaning and picking my mom up at the airport.

Something's gotta give. In this case, it's showering. I haven't washed my hair in four days.

Here's a nice photo of the batboy himself, prior to his shit explosion last night.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Give a Gift That Empowers Youth

When I was researching beauty pageants, all of the websites advised me to develop a platform. While bikini waxes and spray tans are well outside of my comfort zone, determining a platform is the only thing that came naturally.

Since graduating from university, I haven't exactly been clear on what it is that I want to professionally, but one thing has always remained--I want to work with youth. Youth are at their most vulnerable. They are struggling to develop the skills to join the workforce, they are struggling to make their voices heard and they are struggling with substance abuse and lack of access to youth-friendly health services.

So, in between rehearsals and nail appointments, one of the many things that I've been working on is YCI's Gift Catalogue.

This holiday season, please consider giving a gift that empowers youth. Check out the Gift Catalogue here to make your tax-receiptable donation.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Quotes of the Day

"I can't believe they're going to make you girls wear that. It's atrocious."
-Jay, upon first seeing my Miss Universe-issued "cocktail" dress.

"I can't wait to see 40 girls dancing in silver potato sacks."
-Jay, upon further discussion of the above-mentioned "cocktail" dress.

"What the hell is that thing next to your crotch?!"
-Jay, upon first seeing my Miss Universe-issued bikini.

Trust me guys, this is gonna be good.

My evening dress, on the other hand, is lovely. (Thanks to Brie for hooking me up with Wilshire Fashions, who lent me a sample Laundry by Shelli Segal evening gown.)