For the past two and a half months, I've breathed everything pageant related. I would start every morning by reciting my proverb, followed by a session of rapid fire Q&A's, then scrolling through websites to see my potential wardrobe for the big day. I felt the fire coming back and I knew that if everything goes right, I could possibly walk away with the crown. I was wrong. Hard work didn't pay off. Dedication didn't pay off. I nailed all segments of the first round, performed 150 times better than what I've shown to the staff at weekend practices and even when I thought I did everything right, I was wrong. I didn't advance to the second round. As I walked off stage after the MC announced the last name that would be joining Top 10, I felt anger and frustration. Immediately, I looked directly towards the table of judges only to find them whispering to each other and nodding their heads in agreement. Something felt off, but I couldn't quite point my finger on it.
It was in that moment that I started to think further and recalled the moment when I walked on stage to deliver my proverb in Vietnamese. Rather than glancing at the score card and taking down notes, I saw their facial expressions as all 5 judges started to whisper to one another. Words I could not make out due to my having to say my proverb out loud. As confident as I was, as soon as I got backstage, I felt a tiny knot in my stomach. Despite my intuition, I prayed that for once, everything will fall through. Well, it didn't and I was wrong (again).
My initial reaction was anger. Nothing made sense to me. As I sat on the sideline with my best friend, one of my pageant sisters walked up to me and said, "Don't look too mad, Khanh. Someone is throwing shades at you."
I had an inkling of who she was referring to, but I didn't want to make a quick assumption. A day after the fiasco, I had more people telling me the same thing. "Someone is spreading the word about you looking mad and your reaction." It wasn't long before I figured who it was and my intuition, this time, was right. Sadly, it happened to be a person I saw every weekend for pageant practices, but someone I never really interacted before today.
Typically, when this kind of unnecessary drama arises, I'd tend to ignore it. Only this time, it was different because I knew that if I didn't approach the subject to her, she will continue to bash me for a long time. Honestly, why someone has the time to make others feel bad about themselves is beyond me.
I eventually told this person that her words are hurtful and that I hope she could extend the same courtesy to me as I have for her. Rather than being my usual upfront self, I wanted to look at this situation as a means to spread compassion and kindness. Unsurprisingly, I received a response that was far from those two things. She "lol"ed her way through and said something along the lines of admitting that she did indeed said those things. I wasn't taken aback by it because I wanted to give this person a benefit of doubt, but I was wrong (for the fifteenth time). Initially, I shrugged it off because I knew that these meaningful words came from a place of insecurities and lack of confidence. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much she had in common with the panel---whose integrity and transparency are things I've questioned.
I wanted to share this personal experience with you since I know that some of you out there may have experienced similar injustices, pre-judgments, and down-right shady people. Of course, our situations are different but there's one thing I've learned and that's rescripting the paradigm. Instead of lashing out and being angry (like I was a few days ago), I've learned to come to terms with myself. I stand by my moral code. I am a person who tries to see the good in people time and time again. Even then, I've used my own self-awareness and conscience to develop skills that will enable me to walk away feeling like a winner in my own rights.
I may not have the crown. I may receive backlashes for trying to challenge the status quo and the nature of my own community, but I stand by equality and freedom of expression. I don't believe in silencing myself when I have much to say about the corrupt system that has existed over the years.
One day, when my platform is big enough, I will share with you my real story and struggles. You will learn that things are not always black and white and people are not exactly what they portray themselves to be. So if anything, trust yourself, your gut instinct, and continue to spread goodness.
I'm going to take some time off and do more reflections. Perhaps, I will share with you more of my insights then.
Until next time - Fight On.