I always dreamed of being Miss California, of going on to win the Miss USA crown and rocking the most patriotic costume in the Miss Universe Pageant. Growing up where the San Gabriel River ends, this year felt particularly perfect for me, since the event would be held at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, and I had the honor of representing the city where the event was founded, as Miss Long Beach USA. When I think back to setting this goal, I had no way of knowing the impact it would have on my life. But as I started to compete in pageantry, It was clear to me the impact of the industry.
The title was first used in 1926 by the International Pageant of Pulchritude until the Great Depression and events preceding World War II led to its intermission. In 1952, the current Miss Universe Pageant was revived by Pacific Knitting Mills, California-based company and manufacturer of Catalina Swimwear. Miss America winner refused to pose in one of their swimsuits, which led to to this series of events and women empowering themselves within the constructs of pageanty. For years to follow the company sponsored the swimwear, promoting the line and community interests at events throughout Long Beach. As the years passed by, the pageant grew, gaining worldwide recognition and participation.
However, the 2021 state pageant did not have a swimwear sponsor. An odd twist for it’s 70th anniversary, that made me feel as if it was finally the year us contestants could make our own. So I set out to do just that.
In part, this made me believe that they were not just looking for a face to promote their products. But a whole person, perhaps even a designer like me, who could bring this system to a place the 21st century needs and design swimwear anyone would be proud to wear, uplifting them and their community, knowing it was created with respect to the environment.
“Since its start, the Miss Universe Organization has used its global grassroots reach to empower women to be self-confident and strive to be their personal best. Believing that every woman should be ‘Confidently Beautiful.’”
But that wasn’t always how it made me feel.
You may be wondering why someone whose passion is handmade eco-friendly fashion, would want to be affiliated with an organization whose main contribution to the world could be chocked up to parading in pretty gowns and promoting the latest products. But if the preparation I did taught me anything, it was that
The only way out is in, we’ve gotta get through it to begin again. So that is what I did.
With such a wide influence, I felt that if I was selected as a state title holder, I would be able to share sustainability and wellness with a larger audience. Bringing more awareness to the efforts being made in my home state of California, by local designers and groups like Fibershed. Modeling steps we could all take to make the world a more eco-friendly and biodynamic place.
Unfortunately, the contract contestants had to sign stated things differently. The title holder would be required to comply with any sponsorship agreement they arranged or be subject to possibly losing her title. In addition to that, they would own her likeness and “any and all material that she may create (or participate in the creation of) including, any public video diaries, vlogs and blogs, written or contributed to, any content posted or distribute through online, mobile or social media, and any photographs and other recordings taken. The Material, including the copyright and all other rights therein, shall be the sole and exclusive property of Miss USA. The Material may be used, broadcast, exhibited, distributed, advertised, publicized, promoted or otherwise exploited.
Any and all appearances would need to be approved and her reign as Miss (State) USA 2021 is under the sole control of Miss USA. Agreeing that she will not receive or generate any monetary advantage.
I tried my best to keep in mind that the event was directed by Girlbossing Inc. Yet the rules made me feel like I would not get to be the boss of me. I would be signing over my identity to used for whatever they wanted me to do. Giving up the rights to my life, creations, and business to support their own.
This pageant is a business. It cost almost $2000 to enter. For which we are told to ask local business for sponsorship. I went to every store in Belmont Shore, trying to acquire mine and still came up short of the funds needed to participate. Headshots cost me over $1300 for 12 edited images. Many of which I barely looked like myself. I saved a little by making almost all my own outfits, but felt pressured by the directors “what level do you want to compete at” comment and my parents helped me purchase a gown from the “sponsor”. The one I selected was the cheapest I could find, and it still cost more than my rent. Many of the gowns were upwards of $4,000-7,000.
But what upset me most was that this contest is about sisterhood and sportsman ship. Yet when myself and other girls were eliminated, we were excluded from watching the show and cheering on all the wonderful contestants we had gotten to know. If it wasn’t for my friends watching from home, I wouldn’t know what the on stage questions were. Looking back, I wish the organization had to answer them too. One girl was asked “What does integrity mean to you?” and that is something I found to be lacking. As much as the contract stressed me out, rules related to entry, were loosely, if at all enforced.
One stated that contestants may “not compete, and will not compete, in any other state pageant (including any preliminary state pageant) preliminary to the 2021 Miss USA Pageant or in any state pageant. Yet a majority of the top 17 did do other state pageants, like Arizona (whose director was a judge), Florida, Utah, Mississippi, Texas, and I bet I’m missing more.
Another rule that bothered me was girls only needed to reside or go to school in the area they were representing for 90 days prior to the event. If it were up to me, we would follow the same rules as the universe. Contestant should have to actually live and be apart of the community for a Jupiter cycle, the planet of growth and grace, which transits signs every 12 months.
We also had no Miss Congeniality. An award I find to be just as important as the actual crown, because it means you are a decent human being. To me, that should be what we each strive to embody.
A my favorite podcasting duo of mine, The Spiritual Gayz, nailed it right on the head when they said “we let the bad hit us and hurt us, and we have trouble letting the good in the same way” but Socrates words also stuck with me: “The life not tested by criticism, is not worth living”.
Over the course of my pageant journey I’ve been told many things need to change about me and my body if I was going to have a shot at winning. I had coaches say I’d be a better candidate if I had breast implants, lost or gained weight. If we had six-pack abs, we were encouraged to wear a one piece to not seem too skinny. I was taught to stand and pose in ways that hid my “less flattering” features, and bought countless products so my face would be ready for the stage. And of course, the classic style choice, white wins. All of these comments came from a place of support, but this contest should not be about changing me, I believed it was meant to help me enhance my best qualities. Showcasing my strengths and what makes us each feel great.
“Know thyself” -Socrates
Wearing white, now makes me think of yoga and Shiva! The color of all colors, helping to embody the collective consciousness. As for myself I believe in the unretouched, no makeup or fillers life. Yoga, Ayurveda and holistic health. So it was comforting to hear Youtube personality and former Miss Montana USA say in one of her videos that this is “natural pageantry”. For genuine character is not something that can be received or purchased, but rather a personal achievement won only at the cost of constant intellectual betterment and self reflection.
Sometimes you’ll hear the pageant called a competition. Yet, I believe the only person we were up against was ourselves. If I was competing for anything, it’s world peace. As YouTuber, The Sovereign has said, the crown is a symbol. One that has the power to impact our universe.
20 years prior to the day of my state’s preliminary competition, our nation lost many lives and another symbol of global trade and commerce. I’ll never forget that day and how my country changed, nor have I been able to overlook the fact that the person behind the attack was a fan of crochet. Vanity Fair even shared how they found many crochet patterns on his personal computer. To be honest, this totally freaked me out at first, but there is good in even the worst of people. I believe that though respecting women and artisans, we can remake our world into and even better place. “Only a society founded on divine principles and governed by divinely informed philosophers can save mankind from its destructive irrationality.” – Richard Tarnas
Throughout our lives we are constantly learning. Being told what’s expected and best. I believe everything we encounter or hear has it’s merit. But that doesn’t always mean we are going to care for it. It is important to have people, parents, or coaches we can turn to when we need support. And trusted guides to assist us from time to time. We are a social species after all. I know I grow so much from every interaction and relationship. There comes a time when we need to forget. Embrace what our bodies know inherently, allowing our souls to speak. Though this can be harder than we think. Nothing compares to insights you’ll find, when you begin to explore and conquer your own mind. We can face the same lesson over and over, but until we are ready to receive the message’s teachings, there is no point to be hurt by others preaching. It is likely coming from a place of love, protection, or projection… Which is why we must really know ourselves, embrace our strengths, and be open to what each experience or person has to say. There may come a day when can’t ask for help, or what’s okay. We must be able to decipher what is best in our own way. For me this has been challenging. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt like I’ve had no one to turn to. You can always turn to you. It helps me to write, make, and meditate. Close my eyes, and feel what my body says inside. Yet our world is filled with stimulation. Constantly calling our attention.
But if I still have yours, thank you. Together, there is so much more we can do. And our world needs each and every one of you. Just as God intended, we are each here for a reason.
I’ve come to find for me, it’s embracing the natural things. Sharing my understanding of universal patterns and philosophies. Born in Long Beach, the international city of eco-friendly innovation, I’ve met a surprising amount of hesitation. Our society is built around consumerism. It is so easy to buy and say goodbye to a holistic way of life. Unfortunately, mother nature has had enough. If the covid pandemic taught me anything, it’s that it was time for a wake up call. Appreciate what we have and take care of what we want to last. Times change, and we have got to make a difference fast. So although my time as a contestant is over, I’m not saying goodbye to the plan for world peace, it inspired me to realize.
“The events provide an international platform through dedicated partnerships with charities, sponsors, and brands around the world. Partnering at the State level with the Best Buddies International and the American Red Cross, in addition to initiatives with Smile Train and Dress for Success”.
In addition to these nonprofits I founded my own, Free-Yoga. After working in affordable housing for over 5 years, I saw a need for the arts, health, and growth to be integrated into the community. The goal of Free-Yoga is to provide people with free practices, tools, and resources that enrich their lives and lead to advancement. While working at low-income projects, the biggest issue I came across was stagnation. Once people got a break, many took one of their own. But homelessness is still a huge issue. People need to feel inspired to continue to improve their lives, develop their talents, and achieve their dreams. The more we grow, the more others can be motivated by our choices and have opportunities to do the same.
“We actively encourage young women in the state of California to give back in their communities and advocate for issues they feel passionately towards.”
I spent the pandemic working the only job I could get as a new yoga teaching, housekeeping at Long Beach’s local gym, Iconix Fitness. Since things started to reopen, I now offer sound bath’s and yoga classes. But not only have I been offering regular yoga classes and sound meditations for the past year, I’ve also been working on producing my own music at Icon Collective College Of Music, to accompany these healing modalities.
Having worked in the music industry for the past 4 years, creating art installations and workshops for festivals like Lightning in a Bottle and Dirtybird, it is my goal to make these arts available not only at the Craftopia and ArtClave stage, but accessible in your place.
During the pageant, we were also asked “What advice would you give your younger self” I replied that “vapes are not candy”. Although smoking cigarettes was never a struggle of mine, those flavor filled nicotine sticks have been hard to kick. So instead of asking for a hit, I’ve started to ask friends to give me their empties. Recycling is really important, but I’ve also been working on a new art piece. One that takes these polluting little things, and reinforces what we all really need to do.
For the past couple years, I’ve been collecting and gluing them together to create a huge sign that says just that. My goal is to have it displayed at future events, like Art Basel, Coachella, and LiB along with video testimonials from former smokers, and tools to help people to quit.Although I stopped paying close attention to pageantry when it’s former owner ran for the presidency. My subconscious was still deeply connected to unlocking the keys of our universe and mastering the tools God gave me, especially pattern recognition. Advocating for mental health in an approachable way, that has been around since before the dawn of our modern age.
My love and understanding of the Universe took on a new shape. After I graduated with a degree in Classics, I became an expert astrologer and tarot reader for Sanctuary Wrld. A leading app in the magical sphere, to learn how to read your natal chart, starts, and cards. Applying the messages of these symbols, to understand ourselves, cycles, open our eyes, and improve our lives. I also created a podcast, Myth of the Moment, which shares stories of the ancient world, astrology, and art! Detailing patterns and history that continues to shape our world. Weaving the past with today to unveil ancient themes in the collective consciousness.
One day I would love to create a place where all of these practices can be intertwined. In permaculture, you are supposed to observe the land for 70 years before you make a change, unfortunately I might not have that long. But I have learned so much from the past 70 years of pageantry that began here in Long Beach. My big picture plan is to create a biodynamic fiber farm and event center, basically a school, where people of all ages and immerse themselves in the patterns of nature, and learn to embrace their innate talents and drives.
Mother nature may be in a state of turmoil. But we can each do our part to make a difference. Embody what is true for you and from the ground up, enrich our soil!
‘Cause we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
Let your dreams, be your wings was this years theme. Sustainability has long been the theme of mine. But studying and posting about it is not enough. We need to come together, make a change with our choices, habits, and adjust the overall industry. Instead of outsourcing materials to make a profit or complete our ensembles, we can connect with local artisans and businesses.
In preparation for the pageant, I began to connect with fiber farmers throughout the state of California. Making all of my outfits, I want to help others do the same. So I started with the root. With the help of fibershed’s network, I contacted almost every farm trying to source fiber to make my own yarn, specifically for crochet and climate beneficial fashion production.
We’ve dug ourselves into a big hole, but “I can fix that”.
In need of a new outfit or project? It takes a while to crochet and I’ll likely need some investors before I’m able to create a yarn specifically made for my designs. Currently, you can get tangled up in the process with my meditative patterns. Weave your way or have it made by selecting some climate beneficial fiber wear to be crafted custom for you. Throughout the pandemic, I offered weekly crochet classes, or you can also learn with me online! Sign up for tutorials on the Graphy app and follow my YouTube channel for additional tools.
Every girl who competes believes that she should win. I was no different. You’ve got to feel like the world revolves around you, if pageantry is what your heart wants to do. But I did take some time away from this blog, because it began to feel like the stories I would tell were filled with so many details about me, it was easy to lose sight of the theme behind my writing. Overall I intended the posts to tell the story of finding myself and provide insights for others to do the same.
Representing Long Beach, It was a thrill to connect with my community. I loved sharing my passion with weekly classes, and had a blast doing readings at Salud Juice. But the pageant isn’t about me either, it’s about honoring the community. I could stitch together every bit of my ensemble myself, but I’ve always felt this event is bigger than any one person. It’s about uniting our home towns, sharing what we are known for to make the universe to make it a better place for everyone. Although I have my grievances with the pageant system, I hope this post will encourage others to keep trying to improve it. As much as my mental health was tested in the process, I feel so proud of all it has led me to share and the path I have taken to get here.
Thank you to all the businesses who were a part of my journey. Bullhorn.fm and Free Conference Call, without whom I would not have been able to enter the pageant. The Urban Charm, Salud Juice, Joa Diary, Wild And Free Jewelry, Iconix Fitness, Seam Siren, SAGA, Emarvanany Jewelry Collection, Elementz, Olivia Rose Beauty, Mikey Pesante, Free Transfer, Fine Still Lines, and Desert Twinkle. As well as my teachers, coaches, and schools: Halo Seronko at Shakti Temple Arts, Purple Yoga, Dr. Chew at Long Beach State, ICON Collective College of Music, Justin Rudd, Vergilian Society, University of Glasgow Global Mental Health, Spiritual Emergence with Michelle Anne Hobart, Earth Rooted Leadership and Fibershed. And of course the places I’ve been blessed to work and learn at: Sanctuary Wrld, Art Du Vin, Jet Blue, Lightning In A Bottle, and Dirtybird Records. Lastly, my family, friends, God, and The Universe for always supporting and cheering me on.
“May the bridges you burn, light your way”
World Peace & Love,
Megan Nicole Boyd