I’ve delayed writing about the results of how my niece, Alisa Shadura, did in her beauty pageant, in part because of other projects, and in part because of a pretty miserable bout of bronchitis that left me with little energy for composing blog entries. But having recovered a bit, I can finally fulfill my promise of describing how well Alisa did.
This event, a major one by Ostrovets standards, of course filled much of the town’s amphitheater. On a stage with a screen where Russian-language films are shown on a regular basis by the city administration, the girls were each introduced to an audience filled mostly with the families of the contestants. Each were given their chance to shine through a self-introduction, a talent act, and other normal sorts of pageant activities. There were moments when my niece might have done better, such as when she became so concentrated on what she was doing that she forgot to smile, but without a doubt, she performed flawlessly on stage as a singer, creating a presence that filled the entire stage and projected energy out to the audience. There was no way in which the judges could have avoided giving her the Miss Talent award, which we are to this day proud of her achieving.
There was a lot that I learned from watching the who pageant experience – to be honest, my first. The importance of smiling probably stood as the biggest lesson of the day. All the girls were pretty, and just about any of them could have won the competition. However, it really was the case that the girl who smiled the most was the one who shined the brightest. It dawned on me later just how important that lesson is. A smile can mean everything in situations such as a job interview, a sales proposal, when running for election, anything where you have to interact with, and impress, others. If you appear unhappy, people will be less interested in you and what you have to offer.
The importance of smiling is probably a new idea for this area of the world. I remember that, once upon a time, post-Soviet people thought Americans were all lunatics because they smiled all the time. It still is all too common even in this country that when you smile at complete strangers, they frown and look away. But when dealing with people day-to-day, you’ll make a better impression, be more attractive, give off the idea that you are more pleasant to deal with, if you smile. Probably somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this, but the pageant brought it to the very front of my realization.
The other thing I learned was the great need to manage expectations, particularly of hopeful young people. Alisa didn’t win the overall competition, and despite being Miss Talent, she was deeply disappointed. But really, in any beauty competition, you don’t win on being the most beautiful girl out there, you win because on that particular day, you shined brighter than any other beautiful girl who also graced the stage. Anyone can win – you just have to be more pleasant than the others. If Alisa tries again next year (and I hope she will), or if my own little one, Albina, tries for the same competition in a couple years when she turns 6, that’s going to have to be the main thing to make clear. That and the more you smile, the more likely you’ll win.