Is Beauty Only Skin Deep?

From teaching in Japan to Canadian pageant glamour

Update: January 12, 2013

Hemmer appeared on The Stateless Man show, and you can hear the edited down segments here.

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I should also note that in both segments we touched upon her graduate studies. Hemmer is completing her Master of Arts in Transpersonal Psychology with Sofia University in Palo Alto in California. This a distance program that requires her to travel to California for one week each year.

November 14, 2012

I took part in the Miss Earth Canada pageant this August after returning from a year teaching English in Japan on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Programme). Quite the contrast you may think, and it was.

I went from wearing no colors at all in my daily life as an English Sensei at a Japanese High School to wearing the most vibrant and striking clothes during the three day competition in Montreal, Canada. Whereas in Japan I was au naturel for the entire year and was not permitted to wear earrings nor paint my nails, at the pageant I was surrounded by glamour, large accessories, and makeup.

Why, you might ask, would a girl who spent her year in the classroom want to take part in a beauty competition? I’ll tell you why.

First, I think every girl who decides to enter a pageant does so for her own unique reasons and aspirations. My reason for entering this particular pageant was that its vision and philosophy was grounded in environmental awareness for youth in Canada. Second, the winner of the competition goes on to the international pageant to represent Canada at Miss Earth in Asia—the Philippines this year. Finally, I craved a little bit of glamour and flair after feeling like a washed out version of myself while in Japan.

Prior to the Miss Earth Canada pageant, I had taken part in Miss World Canada back in 2008 when I was just eighteen years old. That was my first national pageant experience and before that I was Miss Club Heidelberg (representative for the German cultural club in Niagara) and Miss Niagara Region. Pageants are exciting, exhilarating, and fun.

Perhaps I was drawn to pageantry after playing competitive basketball for ten years in Canada. My athletic and competitive nature in sports led me to want to compete in pageants as well. I love the rush of energy that comes from being on stage and being able to be my best self. Pageants are a way to cultivate many qualities such as poise, grace, elegance, and public speaking skills. Many times I’ve encountered people who think pageants are for girls who lack intelligence and who only have their looks to show. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Through my experience in pageants, I’ve had the chance to meet some of the most amazing, well rounded, intelligent, ambitious, accomplished, and driven young women. The vast majority of the girls who compete in high quality pageants are high caliber young women themselves. These Canadian beauties are far more than just pretty faces or “eye candy.” I’ve met future lawyers, doctors, surgeons, teachers, professors, nurses, entrepreneurs, physicists, and world travelers. These young women have it all; beauty, brains, and purpose.

When I think of the difference between modeling and pageants, the one reason I sometimes have preferred pageants to modeling is that it gives you the ability to use your voice and speak about things that matter. By addressing environmental concerns, world politics, humanitarian causes, or social issues one can bring light to important causes and issues relevant to our society today. It’s using beauty for a greater purpose, and is there anything wrong with that?

Our western culture is already absorbed and preoccupied with beauty through many different mediums. Young girls are exposed to western ideals of beauty through magazines, TV, and music videos—and often these women are not the best role models for young girls to look up to. Young girls that are in the process of becoming young women need positive and empowered female role models, not just stick thin models they see in magazines and celebrities who are living the Hollywood lifestyle.

What has happened to beautiful women of substance? I think it is so important for a girl to not just rely on her physical looks to attract attention or seek validation from men. Intelligence and a strong sense of self, along with confidence, are truly beautiful.

Yet, one thing I’ve learned is that beauty is definitely more than skin deep. Real beauty is not equated with makeup, hair products, or cosmetic surgery. Natural beauty is authenticity, confidence, and self esteem. I also don’t think beauty is exclusive to the young. Nor is it exclusive to women who fit into western standards of female beauty. Every single woman is unique and beautiful in her own way, and sometimes the presence she brings to a room can be far more captivating than her external appearance.

When I took part in Miss World Canada and Miss Earth Canada, I did not see myself in competition with the other young women from across Canada. I was in competition with myself to be better than I was, because when you are your authentic self you have no competition. I think if more young girls realized this at a young age, many more would embrace themselves for who they are as opposed to trying to change themselves to fit in to what our culture and society deems beautiful.

Overall, there are many aspects of pageants that I can appreciate, yet the judges do not always see what is truly beautiful. The winner is not necessarily the most beautiful girl in the room, and how could it ever be possible to judge what beauty is? What is beautiful to one person will be different to another. What’s considered beautiful in Asia tends to be very different than what would be beautiful in North America. Beauty is culturally constructed. Therefore, pageants in a way are like acting and are similar to a theatrical performance. They are full of glamour and sparkles which can be a form of self expression.

When it comes to beauty, though, I don’t believe anyone can fit it into simply a pageant criterion, because beauty is much more than that which meets the eye. When I think of true beauty I think of a light that shines within the soul outwards, emblazing and touching everyone and everything… inner radiance.

You can read about Nicole’s experiences in Japan with her article, “A Year in the Land of the Rising Sun.”

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Nicole Hemmer About Nicole Hemmer

A traveler currently based in Canada—having visited 30 countries by 2012—a graduate student, a model, and a contributor to The Stateless Man. You can subscribe to her updates on Facebook at Nicole Hemmer.

Karen Sita
Karen Sita

Hi Nicole, loved your article on Beauty - totally agree on beauty truly radiating from the inside out and how it is something that is lost in our culture. I didn't know you were in a pageant - how courageous and gorgeous of you. Reading brought back the memory of how much i loved watching the pageants on tv when i was little. You really hit the nail on the head to being authentic to our truest selves -- and bringing this awareness to young women of today is so important. It is women such as yourself Nicole who I believe are on the leading edge of true empowerment and making our world a better place. 

much love, K