The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

The independent student news site of San Marcos, California

The Cougar Chronicle

History Club Celebrates Women’s Empowerment Through Pageantry

Hannah Crawford

Pageantry is an art that has hailed since Ancient Greece. Contrary to inaccurate media perceptions and stereotypes, competing in pageants has gifted women with the voice to speak out against a handful of social issues and has allowed them to challenge modern-day beauty standards. In honor of Women’s History Month, long-time friends and pageant competitors, Serenity Serda and Yvon Nguyen, spoke with the History Club about pageantry during many points in time in the world, as well as how they joined the field themselves.

Serda, who is also the History Club president, opens by asking audience members what they know about pageants and how they have always perceived it. Many participants used this as an opportunity to share what they have seen through the media, and others discussed opportunities that come out of it such as career networking and awareness of social issues. Many other competitors were in attendance and used this prompt to share what they got from competing, which included new friendships, career opportunities, and opportunities to speak with the public about their experiences. After this, Serda began discussing the historic significance of pageants.

During the history portion of the presentation, Serda shares that pageants were initially recorded in Ancient Greek mythology, then carried into the Middle Ages when a young girl would be selected to lead the May Day Parades. In the United States specifically, the first Miss America pageant was held in 1921, which made it the first-ever pageant in the region. While it was small, it was able to create a lasting tradition in the states.

Once the 50s began, we saw instances of major changes leading to how pageants are held now, including the refusal to wear bathing suits, opportunities for higher education, speaking out against antisemitism during World War 2, and more. There have also been multiple attempts to make pageants more exclusive and focus on certain types of women based on appearance and background, which failed horribly in the long run. These events are what inspired multiple generations of women to compete and show the world what they were passionate about.

Yvon Nguyen wanted to do exactly that. As a child, she had always wanted to model and compete in the pageantry world. However, due to being placed in the foster care system after the passing of both of her parents, she was unsure if that was even possible.

Now, she works in the fashion industry as a model and style advisor, is a content creator, the current Miss USA – San Diego, and will be competing for Miss USA – Miss California later this year. She was invited to speak about how she was able to overcome her self doubt and power through the circumstances which she had been put in to. When getting into modeling, she shared that she had experienced rampant bullying from her peers and had zero guidance. Through her various trials and tribulations, she used that experience, and many others, to create positive changes in that industry, including her nonprofit, “Yvon’s Nonprofit Modeling Agency.”

At the end of the presentation, attendees were each given a small mirror and a sticky note on which they were invited to write one word to describe themselves that day. It could describe their mood for that day, a word to describe something they accomplished, or themselves as a person. The purpose of that activity is to build confidence and boost self-esteem, which Yvon shared she practices with her models at her nonprofit agency.

While the field isn’t perfect, those who have participated in pageants use it to leverage their passions and build community. Serenity and Yvon used their time with the History Club to share their experiences, adversities, and provide opportunities for those interested in competing in the future. It also aimed to dismantle negative perceptions of pageants through the history and the usage of their stories.

If you are interested in joining History Club or wish to attend a future event, follow @histclubpat.csusm on Instagram.

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