Yes, you can compete in a beauty pageant and call yourself feminist. Meet Sophie Wang, 2018 Miss New York Teen USA Candidate

I felt the need to start by explicitly stating the definition of both of these terms because oftentimes, people have the misconception that feminists are “crazy” females who do not shave their legs or armpits and basically hate men. This could not be any further from the truth. A feminist is simply a person, female or male, that wants equal rights for both genders, and an outspoken feminist simply notices and points out that equal rights for both genders have not yet been achieved.

And yes, you can compete in a beauty pageant and call yourself feminist. I personally see the pageant world as a celebration of women breaking boundaries with self-confidence. 

Being in a beauty pageant is no small feat. A number of female participants showcase their public speaking skills, achievements, community service and talents all while being judged in front of a large audience so that they, too, can be a part of the positive change for female empowerment. Sophie Wang, who'll be competing for the crown of Miss New York Teen USA, has a passion for feminism. One of the roles she has taken on is as a Student Ambassador for the non-profit organization The YWCA: eliminating racism and promoting gender equity - "This NY-based organization not only helped me when I was struggling with my identity, family conflicts, and anxiety, but it gives young girls a brave space to talk about what is going on in the world and their own lives. It connects young girls to empowering women who have contributed so much to the world, which truly creates a life-changing experience for them. I have met women ranging from professors to directors of nonprofit organizations through this organization" - she explained.

If she wins the crown Sophie will have the opportunity to represent the state of New York at Miss Teen USA 2018. Like the first Miss USA competition (which was won by New York's Jackie Loughery), the first Miss Teen USA competition was won by a Miss New York Teen USA. 

Check my interview about Sophie's preparation for the Miss New York Teen USA pageant below!

You will compete at the Miss New York USA Pageant, how will you prepare for the contest ? What unique characteristics would you say you bring to the competition?

Fun fact: this is actually my first ever pageant! I was quite nervous to enter the pageant because it seemed like a world so foreign to my own. I’m just a girl who goes to a New York City Public School. No one in my immediate family circle and friend group was familiar with pageants either. But that’s the fun part! In preparing for the Miss New York Teen USA Pageant, I have surrounded myself with supportive friends and family that are excited to learn about everything with me. It’s been really fun! From my mom holding my hand while I walk in heels (I’m a bit of a clutz to be honest) to my best friend and I moving to a healthier lifestyle and going dress shopping; my preparation has not felt pressuring or nerve-wrecking.

As for my unique characteristics, I would say that I am a very upbeat person who loves to talk and learn! I truly have a passion for causes such as Feminism, social justice, and my own cultural background. Therefore, I would love to bring these conversations to the pageant and inspire young girls who want to learn about these aspects of the world, as well as ways to be a catalyst for change.

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Social media seem to play a major role in pageantry nowadays. Do you think this is advantageous to you? Why or why not?

I strongly believe that social media can be an amazing platform to showcase your passions and work. It can connect you to someone across the globe, which creates a community where everyone can learn and be inspired by one another. And because social media has such a presence in our culture, so many young people in my generation rely on it for content ranging from funny memes to pressing current events. Therefore, if I were to be so fortunate enough to become Miss New York Teen USA, I would use social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc, to connect the younger generation to the world of social change and empowerment.

We’ve all seen the stereotypical portrayals of pageant contestants, a la Miss Congeniality, spreading peace, love and beauty throughout the world. How do you think you'll make a difference ?

As someone who has heard these stereotypes before and even been guilty of believing in some myself, I would say that it’s so important to remember that these contestants are all young and inspiring girls who have their own stories. We should be showing this side of pageantry to those who hold negative perspectives on pageants as a whole. I want to highlight how every contestant in this pageant is a catalyst for change in their own way.

For me, I would want to bring in a conversation about my upbringing, community, and work in the realm of social justice. I hope to inspire young girls and individuals in my generation that they can have a voice in our society and can influence the trajectory of our future because it can be very difficult when you don’t have a role model that looks relatable. It makes you feel as if you can’t help others because you don’t even know how you fit in society. I feel as if this may be a side of pageantry that many do not see.

What would you advise any young girl out there who has a dream of being a queen one day?

To be positive and go for it! The decision to join a pageant can be very daunting, especially when it’s something that is so new to you. I would advise any young girl to surround yourself with positive energy and remember that you are confidently beautiful. That every aspect of yourself is amazing no matter what society and those around you say. It may take time to tap into that threshold of confidence, as it did for me. But finding inspiration from empowering role-models and meeting people who will guide you in embracing your identity will help you get one step closer to ruling the world (cliche I know).

Who is your ideal beauty queen and how has she helped you to evolve as a beauty queen?

PIA WURTZBACH! Not only is she so sweet, funny, and bubbly, she is also someone that has contributed so much to the progression of our world. I admired how she used her platform as Miss Universe and on social media to talk about highly stigmatized and controversial topics: HIV awareness, gender equality, support for LGBTQ communities, etc. Her work as the UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia is just another example of how inspirational she is. She is my definition of confidently beautiful, as she embraces every aspect of her identity and promotes causes in the world that need to be discussed.