Most people don't kick off their freshman year at PUC by becoming a beauty queen. And Amanda Betat, now a sophomore, was pretty certain it wasn't her preferred way to start a college education. So she turned down the offer to run for Miss Lake County three times: "All the negative stereotypes that I initially had about pageantry almost kept me from running at all." Even when she finally agreed to run, she wasn't so sure. "Surrounded by hairspray, false eyelashes, and swimsuit glue I was certain that there was no place for me in the world of pageantry."
But Betat quickly began to see that there was more to the pageants than most people realize, from a commitment to making a difference in communities to scholarships for education. "Fashion, makeup, and evening gowns were discussed interchangeably with talk of politics, platforms, and current events," she recalls. "I've made many friends, gotten to know my community, earned money towards college, and learned a lot about myself."
When Betat won her local pageant, became Miss Lake County 2008, and went on to the Miss California pageant, the "deeper" aspects of the pageants became even more real in her life. For one thing, she won scholarship money at both pageants. "Most people don't see pageantry as a way to achieving scholarships," she says, "but in fact the Miss America Organization is currently the number one scholarship organization in the world."
Even more significantly, Betat began to put her platform into action. "I chose my platform, 'Encouraging Self-Confidence and Community Service in Youth,' because I wanted to promote something that I could relate my own experience with pageantry to," she explains. "When I first decided to run for Miss Lake County, I felt completely clueless and out of place ... My stage fright was barely manageable, and I was self-conscious about everything from performing my talent to just concentrating on not falling off the runway. The two things that I believe the Miss America Organization represent best are the goals of shaping girls into confident, driven, and successful women, and providing community service as a way of shaping the world around them."
Having experienced that, Betat wanted to pass on the learning. "I wanted people to see past the crown, to see that I was more than just some 'beauty queen,' by incorporating those two aspects — self-confidence and community service — into my platform to show people their own potential as an individual and as a part of society."
On a practical level, that meant that Betat had an incredibly busy year, between appearances, community work, and her college schedule. She worked with Kids Connection, Girl Scouts, and the Boys and Girls Club, volunteering her time to talk about her platform, give workshops, and get to know the girls and boys one-on-one. She also promoted her platform at schools, rotary clubs, other local pageants and various fundraisers.
"Sometimes it was hard having a term paper due and being scheduled for an appearance," she admits, "but I learned to multi-task, things like painting my nails and doing my hair while researching biology, and hauling my textbooks with me to an event." At PUC she also found ways to be involved by helping with Children's Church and the KidsReach ministry.
Altogether, it made for a hectic year and a lot of unexpected opportunities. "Winning the crown was definitely unexpected," Betat says, "but now I can see what I would've missed out on had I let my stereotypes get the best of me. Being involved in pageantry has opened so many doors for me."
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