– As told to Tamara Pridgett
There is a little bit of a stigma surrounding beauty pageants but Rachel White, the current Miss Texas United States, contends that women in the pageant world are some of the “brightest, kindest and most determined women of our generation.” Perhaps what many of us are missing is that the “beauty” in beauty contests has less to do with vaseline smiles and shimmery dresses and more to do with the more profound definition of beauty. The lovely and ambitious White shares her insight on the real beauty of pageantry, gives her take on beauty privilege, suicide prevention and much more.
Location: Houston, TX
Profession: Miss Texas United States 2014
How did you get started?
I was honestly looking for a little adventure in my life – so while in college I decided to compete in Miss New York USA 2013 where I placed top 10. I fell in love with everything involved in pageantry and the amazing women I met. I knew that this was something that made me truly happy and I wanted to continue pursing it.
What’s an average day like?
Crazy. I also have a full time job, so it makes appearances during the week difficult but I try to reserve weekends and evenings for “Miss Texas” time. I am on my e-mail A LOT and I can’t do a thing without my pocket planner—you will never see me without it.
The ups and downs you sometimes face on the job?
Ups is the incredible influence I have on people. To me I am still this shy and somewhat socially awkward individual, but the minute you put on the crown and sash, you symbolize so much more to people and that really reminds me how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. Downs? There really are none. Besides time management I have no complaints!
What are the biggest misconceptions of pageantry?
A HUGE misconception is that the women in pageants are self-absorbed, vain, less than bright and come from money. It is difficult for an outsider looking in, but when you get to know the women in the world of pageantry, you will find these are some of the brightest, kindest and most determined women of our generation. These are women who are beautiful—physically and mentally. They stand for something that they are passionate about and use their titles to educate individuals on those passions. I have met women who are pursing their masters, who have served multiple times in the military, who have over come illness, who are pursing their careers or are working full time jobs. These are not ordinary women. It is like a lesson we learn everyday, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Most importantly, these women are friends for life. We are not competitors; we are friends.
Your greatest achievement so far?
This title is by far my greatest achievement. I have not been competing in pageants for long, a year and a half to be exact. I made it a goal to win a state title and compete for a national title. I set a goal for myself and achieved it. Although it sounds cliché, I don’t have a better way to say that I am truly living my dream.
Miss Texas requires you to choose a platform to represent and promote during your reign. What is your platform and why did you choose it?
The platform I chose is suicide prevention. It is a topic, which is not talked about because suicide makes people uncomfortable. This is where society fails. Discomfort and misunderstanding is what turns people away from help and reaching out to people. We think of depression as the plague when it is just as common as a broken bone. I want people, young and old, gay and straight, to be comfortable hearing about it AND talking about it. Because the moment people feel comfortable and confident, that is when they will ask for help and this could save thousands of lives.
What mark do you want to leave as Miss Texas?
…I have won a state title and will be competing for a national title. For me, it is important that people (especially dreamers) know that if you [have] a dream, [you can] achieve a dream. I want to be a role model for those who at one point felt hopeless and could not see the light at the end of the tunnel—give them something to believe in. I want to let people know that at the end of the day, get excited about what you do; love those around you; do what you want and say “yes” to life because you never know what opportunities are around the corner.
What might be next for you?
…perhaps a national title and a larger crown!
on beauty & culture
What is your definition of beauty and how does it compare to the aesthetic glorified by today’s media?
To me beauty is being able to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and be comfortable and confident with the individual in the mirror—physically, mentally and spiritually. Beauty is glorified in the media as all physical: perfect skin, hair, body, eyes, hands, feet, etc. the list could go on and on. We unfortunately live in a time where we are striving for an image predetermined by the media as “beautiful.” Instead we should define the term “beauty” for ourselves. We are so focused on what someone else has that we never notice our own beautiful qualities.
We live in a society where, often times, attractive people gain advantages or are given opportunities because of their looks. Some are coining this occurrence as beauty privilege. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon? Do you believe your title has exposed you to this privilege?
It is unfortunate, but I am aware of this phenomenon and I do believe it exists. I would not say my title has exposed me to this per se, as most of the time when people meet me, unless I am wearing my crown and sash, they have no clue I am Miss Texas United States, they just see my physical exterior. I do believe we live in a society where your looks have the ability to get you ahead in life, BUT I also know they will not KEEP you ahead. An individual may be attractive and may receive an opportunity they may not have otherwise had, but if they are not professional, determined, driven, etc. that opportunity may not last for them. In the long run, looks don’t last and can only take you so far. It is important to have established values, goals, education and professionalism because in the end that will keep you where you want to be and take you where you want to go.
Did you ever feel as if your multi-cultural heritage could hinder or heighten your chances of winning a title? Why or why not?
Honestly, neither. I would hope we have come to a point in society where your heritage/background/race(s) does not play a deciding factor when making a decision. Yes, I am very thankful to have a multi-cultural background. My mother is from the Philippines and has exposed me to so much; my father from Louisiana. I was taught to look past race and skin color my whole life and really get to know the individual for who they are. Exotic girls may cause people to take a second look but the “prettiest” girl does not always win the title. It is the girl who is having the most fun, is the most confident, well spoken and graceful. And those qualities will not come from your background; they will come from YOU.
How do you style your hair when competing?
My hair is naturally curly; I absolutely love leaving my hair curly. However, I always wear my hair straight for pageants because curly hair can be very… unpredictable to say the least. Wearing my hair straight allows me to easily manage and control my hair, especially when I have a time crunch. I wear clip in extensions, but only for pageants. They add a lot of volume and length to my hair, which is a must when competing.
What are your top 5 go-to hair tips?
- Don’t wash your hair everyday; it will dry it out, causing breakage, and split ends.
- I only use shampoos if I absolutely need to. When I wash my hair I only condition, twice.
- I always air-dry my hair. I have naturally curly hair; blow drying my hair would actually add more unnecessary heat.
- IF/WHEN I do wear my hair straight, I have it blown out. Flat irons are simply two hot plates which press or “force” your hair straight. Blowing it out does take longer but the long-term effects are less damaging.
- I think highlights are super beneficial when adding depth to a woman’s hair color. However it is hard to maintain, especially if you are always on the go. To prevent your roots from showing, highlight under the top layer of your hair. That way if you are overdue for an appointment, no one will see your roots under!
Fun Fact: I love steaks, especially prepared rare!