In my stint at Missouri Life Magazine, the Show-Me state has certainly shown me a lot. I mentioned in my last post that a horse is parked outside our offices overlooking the Missouri River, so of course my assignments are just as intriguing.
Last week I ventured to Mexico, Missouri, known for its Missouri Military Academy, to witness something quite the opposite of military brawn-a beauty pageant.
And not just any old pageant, this was the official Miss Missouri 2013 pageant. The victor of this pageant would go on to Miss America, which means national T.V. and the responsibility of representing Missouri as a state in front of millions of viewers. Gulp. No doubt these women were seriously focused, but they had an easy-going charm about them that I wouldn’t have expected from women locked in a competition. If they were stressing hardcore, as I would have been, they were well trained in hiding it.
It’s obvious that the contestants would smile onstage, but once backstage I surmised all traces of exuberance would vanish. (Very assuming of me, I know.) But alas, their jaws may have relaxed a little and their polished teeth may have shown less, but they remained upbeat and for all intensive purposes satisfied. There were no angry or embarrassed tears, diva moments, backstabbing, or pouting of any kind. They all truly loved what they were doing, and despite their desire to win, found friendship amongst their competitors.
Aside from the contestants’ demeanor, I was also pleasantly surprised by the access I was granted. Out of the three photographers assigned to the story I was the only woman. I believe that made the women feel more comfortable with my presence backstage (although no one was allowed in their dressing room) and a lot of them enjoyed having me take pictures of them, which wasn’t too surprising.
I thought for sure a mom or pageant organizer was going to tell me to bugger off to the small, press restricted area at the front of one side of the stage, but no one did. They actually helped me maneuver around in the dark behind the curtains by asking contestants to lift their skirts and move aside for me to pass. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. No journalist likes being told they aren’t entirely in control of how much coverage they can get over their story. That’s just a frustrating part of the biz, especially within photojournalism because photos are pretty damning. Even with all of the photo manipulation tools out there nowadays, pictures are still rather convincing to the average eye.
I relied on my old motto while working on this story: don’t ask for permission; ask for forgiveness. The writer of the story had learned from the main coordinator that I couldn’t take photos anywhere but the press section during showtime. I decided to ignore that command and wandered around, respectfully. I didn’t annoy anyone or get in people’s ways, or tamper with any part of the production. If there’s one way to get blacklisted real quick, it’s to be a clumsy reporter that mucks up the flow of things. So if you plan to heed my advice and ask forgiveness, make sure you’re not on anyone’s shit list beforehand.