Oh why oh why did I ever leave Ohio...
In the weeks following Donald Trump's controversial remarks about immigration, the Miss USA pageant has lost its networks, judges, co-hosts, and sponsor(s). As a former Miss USA and runner up in the Miss Universe Pageant, I've been deluged with requests to provide my views on the current beauty queen crisis and the state of pageantry going forward. I currently live in New York City and am, for over determined reasons, a highly-trained licensed psychotherapist, EMDR therapist and consultant with a very successful and rewarding private practice. For years I managed to stay "off the radar" regarding my pageant life, that is, until the internet took its place in history. A friend googled my name some time ago and shared that I, Kim Seelbrede, from small town Ohio, did indeed have my own wikipedia page.
They can't actually see you...
Horror. I don't actually like attention -- I'm an introvert, a behind the scenes kind of gal. I'd rather photograph then be photographed, and I'm more likely to trip, slip, freeze or develop amnesia while on stage with an audience of several hundred million people, which was the case when I competed for the title of Miss USA so long ago. Hey, not my thing. We are all different right? My patients and clients, if they google me (they often do, and some judge and run), tend to find it a mixed bag of confusing, horrifying, intriguing and amusing. I agree! I'm happy to answer questions, including any musings that reveal my authentic and real opinion of that sash, the crown, silly questions, beauty pageants and those bathing suits on stage..
Vaseoline and damn that stage is slippery...
The evidence that never goes away thanks to the always high-ranking youtube, reveals many truths about me, on that night:
- I was out of my league and lacked preparation
- I didn't really want to be there
- I was poorly styled or coifed
- I could barely remember my name or date of birth on stage. I froze. And no, I'm not stupid. I just needed to leave the building. I trotted out a very useful and adaptive defense mechanism that I would use as needed, or at least until I felt safe enough to not let that defensive style hijack me.
Haters and mean people...
"I've got pretty girls next door" shouted some woman from a stage in Nebraska. That was lovely, thanks! For all the mean commenters out there -- yes, I agree -- Miss Indiana or Miss Louisiana should have won: they wanted it more than I did, they were more poised, perhaps prettier and they definitely had better hair. If memory fragments serve me on that fateful evening, when it became evident that I was not disqualified in the early rounds, I prayed for a power outage, and then a seizure to free me from the experience of being interviewed by Bob Barker. I have mixed reviews of pageantry and find this an interesting time to out myself, and my opinions about that night in Biloxi Mississippi when I was crowned queen for a year.
You're so not in Oz anymore
Historically, and recently, I get asked these questions a lot.
Did you always want to be a beauty queen? No. My mother, and I loved her dearly, thought it was the best way to launch me out of her dreary life and perhaps have a shot at a fuller, brighter future. She was right, and her plan worked. I moved to Manhattan and shared an apartment with Miss Universe for the entire year. She didn't speak English, had better dresses and jewelry. The upside? I ate croissants every morning for a year and lived near Lincoln Center.
What prepared you for this experience? Absolutely nothing. I was raised with a place setting that consisted of a knife, a fork and a spoon. My first night in New York City, post-pageant, I dined as fancy as your imagination can take you, with a dinner setting replete with six strange looking forks and four knives (close enough). Start from the outside in whispered one of several chaperones.
Did you like Bob Barker, and was he nice? NO, and another NO.
Were the girls mean? No, that was not my experience, but I was naive and might have missed some cues or some things that went on backstage. No gum on my dress or lube on my shoes. I'm not sure that I had knowledge of breast implants prior to pageantry; seeing all those altered bodies was a shock.
People will love you...
What was it like to be on stage? It was so utterly terrifying that I don't remember it. As a trained trauma therapist, I now know that my nervous system did for me what it was brilliantly wired to do in overwhelming situations and when you can't flee. I froze. My anxiety intensified when a well-meaning press person broke through the ropes back stage and revealed to me that I was winning each time I went on stage. He wasn't supposed to do that, and it was not helpful.
Why do you think they picked you? Not sure. But I do know that on any other night, with different judges, the outcome might have been different. I believe that I won because I did very well one-on- one with the personal interviews and these were not televised. It didn't hurt that I received the highest swim suit scores of 9.592 at 5:18. Funny considering this was pre-aerobics for me and I didn't work out or train.
What advice did you receive? My chaperone told me: "never believe your own press." The pageant powers told me to stay far away from answering "political or controversial questions." In other words, I spent the year saying "that's not a topic I feel comfortable talking about." Keep it safe. Times have changed. Now it would seem that the women are encouraged to have views, and then are quickly slammed for self-expression.
Was Donny Osmond cute up close? He was dreamy and I wanted to melt during his serenade. I believed that he meant every word. However, I confess to having a crush on his mysteriously quiet brother Jay.
Did I sleep with the judges? That's just a silly question. NO.
How do you feel about pageants for children? It's child abuse, plain and simple. The children are sexualized and pimped by mother's with off the charts personality pathology and even psychosis. I'm not on the fence about this. It's painful to watch shows like Toddlers & Tiaras, Honey Boo Boo and Dance Moms to name a few of these reality shows that exploit children and their insane moms (my opinion).
What did you get out of the experience? Panic attacks. Things I didn't want to see or know. Wisdom. Courage. Plenty of advice for other young women. A new and uncertain life in New York City. A future husband whom I met at the pageant (I hung in there for nearly twenty years, but eventually divorced because of a long history of really bad behaviors). Two precious sons, now grown men.
What? There's no halfway house for exiting beauty queens...
What was it like after the pageant? That damn crown never stays on, and as your mascara softens in and around your teary eyes, the press tramples you down as they rush to greet the new queen.
Are pageants rigged? I have a lot to say about this one and some interesting inside information. To be continued...
Pretty This! Memoir Of A Beauty Queen by Kim Seelbrede (Release date 2016)