It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
Since my last post, I’ve been busy running for Miss Showgirl in my country hometown – a few weeks of wearing a sash and floral dresses, answering questions about current affairs issues, chopping wood, getting valuable small talk practice. I’ll throw in a spoiler alert and say I’m proud to have been named runner up (hence the red sash), but here’s the story on how all of those things are related, a brief explanation of what ‘Miss Showgirl’ is (nothing to do with sequins, pin-up or burlesque!) and how it ties in to all of my talk about comfort zones on Instagram 😂
What on earth is Miss Showgirl?
In country towns, there is no “Miss Sydney” etc, but Showgirl is the closest thing.
Although certain presentation/dress standards definitely apply (modest dress, hat, stockings), Showgirl isn’t a beauty pageant. It’s a search for the girl who will be the best ambassador for her town, young rural women, and the agricultural show (I suppose “county fair” is the closest equivalent for my international readers), and judging at the local level is through a interview with three judges, and then one question answered in front of a room full of people at a lunch or dinner. All of this is to show how much you know about local issues and the agriculture industry, why you want to be Showgirl and what you could bring to the community. In some towns this happens on the day of the show, but for us this was several weeks beforehand, making it a longer process.
Why I pushed myself to do it
Part of me had wanted to enter since I was 5 years old (long story involving a girl in a pretty dress who couldn’t hold a chicken properly*) but I never got around to it. This was the last year I was eligible before getting too old, and because I didn’t want to get to be 30 and have a case of the coulda-woulda-shouldas, I entered.
For me, getting out of my comfort zone wasn’t having to wear a dress or the public speaking/interview component, it was overcoming what people think. I moved to Brisbane almost 5 years ago, so I was worried that me entering would upset some people who thought a “city girl” had no place there – even though I love my hometown and living in the city definitely doesn’t stop me from being an ambassador for it. I almost backed out because I was worried that the judges would deliberately make it harder for me (they were lovely, although I’m sure living in Brisbane did lose me a lot of points). Some people definitely didn’t like me being there, but they were the minority – more people were happy to see me back in town! I’m so glad I moved on, entered anyway and embraced the experience.
What I got out of it
Extra public speaking and interview experience is always a bonus, but the show weekend itself was so much fun. The winner is announced towards the end of the show, so for the Friday and most of Saturday all entrants wear a pale blue entrant sash and are treated as “Showgirls” and more or less local royalty (not kidding – they almost didn’t charge Brandon entry because he was with me). We spent the Saturday morning managing registration for the Tiny Tot and Miss Junior Showgirls (i.e. the cutest thing ever) and supporting them through their interviews, had lunch with the show committee and local politicians, and generally chatted to everyone – my sash was an instant conversation opener, and it was so lovely to talk to people I usually wouldn’t find myself in conversation with.
… and how I got roped into the Young Farmers Challenge
The Friday evening also pushed me out of my comfort zone again, in a bigger way – as ambassadors for the show, the Showgirl entrants were encouraged to form a team for the Young Farmers Challenge – a kind of relay/obstacle race that includes challenges typical to farm work. A friend has competed in one before, and it involved cracking whips, riding motorbikes and chopping wood – all stuff that I’d either never done or am terrible at – so I REALLY didn’t want to do this. The other three girls were raised on “real” farms, while I grew up on a small property with a few animals (basically a hobby farm) and while I don’t mind getting dirty, I’ve never had to wrangle a sheep or crack a whip, and as I’ve mentioned before – the only time I rode a motorbike, I broke it.
BUT rarely being one to turn away an opportunity to say “I did that” I agreed, and joined a team with two of the other entrants and one of them’s boyfriend… and then spent the 24 hours leading up to the race watching whip cracking videos on Youtube and getting my brother to teach me how to split wood with an axe.
Turns out the course had no woodchopping, motorbikes or live animals, and only one of us had to crack a whip 😂 instead we had to put a few poles in the ground, match cuts of meat to the part of a car they come from, roll a tire around some posts, assemble some pipes and move a few metres as a pair on some really tricky ski things. And we won! So I can say not only did I end up running for showgirl, I competed in a Young Farmers Challenge and won it – something my workmates find unbelievable because they only ever see me in skirts and heels.
The announcement itself
Being a small country town show, there is no official stage – instead, we we were led onto the back of a truck, where we sat in the heat with the show society President, a few local politicians, last year’s Showgirl and my childhood neighbours (I’d had no idea how important they were until then!) with the Tiny Tots lined up in front – pic below to show how adorable they are. About halfway through all of the speeches, I realised that I didn’t want to win because I was worried that I wouldn’t remember to thank all of the right people 😂 luckily, I was announced runner up and a girl called Shania won – she was very deserving and I’m genuinely so happy for her. We were whisked away out the back for a quick photo for the newspaper (my dad was there with his horse, I wish we’d managed to get a snap together at the time) and then left to enjoy the rest of the show. Cue lots of food, fireworks, and my Mum’s CWA branch being amazing and entering the demolition derby 🙂
I know we all say that winning isn’t everything, but even when we say that we’re usually thinking “I really wish I’d won.” But honestly, I had so much fun throughout this whole process and Shania did such a fantastic job that I’m not worried in the slightest! If there’s something you’ve been sitting on the fence about doing (even if it hasn’t been for 18 years like me), let me know in the comments and let’s see if we can make you jump 🙂
*For anyone interested, the story of how I wanted to be a Showgirl from when I was 5:
My family have never really been “farmers” but have always bred chickens and other birds for show and to sell – so I grew up knowing how to catch and handle them. When I was 5, my dad and grandfather were stewards at the Newcastle show (or maybe Maitland), keeping an eye on the birds and assisting the judges, so I spent most of the day hanging around with them. In the afternoon, the Showgirl entrants walked in for a photo opportunity with a champion rooster – being five years old, I was in total awe of these gorgeous older girls in pretty dresses… until they failed to hold the rooster properly and he flapped all over the place. Dad explained who those girls were, and I decided I wanted to have a crack when I was older and do it better! Sadly as an entrant I never had the chance to flaunt my chook holding abilities.