Culture 20 December 2018
“They did not see the real beauty, yet again.”
The fan-created meme was shared by Miss Georgia Lara Yan on her Instagram story shortly after Miss Philippines Catriona Gray was crowned as Miss Universe 2018.
In an interview weeks before the Miss Universe competition, Lara Yan also voiced: “After having seen photos of other contestants, I will tell you honestly, out of 88 contestants I only liked ten, the rest of them I could not even rank”.
I know casual fans of pageants often imagine that there’s a “dog eat dog” type of atmosphere behind the scenes of beauty pageants. They assume that every contestant is a saboteur looking for her chance to diss, destroy or minimize others.
And that is the public notion I wish we as women can help reject.
As a two-time Miss Georgia title holder myself (Miss Georgia 1995 runner up and Miss Georgia 1996), I have heard my fair share of cutting words and comments that struck below the belt from competitors. I’ve had my patent leather high heels magically disappear from my dressing room minutes before stepping on stage for the swimsuit part of the competition at Miss Georgia 1995. The agony was real!
Thankfully, any critique and negativity I’d encounter during my pageant days, I chalked it up to, “there is always going to be opposition,” and quickly glossed over it.
Miss Georgia Universe 2018 Lara Yan
But now, I take Miss Georgia’s public afront much more seriously, as a woman, as a human and as a Georgian.
Miss Universe is an opportunity and a global platform for women to become a voice for a positive change in the world and in their own communities. For this reason, contestants are judged on much more than just their physical appearance (believe it or not). Winners are selected largely by who they are in the world.
Miss Universe 2018 crowning
Every nation stands on values that are the most defining and most important for them as a people. Women sent to participate in Miss Universe aren’t there just to represent themselves, but to represent their respective countries and embody values which their nation stands on.
For Georgia, those values are Generosity, Hospitality and Honor - even when it’s inconvenient, difficult, or the situation seems unfair.
As a collective, Georgians are relentless with their generosity; it’s in the fabric of our being. In Georgia, hospitality is valued more than any other quality, skill or a trait, surpassing courage and even reputation. Honor and respect of others is not just a custom in Georgia, it’s social currency. And for women of Georgia, grace, courage and inner class are what constitute true beauty.
Lara Yan (formally Larissa Petrosyan), this year’s Miss Universe representative from Georgia, is of Armenian descent. To me, her responsibility to bring forth the qualities and values of Georgian women on a global platform such as Miss Universe is even higher. Throwing shade and being dismissive of other contestants is a poor representation of Georgia.
Lara may have represented herself at Miss Universe, but she truly mis-represented Georgia.
Aside from patriotism or virtue, there is a deeper level of awareness we as women must create within ourselves and in the world around us.
While we fight for equality and work so hard to break gender barriers, female competitiveness and comparison is an ill-conceived war that keeps us in the battle longer.
Tearing each other down only keeps us marginalized and powerless as women. When we as women are busy fighting amongst ourselves, we can not see out, affect change in the world and claim the power that is ours. When we as women tear each other down, none of us win.
When we compete with each other, we are actually competing with ourselves. We look at other women and see a prettier, smarter, better version of ourselves. We don't see other women at all. It unnerves us to see in other women what we have squashed in ourselves, and we take the easy road of turning against them.
Only when we have long signed out of our own dreams and ambitions do we not wholeheartedly support other women in theirs. We criticize, attack and try to undercut other women in direct proportion of how harshly we treat ourselves, deny our own potential and judge our imperfections.
We can not claim our power from this place of unworthiness and fear.
We can only start truly seeing other women when we give ourselves permission to work on becoming the women we ourselves long to be. When we start respecting our own dreams, we have agency to support and celebrate other women who do, too.
If we want to change the culture to where women are not valued only by comparison, we need to be active participants of that change. There is nothing stronger and more beautiful than women who refuse to be set against each other. We have to show the world that thinking less of another woman next to us is not a compliment to any of us.
Whether it’s in beauty pageants or outside of them, a win for some of us is a win for all of us.
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.