Beauty pageants gave Maddy May confidence, but then an ugly world revealed itself

Former beauty pageant competitor Maddy May was drawn to the pageant scene seven years ago, when she was 19 and low on self-confidence.

It was “a way for me to have a voice,” she tells ABC RN’s Earshot.

“Pageantry has allowed me to go from the shy kid who wouldn’t say anything to a really powerful woman who believes in myself and my intellect.”

Maddy May, with long brown hair, sparkling silver outfit and wide smile, seen from the shoulders.
May initially found participating in beauty pageants a powerful experience.(Photo: Nancy Trieu)

And yet the Sydneysider, who has competed in national and international pageants, is deeply disappointed in the industry today.

“You’re sold on this experience, this facade, this journey that it’s going to be amazing and it’s going to change your life,” says May.

The hidden side

For May, cracks began to form in the shimmering veneer of pageantry after several shocking events.

In a 2018 Sydney pageant in which she contested, traveling contestants were accommodated in the pageant sponsor’s private accommodation. There were cameras were hidden in rooms without women’s consent, she says.

Darwin-based photographer Jed Hansen, who photographed the event and also stayed at the property, found the cameras.

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