There She Is, Miss America
Get ready for your close up, you’re a political candidate.
Years ago, I was asked to do hair and make-up for a prestigious beauty pageant. I was intrigued and immediately said yes. I arrived backstage, curious and eager to be part of something glamorous. I enjoyed the gig, chatting while I combed and sprayed, powdered and glossed a room full of impossibly beautiful women. I was pleased to learn that underneath the gloss, the women ran the gamut. They were doctors and artists, veterans and cops, moms and TV personalities. Their individuality was apparent and glorious—when they weren’t competing.
Onstage as competitors though, I couldn’t help but notice they had more similarities then differences. They were all well trained, perfect candidates. And only one could be the best.
Once I decided to run for Anoka County Commissioner, I knew I had a lot to learn about what it meant to be a strong candidate and potential elected official. So I gathered the best team and advisers available to help me. If I wanted to be a relevant part of this political world, I needed to learn how to be in it.
I imagine it must be a similar process to prepare for a beauty pageant. Your sense of self—or more accurately the perception of what others think you are—is no longer your own. Every aspect of your person must be taken out, examined, and rearranged into an appealing package. If you’ve signed up to be a public figure, you better be OK with being on display and the judgment that comes with it.
Don’t misunderstand me, I get it. When I was a regular voter like everyone else, I had a lot of expectations for candidates. And the closer they were to my own backyard, the more scrutiny I applied. I expected candidates to be well-spoken, well-informed and well-groomed. Underneath their appearance, I cared about their reputation by history: How engaged are they in community (before they started campaigning)? What is their education and work experience? What positions have they run for in the past? What is their track record as a past elected official? Sometimes I was not very lenient.
So now I find myself on the other side. I am taking all advice and criticisms about my candidacy seriously because I want to learn. I’ve heard commentary about my education, my personality, my physical stature and my hemline. Some things I have the desire and ability to change. Some I do not.
It’s a tricky thing to navigate. I want to honor this political world by understanding it and living by its code. And I want to remain who I am in the process.
It’s tricky because: Sometimes I am not well-spoken – the words utterly escape me when I need them the most. Sometimes I’m not well-enough-informed because no one can know everything about Anoka County. And sometimes I’m not a well-groomed candidate: sometimes I’m a frazzled mom.
I work towards meeting the expectations—the same expectations I have for any candidate—of my voters at all times. I’m applying for a serious job and need to demonstrate my ability to fulfill its duties and am learning everyday what that might mean for you.
I also have conviction to be true to myself. I refuse to rearrange parts of me to look great, at the expense of genuine content. Will this be enough to be the best candidate?
You’ll get to decide in November.