Born with an astigmatism, a condition where the curvature of one eye is different from the other, I’ve always been self-conscious about my eyes. Throughout my life, I did everything in my power to make my eyes the same shape. Makeup techniques, hiding half my face in photos, and even considered plastic surgery or LASIK. It was a flaw few noticed, but it affected my sight and self-confidence.
Fast-forward to November 26, 2017, the night of the Miss Universe pageant. As I watch each girl cross the stage, I notice the amount of diversity; in appearance and qualities that were represented. Miss America was an African-American nuclear scientist, while Miss Venezuela was a mechanical engineer. The variety of occupations and lives these women lead is remarkable. As all 92 women stood on stage, it was obvious that every girl could find themselves on that stage.
As the contests of Africa and Asia were introduced, one contestant caught my eye – Miss South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters. As she turned towards the camera, I noticed her eyes were two different shapes, like my own, and I immediately started to root for her.
Miss South Africa was more than her astigmatism, and her backstory and occupation were uplifting, genuine, and very surprising. Nel-Peters told her story of being hijacked, and almost kidnapped, but was able to get out due to self-defense moves she learned beforehand. Since the incident, Miss South Africa teaches young girls self-defense in her country. Her story inspired many, and conveyed how strong women can be.
Throughout the night, Miss South Africa continued to dominate the competition all while being “confidently beautiful”. It was uplifting to see a confident women, with the same condition as myself, and to feel represented. It helped me cope with the fact, that this one tiny but ever-presence flaw, shouldn’t hold me back from thinking I’m beautiful. If one woman can win her country’s national competition, I shouldn’t’ have to feel ashamed of my eyes.
When Nel-Peters was crowned Miss Universe at the end of the night, I was proud to see a true “confidently beautiful”, strong, and powerful woman take the crown. She represented her country with pride, and everyone born with astigmatism.
So to Miss South Africa, Miss Universe, thank you for showing me to not let the small flaws get me down.