Saturday, February 23, 2013

What's in a Title?

Hello again, my quiet readers behind the screen. I'm thankful that you took time out to read this. You may notice that I'm unusually calm. That's because I possibly have a latent hangover. No worries, I'll live.

As I promised, I'm blogging my final post regarding Miss Virtual World 2013. After this, I hope to talk very little about it, and once you hear my thoughts, you will understand why.

Remember how I described it as an awkward sorority/secret society? I still stand by that comparison. Throughout the competition, many questions came up repeatedly. Why was I doing this? Why did I choose Canada? How was I doing in the competition? I had answers to only two of those.

I entered this to represent not only myself, but also be a face for all avatars of color who sometimes hide their true identities inworld for fear of ridicule. As appalling as it may seem, there are some who still think it's ok to say very hurtful, racist remarks or portray women of color in an unflattering light. We were seen as the "tokens of exoticism," as if we were some kind of rare dish served only during particular seasons of trendiness. I have mixed feelings on that because while I'm flattered to be viewed as unique, I don't like to be thought of as a passing trend. I have never viewed my race as a fashion trend because offline I am black. No one is coming up to me, stroking my skin as if I was some kind of purse and going, "Oh my, aren't you a brave one for looking like that." That is a good thing since my knee-jerk reaction might be to slap the person. I was born black; it wasn't a choice but I'm not ashamed to be who I am. That is what I wanted to represent, the confident black woman who knows who she is in both worlds.

Regarding my choice of Canada as a country, this is something that was already in my head from over a year ago when I first auditioned for Miss Virtual World 2012. I didn't make it that year but as inspiration, I created tags for myself with possible countries I could represent. One of those was Canada. I have gained friends from all over the globe in SL and many are from Canada. They are the kindest people I know of and I asked one of my closest Canadian friends how she would feel about me, an American, representing her country. You see, I wasn't about to just pick any country and disregard the culture or its people out of sheer ignorance. I educated myself. I googled facts about Canada. I asked friends from there what I could do to showcase the spirit of their nation in the best light. From the compliments I have received, I think I did a fair enough job as Miss Virtual Canada 2013, even if I didn't place in the Top 12.

Now...let's talk about that part. I know many have been curious as to my story behind the scenes. As I stated in my previous blog posts for MVW, many things transpired that didn't add up, which includes the secret scoring system. Some may defend the organization and say, "I'm sure they had good reasons for not publicizing the scores because some girls would be hurt if they didn't perform well." Here's the rub there: We are all models in Second Life. We entered this knowing full well over half of us would be disappointed in not placing high. That said, we were also hoping to gain some knowledge as to how to improve as stylists through feedback. I'm sure some were not shy in asking inner circles of that organization what they could do better, but in the interest of fair play in competition, I chose to interact as little with anyone associated with the pageant more than necessary. This is because I didn't want anyone to question my final standings and accuse me of kissing ass for a higher score. I know some have already gotten this reputation and I'll admit I saw some behavior that seemed like forced friendliness more than genuine kindness. I'll be fair and surmise that it could have also been nervous ticks from shy ladies who merely wanted to do their best. Everyone put in a great deal of effort and that is commendable. I only wish more focus was put on the ladies instead of the drama over copybotters and griefers.

I wasn't surprised not to be in the Top 12. It wasn't because I thought I did that poorly; I just knew in my gut that it wouldn't work out that way. I was surprised by some who were selected, especially the new friends I made. I was happy that their efforts did not go overlooked since many didn't place high in the beginning challenges. What did knock me on my ass even more was the final results. I'm not going to beat a dead and rotting horse here. I didn't agree with the judges. I fancied someone far better as the winner, especially since in my opinion she would've been an exemplary MVW and role model for future models. She still is a fabulous model and I've told her as much privately. She won't be hurting for work so I take comfort in that.

As for the winner, I'll give some advice instead of congratulations. It doesn't matter that you are portraying a race far different from your real one. What does matter is how you approach that culture and its people. You'll have to work harder for respect, especially given the controversy surrounding you. If you think respect comes instantaneously because you slap a title on your head and say, "hey I'm repping all you black people because nobody else is," well then you have many things to learn. It's especially disrespectful to read those particular comments from you in articles in which you speak as if you are some kind of savior for those of us who are successful black models and have always been so without the aid of a title. Respect is earned through actions, not a title. You also can't get angry at every criticism and fight back with the same level of vitriol that is far beneath the title of MVW. I'd expect that kind of sophomoric response from a spoiled teen who was just announced as Prom Queen to a room full of boos. If you expected everyone to be on board with the results, you were far more naive than I was. As the winner, you should expect both good and bad responses. You should also listen carefully to when you are given constructive criticism and use that to grow. A title means nothing if you take a superficial approach to representing what it is. This is about as much support as you'll get from me personally. I'm going to leave it at that. I've said what I wanted to say on the matter and have left some groups and agencies because I felt offended that people could be racially insensitive in supporting stereotypes that only burden real women of color in both worlds. For those of you who have been considerate in asking for my opinion before doing things that could be viewed as offensive to my race, I thank you kindly. The world would be better off if more people did that.

I will still model as much as I can. I am way behind on blogging because I need to get my mojo back. I do wish to thank my sponsors once again for being so supportive throughout the competition. Thank you Evangeline Miles for my breathtaking national costume. It brought tears to my eyes and a song to my heart. Thank you Monica Outlander for being so patient in working with my fickle nature to produce a fabulous formal gown. I only wish the announcer hadn't butchered the description I wrote for it during finals because I meant every word of it. Thank you Vikeejeah Xevion for styling my beautiful hair. Your contribution meant so much as a close friend and I appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to help me. Thank you Yula Finesmith for giving me jewelry to complete my look. I know you felt terrible about not being able to complete a set for my gowns but I'm still grateful nonetheless. Thank you Latrelly Flux for being my vigilant photographer who didn't go crazy when I threw last minute deadlines at her. Thank you Angeli Optera for coming in for my final challenge shoot when I needed someone desperately. Thank you Rabia Baxton for offering to photograph me without being asked. Thank you so much Clem Velinov for being gracious enough to bless me with one of your gorgeous photos. I'm so lucky to be photographed by you. Thank you Elf Circle, Godivas, Dreams, Greatest Love Group, Shay's Stalkers, Chiaroscuro, and everyone else who has been cheering me on the entire time. That includes you too, my faithful readers!

Please continue supporting me and I'll work harder to match the love that has been given to me. I love you all!

Bikini: Zaara (exclusive color from RFL 2011, not available)
Hair: Lelutka (some strands were photoshopped in)
Belt, armbands, headpiece: Evie's Closet
Feet: SLink
All the rest: Finesmith Jewelry (that includes the bubbles too, Sense of Snow!)
Photographer: Angeli Optera

Gown: Miamai
Photographer: Clem Velinov

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