The Strawberry Festival Pageant and Psoriasis
Last updated: June 2018
I grew up in Belleville, MI a small town about 35 mins outside of Detroit. Every year during Father's Day Weekend, the city host's an event called The Strawberry Festival. People from all over Michigan come to this event to see old friends, buy arts and crafts, enjoy rides, and most importantly eat strawberries. One of the most popular events during this time is the Strawberry Festival Pageant. Girls between the ages of 15-21 compete for the crown through dance, talent, modeling, and interview. It's like our own local Ms. American pageant.
After attending my first pageant as an audience member in 2003, I decided I would be the next lady to go for the crown during my summer of my Jr year in high school. I don't know what possessed me or what my motivation was at that time, all I know is once I set my mind to do something, it gets done. Most of my body was covered by psoriasis, which I didn't talk about to anyone, and attempted to hide the disease by any means. I was in denial about my disease as much as possible. If I didn't think about it, it didn't exist (I know, what a weird thought process). I guess it was a sort of coping mechanism.
Getting ready, and in denial
So I filled out the application and was 1 of the 15 girls who competed in the event. We practiced a few times out the week after school, with rehearsals increasing as the big day approached closer. My talent was piano, my dress was white, and my dance moves were becoming perfect. I was ready for showtime, so I thought...
It was a few days before the pageant and we had to do dress rehearsals. We had to run through the show like it was live which included wearing our dresses. None of the girls were aware of my psoriasis. I kept my skin hidden through practices. I remember having an anxiety attack (at that time I didn't realize the term for what I was feeling). My stomach turned in knots, my thoughts were all over the place, I was sweating. All I could think is what would the girls think of my skin? I had on a short sleeve shirt and attempted to hide my arms. During that whole practice, I was trying to hold back my tears. I knew I had psoriasis. I knew this would be an issue, I just put it on the back burner as long as I possibly could. I just want to be normal. I didn't want to have to worry about my psoriasis.
I went home so frustrated, but I didn't tell anybody. I remember my Aunt picking me up and I lashed out at her. Thinking I was just being a brat, but not knowing what was wrong she lashed right back out at me. But mentally I was seriously having a breakdown. I was so hurt, lost, confused, and fearful. I wanted to quit, but I really wanted to be a part of the event. At that time I didn't know how to express things. I yelled at my grandmother and told her I was not going to be in the pageant and I quit.
My grandmother comforted me and told me to do the pageant. She took me to Macy's to get body makeup. Although the body makeup didn't do much for the texture of my skin (the raised plaques) it did help the discoloration due to psoriasis. The makeup made me comfortable enough to at least compete.
That night I graced the stage with my presence. I did my dance, wowed the audience with my talent, and impressed the judges with my interview. It came to the end of the pageant where it was time to crown the winner... 2nd runner was called up, and it wasn't me... 1st runner up was called, and my name wasn't called... Everyone was so nervous to see which one of the remaining ladies would win the prize... The host asked for a drum roll, "And the 2004 Strawberry Festival Queen Winner is..."
Alisha Clark (My maiden name, lol)
Are you recently diagnosed with psoriasis?