Miss congeniality redefines beauty

Miriam Arghandiwal

Carly Davis, senior kinesiology major, won Miss Congeniality in the Miss Lake County 2010 Pageant Friday. She also set a precedent by being the first beauty queen missing a limb to ever participate in Lake County’s pageant.

While Davis did not rank high enough to advance onto the Miss California Pageant, she said she did succeed in reaching her ultimate goal, which was motivating others into believing that they could accomplish anything they set out to do.

“I didn’t enter this pageant to win, I didn’t enter it for the scholarship money,” Davis said. “I wanted to serve as a role model for all amputated children.”

Davis said an online forum on bornjustright.com initially inspired her to join the pageant. She said she often read posts from parents who were concerned about their children’s futures and in fear that their kids might be held back from normal day-to-day activities such as swimming and crawling.

Davis said she would try to assure the parents that their children could lead normal lives, just like herself.

“I would respond to posts by looking back at my life as a child,” Davis said.

Participating in the pageant was another way for Davis to show these kinds of families that their children would not have to hold back in life. With the pageant as her medium she had a public forum to voice her story and reach more people, said Kellie Davis, Davis’ sister.

Knowing her daughter is capable of anything was a lesson Carly Davis’ mother, Diane Davis, was fortunate to learn early-on.

“I was in the hospital with Carly when she was a bout a week old and I saw an older accomplished woman with a missing limb,” she said. “As a mother, I said to myself, “That is how I want my daughter to be.’ And so I always encouraged her and told her she could do anything.”

Carly Davis said she took her mother’s encouragement and spent her childhood participating in various sports.

“I was the youngest advanced swimmer in our town at the age of six,” she said.

Carly Davis also played basketball, soccer and rode dirt bikes. She said when it came to baseball, she forced her mother to put her on a boy’s baseball team because playing with the girls was too easy.

“I’ve always been a tomboy so I had to go through the transformation of being like, “Okay, this pageant is whatever,’ to “Oh my god, I love these girls and this is so much fun,'” Carly Davis said.

One of the things Carly Davis enjoyed most about the pageant was all the people she got to meet.

“Everyone was incredible,” she said. “It’s a nonprofit organization so everyone is there on their own time trying to help you and make you a better person.”

Although Carly Davis enjoyed her experience in the pageant, there were some obstacles she had to face – discrimination being one of them.

“I’ve been told a number of times, “Oh you’re so beautiful,’ and then when they notice I use a prosthetic, they’ll go, “No you do not, you’re too pretty,”‘ Carly Davis said. “And to me I’m just like what do you mean I’m too pretty?”

Carly Davis said she has never been able to reconcile with the meaning of the statement, “Too pretty to use a prosthetic,” but with this beauty pageant she hoped to redefine what beauty really meant.

She said technology like prosthetics are being integrated into the human body and while some choose to beautify their bodies with plastic surgery and implants she has a prosthetic that helps her complete everyday tasks.

“Some people have hip placements some have their knees fixed, the only difference is that mine is visible – on the outside,” she said. “(The pageant) was my way of saying, “Hey this is still beautiful.'”

Aside from letting others see the beauty of her prosthetic, Kellie Davis said one of the most effective ways Carly Davis and her family deal with discrimination and ignorance is by educating people.

“(Carly) explains to people, “I was born like this but I can still do X, Y and Z and I can do them the well,'” Kellie Davis said.

Carly Davis said her greatest obstacle in the pageant was getting people to look past the prosthetic.

“I understand that it’s not normal to see someone with a prosthetic and I understand that there’s a shock value involved in it,” Carly Davis said. “During that pageant I wasn’t wearing a long sleeve shirt, I was wearing dresses so it took a while for people to look past the prosthetic and see me for who I am.”

Carly Davis said while she understands how others can see her as being “special,” she does not consider herself to be anything of the sort. “I think we all go through life with what we have and make the best of it,” she said. “Personally I’m one of those people where if you tell me I can’t do something I’ll do it – just to prove you wrong.”

Carly Davis said the title of Miss Congeniality was fitting because she knew she had given her fellow contestants a new point of view about herself by getting them to see past her prosthetic and treating her as an equal.

Other contestants even felt comfortable enough to joke about Carly Davis’ prosthetic with her.

“On the night of the pageant one of the stage managers came out and ran through anything we might be forgetting,” Carly Davis said. “One of my fellow contestants turned to me and said, “Oh my God Carly, you forgot something…your arm!’ And we all burst into laughter.”

Carly Davis said she has a great sense of humor and loves to joke about her prosthetic.

“One of my favorite things to do is to make up stories about how I lost my arm,” she said. “I’ve lost it by a shark attack, an alligator attack, etc.”

Overall, the most rewarding part of the whole experience was the feedback Carly Davis got back from families that wrote letters to her after the press had covered her story, she said.

Carly Davis said she feels that if someone sees a problem in something and makes no moves to do something to make the situation better, then they have no right to complain.

“(Carly) hates the word inspiration,” Diane Davis said. “Inspiration is when someone admires what you’re doing – Carly wants to motivate kids into knowing that they can do anything.”

Miriam Arghandiwal can be reached at [email protected]