This week, we’re bringing you a very special CAMPUS CRUSH: Miss Rhode Island Edition.
Michelle Senteio, recent alumni of Brown University’s class of 2013, was selected as a finalist for Miss Rhode Island. That means that if she wins in September, she could go on to represent Lil Rhody in the Miss USA Pageant!
Read Michelle’s eloquent explanation for her decision to participate in the (sometimes controversial) pageant: “I know what a lot of you are thinking: isn’t this a competition that thrives on the objectification of women by parading them around in swimsuits and evening wear? Yes, people believe that. But my goal through entering the competition is to introduce a different sort into the pool. I want to challenge what people believe beauty to be. What I mean to say is: I’m going to rock my afro and represent what it means to actually be a powerful, educated, self-confident woman in today’s society.”
Here at Bluestockings, we think Michelle deserves our full support – and yours too. Read on to see how you can help!
1. Tell us about you.
Michelle Senteio, class of 2013
At Brown, I concentrated in literary arts and dabbled in visual arts.
I went to high school in Rhode Island but my father was in the military, so I’ve lived in several different states.
What are you interested in? Any fun facts?
I’m interested in video games, writing, reading, and hanging outdoors.
Right now I’m hooked on Game of Thrones.
2. How do you feel about feminism? Do you identify as a feminist?
I think many people are sensitive to the word feminism because they think it insinuates a cult of women that hate men. That’s a funny idea, but it’s not true.
I think as women, we should be free to do what we want – to begin to treat the world in a manner that propagates equality between all sexes and races. I do think that there are feminists that tend to be extreme reactionaries towards the traditional patriarchy, and react in a prejudiced way towards men – which isn’t fair, either. Of course, women are often objectified or treated as though they are inferior, but the way to respond isn’t by doing the same.
Do you have a feminist role model?
I respect any woman who respects herself. But if I had to choose, Erykah Badu. You betta callll Tyrone!
3. Tell us about your decision to enter the pageant.
Someone approached me and said I should sign up for the pageant and at first I thought, “I’m not really a pageant chick.” I’d seen Miss USA plenty of times before and I knew that I wasn’t the type. But I pulled up some old pageant competitions on youtube anyway, and as I watched I thought, “Why does it have to be just that type?”
I plan on entering the pageant to throw something different in the lot. I respect all those women for getting up there and answering sometimes very politically charged, difficult questions on stage, but when I look at them, I’m like…where’s anyone that looks like me?
So I’m going to be the one that looks like me.
4. What do you hope for in regards to the pageant?
I’ve come to realize that in order to make changes, you need to make the steps yourself. The worst thing that could happen is that I don’t win. And the experience will be just as great.
I just want all kinds of girls to look at the television screen and be able to relate to a girl, instead of wanting to try to change themselves to be like a girl. I mean, growing up I never saw any representations of myself in the media – I played video games and almost every main character was a guy. Most of the idealized romantic counterparts were blonde and had blue eyes, so it was hard for me to understand that my own beauty had value. The only black character I could really play was a boy – Kareem Campbell on Tony Hawk Pro Skater…
In gaming culture, the guy is always the hero, the girl is saved, and looks pretty while she’s at it. It’s getting boring.
5. What do you think about the misogyny that surrounds pageants? Do you think society gawks over women in pageants, almost wanting them to give “stupid” answers for entertainment?
I don’t understand it. These women are confident enough in themselves to make the decision to go out there and do this. If there is any sexism, they aren’t the ones perpetrating it. The people that squawk the loudest about objectification are usually the ones doing so. So just stop thinking that these women are objects, or seen as objects, and they won’t be.
And I mean, everyone delights in stupidity – look at the most popular youtube videos!
6. What do you think will be most challenging in this process?
I’m not sure – I’m attracted to it because it is a challenge, so I hope it’s a good one. Like I said, I’m a gamer. And I’ll be proud to get up on stage and speak and feel good doing so.
I was a radio host for WBRU 360 for a number of years, and there was nothing I liked better than speaking and listening to the community. When you feel like you reach out positively to people, you feel good yourself. I want to be a positive figure in as many lives as I can.
7. How can we help you achieve your goals (and accordingly inspire the people around you)?
You can help by going to teespring.com/MissyRI and buying a Miss(y) Rhode Island T-shirt (designed by another talented Brown alum, Bridget Sauer!) Contestants have to raise 795 dollars in order to compete, and I would love to see a bunch of people rocking these shirts in support.
Teespring is cool because you can campaign and raise money through making a shirt but I only have 4 days left to do so.
Otherwise, you can go to missrhodeislandusa.com and under the contestant’s corner, donate under my name. I would be SO GRATEFUL for any support.
8. Do you have any words of advice for your younger peers?
Freshmen, I have no advice for thee other than don’t be too hard on yourself.
You won’t know what you want to do until you know what you want to do. And more often than not, once you find out what you want to do, you’ll be hitting yourself over the head for not taking advantage of more resources while you had the chance.
Don’t do that. It’s fine. It happens to everyone.
9. This might be a toughie, but – if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and why?
I would make everyone able to look at one another without judging their appearance. The most wonderful man in the world, in my opinion, works at a post office in Bristol, RI. I want everyone to learn to treat each interaction with kindness and value.
10. Favorite classes at Brown?
Intro to Neuro
Adaptation of Literature to Film in Japan
Graphic Novels and Comic Masterworks
11. Tag the next person you are inspired by!
So what are you waiting for? Go support Michelle in her incredibly beautiful, brave, and totally progressive venture into the Miss Rhode Island pageant!
Photos via last.fm, teespring, newsgame