Bald Woman Wins Beauty Pageant, Also Our Hearts

Elise Solé

Beauty pageants often evoke images of orange-streaked fake tans, sparkly tiaras, and blindingly white teeth, but one Utah teen has flipped conventional beauty standards by winning a title in the Miss Philippines Earth USA competition, despite a condition that’s caused her to go bald.

Angelica Galindez, a 19-year-old licensed cosmetologist from Salt Lake City, has alopecia, a condition in which the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair loss. In many cases, the damage to the follicles isn’t permanent, but Galindez was diagnosed at age 12 and went completely bald three years later. Competing in the Miss Philippines Earth USA pageant — and ditching her wig — was her way of conveying that beauty is not one-size-fits-all. “It was really hard to lose my hair during puberty, so I wore a hat to school, but boys teased me and ripped it off my head,” Galindez tells Yahoo Shine. “As I grew older, I came to terms with the fact that my hair wasn’t growing back, so I decided to own it.”

She never dreamed of entering a beauty pageant, but a family friend had other plans, sending photos of Galindez wearing a long brown wig to Bradford Adkins, the director of Miss Philippines Earth USA. “I had no idea that Angelica was bald until one week before the pageant, when she sent me new photos without a wig,” Adkins tells Yahoo Shine. “At that point, I had already decided she was perfect for the competition, so her alopecia wasn't an issue.”

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Galindez says she wasn’t trying to hide her hair loss; she just needed time to muster the courage to reveal her condition. “But then I decided that this could be an opportunity to show the world that girls like me could be classically beautiful, too,” she says.

Although Galindez was a bit wary of how the other women would react, she was pleasantly surprised by their warm reception. “One girl even said she hoped I’d win, even though she was running against me,” she says.

After competing in the national costume segment, followed by bathing suits, and a dance number — which Galindez says, she “totally messed up” — she was crowned Miss Philippines Water 2014, one of six titles in the pageant (Air, Fire, Earth, Eco-tourism, and Teen). Galindez’s duties include being a Green Ambassador, raising awareness for the environment, and in April, she’s slated to compete in the Miss Philippines Earth USA Nationals, in Manila, Philippines.

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In the meantime, Galindez’s studying up on the environment and working as a hair and makeup stylist. “Ironically, hair is my life,” she says. “It’s a little hard because I can’t experiment with my products, but doing hair relaxes me, almost like therapy. And I enjoy working with people who have lost their hair from illness.”   

Galindez’s win is only one layer of an evolving pageant industry that’s widening its notion of beauty. In recent years, pageants have morphed from a bathing suit-and-baton-twirling feminist punch line to a well-oiled, powerful industry attracting diverse professionals. For example, the Miss America Pageant, a 92-year-old institution, recently churned out political candidates such as Democrat Caroline Bright (Miss Vermont 2010), who pursued a seat in the Vermont Senate, and Lauren Cheape (Miss Hawaii 2011) who represents District 45 in Hawaii’s House of Representatives. 

In September, Theresa Vail, a 22-year-old hunter and National Guard soldier (who happens to be a blond bombshell), strutted down the Miss America stage wearing a red string bikini that revealed a large tattoo on her rib cage. Competing alongside her was Miss Iowa, Nicole Kelly, a baseball lover born without a forearm. Of her disability, Kelly told the Associated Press, “The reason I'm here is not because I'm a public interest story. I'm here not because I look different but because I have the intelligence, I have the ability and all the things that Miss America needs to have.” Neither won the competition, but 24-year-old Nina Davuluri, the first Miss America of Indian descent, did. Despite the racist backlash that ensued postwin, Davuluri wasn't fazed. "Miss America's branding is so associated with the girl next door, which has always meant blond hair and blue eyes with only a few exceptions, but the girl next door must evolve as the country evolves," she said. 

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