Alejandra Pagán: Proving Puerto Rico Is Full of Charm

Puerto Ricans are incredibly passionate about anyone who represents our country in any international competition, whether that be in sports, pageants, or academics. Since our first Miss Universe win in 1970, beauty pageants have become a unique part of Puerto Rican culture. With the win came great excitement and drive to make the world notice the exceptional qualities Puerto Rican women hold: no matter how controversial these supposed qualities may be. In the last couple of years, however, that excitement has dwindled. Beauty pageants have lost their cultural importance for objectifying women and being discriminatory against LGBTQIA+ contestants. 

In this new age, a new beauty pageant attempts to leave its mark: Miss Charm. The pageant's main focuses are tourism, culture, and education. The show was supposed to be held on March 18, 2020, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been postponed indefinitely. However, contestants aren't feeling discouraged, and they have continued to prepare and do their best in representing their countries. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The first-ever Miss Charm Puerto Rico is Alejandra Pagán. Previously, Pagán participated and finished as the 1st Runner Up in Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2018 (MUPR). She is a Television and Radio Communications student at the University of Puerto Rico Arecibo Campus. Curious to learn more of her experiences in pageantry, I had the pleasure of sitting down and having a chat with her. 

Her Campus at UPR:  Did you watch pageants as a kid? What did you think of them?

Alejandra Pagán: I didn't watch pageants as a kid, I didn't even watch a full Miss Universe Puerto Rico before joining the pageant. I usually just skipped to the question round or when they came out in their gowns. I was more interested in listening to their answers and seeing their dresses. People usually stopped me on the street and said, "Oh, you should be a model or beauty queen," and I was always like "No way" (Laughs). 

My interest started in 2017 when I graduated and won Miss Lino Padrón Rivera, a  pageant in my high school. After going to college, I understood that it could be an excellent opportunity to grow, so I decided to join MUPR. As a kid, it never crossed my mind that I would ever join one.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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HC at UPR: Why did you compete in MUPR? What motivated you?

AP: To be honest, I didn't go into it with a specific purpose. I just wanted to try something new and start delving into the modeling industry. I did it for the opportunity, the experiences, and I wanted to show people, and kind of show myself, that I could do something out of my comfort zone. I'd only ever participated in music and choir, and I wanted to try out modeling, but I was scared to tell my family. When I saw the new requirements for the pageant, I thought it was a great chance to start since they didn't require any [modeling] experience. However, after I joined, I realized that it was also a wonderful opportunity to be an example for others.

HC at UPR: What did you gain from MUPR?

AP: What I gained from that experience and, to be honest, what I appreciated the most, were the people I learned from along the way. Also, the new perspective I got to see of myself, and that it made me realize that if I work hard, no matter what the outcome is, I would be satisfied and not consider it a failure. I was one of the youngest in the group, being 18 at the time, and receiving those messages of support and feedback from the organization and the other contestants showed me that I could be a good communicator and a more sociable person. It also made me see a lot of people and communities differently. I truly learned the most from the other contestants. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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HC at UPR: Why did you then take on Miss Charm?

AP: Honestly, because I get to travel and meet so many other cultures through the other contestants. That's something that I couldn't gain by just competing locally. I decided to go because I knew I was going to travel to Vietnam, and I didn't have to compete here first. I really want to explore the world, but it's scary for me because I've never been outside the U.S., so going to Vietnam alone is a big leap.

But I'm educating myself about the country and the contestants; they all have been very understanding and have helped me in the process. Even though traveling alone scares me, it's something that's been on my bucket list, and what better way to do it than representing my country at the same time? It's the best of both worlds. 

HC at UPR: What other thing scares/scared you the most about pageants? 

AP: I was scared that people would perceive me differently than I am. I didn't want to show something different or show myself as someone narcissistic or unkind. Truthfully, I was scared about what my friends, family, and people would say about my participation. It's hard because you have a lot of people writing to you directly about the things you did right and wrong, the things you should change about yourself, and those were the things that scared me the most.

You can say that you won't compare yourself to the other contestants, but it's inevitable. It was hard for me to get to an emotional state where I could be comfortable with the things that I was doing and the way that I looked to give it my best. I'm here to learn and represent Puerto Rico, but I'm also here because of my personal goals, and I need to remember that at the end of the day.  If I give it my all, the person that will appreciate it the most at the end of the day is me. Maintaining my focus and giving my best is all I can do not to be afraid. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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HC at UPR: How do you think pageantry, in general, has helped you develop as a professional? 

AP: It's helped me feel more comfortable speaking publicly, along with being more understanding with personalities that differ from mine. I used to be a shut-in kind of person and didn't get to meet people who were different and with different perspectives than me. But now I'm surrounded by people who are the polar opposite of me, and they have all helped me see their lives and the decisions that they make through a new lens.

It has made me understand people better; their pain, their situations. It made me more confident. I know people always say that, but it's only possible if you get to an emotional state that allows you to feel confident. People always tell you what you did wrong, so it can either build you up or tear you down. There are days when I'm feeling fantastic and other days when I'm not. That's totally normal, and everybody goes through it. 

HC at UPR: Putting all of the things you have gained and learned aside, when you're up on that stage, how do you want people to remember you?

AP: The same thing everybody wants to be remembered for... I want people to know who I am and that I gave it my best. If I win, but people don't think I tried my hardest, then I don't consider that a win. I want people to remember me because I gave my all on the runway, in the question round, in my interview, and every other aspect of the competition. When I'm right there on the stage on the final night, I just want to think about that. In MUPR, that's what I did, and it made me enjoy the night. All my hard work put me there, and my family and friends who were there made me feel like I had already done my job. If you stress during the night, you'll probably have a bad outcome because your nerves will betray you. So I just want to enjoy it and know that I did my best. That's how I want people to remember me. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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HC at UPR: Her Campus UPR is an intersectional feminist chapter that will always put the spotlight on gender issues. Therefore, it is necessary to ask this last question.

What do you say to those who believe pageants are superficial and that they objectify women?

AP: Honestly, I used to be one of those people (Laughs). But I think that now pageants have worked on choosing winners that genuinely represent the women of today. Meaning, a woman that is beautiful, smart, compassionate, and that has a purpose. We have seen some advances in that area, but we still have a lot of work to do. I often ask myself why pageants say they are looking for a woman with all those qualities, but need to see her walking in a bathing suit. I think that the questions the feminist movement is asking are essential to see real changes in pageantry. Yes, they do amazing work after the pageant with their queen, but maybe the process that they follow in choosing her is not the best.

Pageants like Miss World have eliminated the swimsuit round completely. I believe that's really great because there are contestants that, because of their religion, for example, are not allowed to wear a swimsuit, and that should be respected. If you are a woman and you say that you are truly genuine, then you shouldn't be forced to do anything that you don't wish to do. Pageants should work on showing more than the physical aspect of the contestant because we are past the point where that is the only important attribute a woman has. If we really want to make a change in the way people view beauty pageants, we need to start narrowing down the physical aspects of the competition and start showing what makes that woman contribute to our society. 

Her Campus at UPR: That's great! I want to thank you for your time and your answers. I hope that you get to shine on the stage at Miss Charm and represent Puerto Rico with love and care. I wish you all the best!

AP: Thank you! And hello to all the Her Campus readers! 

Let's keep an eye out for Alejandra Pagán and wish her the best when Miss Charm is back on track!