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Dear Miss Indiana,

I don’t normally approve of pageants.

But when women like you take the stage and boldly strip the world of its lies, I do.

I was ninety pounds three years into our marriage and I shivered when I took my clothes off.

My husband could barely hold me for the bones, he would turn away when I stood in front of him, my ribs protruding and I realized then – this woman who’d relapsed into anorexia when she was engaged – the lie that every fashion magazine feeds us: That men prefer skinny women.

The truth is, men are more attracted to a woman who is real than a woman who is skinny.

When I first got pregnant fiveyears ago, and filled in all of those empty places, my waist and chest curving out my husband couldn’t keep his hands off me, because “I love your curves,” he’d whisper in that double bed in our bedroom without a closet.

I always thought skinny was the answer.

But you, Miss Indiana – you amongst other brave souls like singer Mandisa, supermodel Emme, and Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence – you’re revealing the truth to an anorexic continent: a starving body is not a beautiful one.

And the other truth we’re all missing? Many – if not most – fashion editors are women.

We are doing this to ourselves, ladies.

We are setting our own standard of size zero, and then blaming men when our daughters die to get thin.

Women are most beautiful wearing their own bodies to the fullest. For most of us, that means curves. For all of us, that means strong, muscular, full of life because we are live-givers. We wear breast and womb because we are daughters of Eve, the mother of all, and every child ever born has come from one of us.

There is no reason to hide behind our rib cage. There is no reason to be ashamed of our curves.

But let me get one thing straight – there is no such thing as “normal,” — there is only alive, and dead.

And you, Miss Indiana – you are alive. You glowed with life as you walked that stage and stared into those judges’ eyes and dared them to judge you.

Because no fashion magazine edited by an unhappy women was going to convince you of what you already knew:

That joy is not found in being anyone but yourself, and you owned your body that night, girl.

You owned it proud and everyone wanted to be you in that moment, even the men, not because of your curves, but because of your confidence.

We are drawn like moths to the light that is courage.

And Idare each one of to stand up to Vogue and Mademoiselle and Chatelaine and Hollywood. I dare us to stand up for the daughters who are dying and to be candles. Bright flickering candles of courage and hope.

Even though you didn’t win the pageant, Miss Indiana, you wear the crown.

It’s a crown Christ calls each of us to wear, one that says we’re kingdom dwellers, we’re upside-down-believers, and we’ll live in the fullness of our bodies and our curves because we were created by love and for love.

Love is what defines us, not shape nor size. And we cannot experience joy until we grow into the fullness of that love.

So, from a woman who’s daily walking taller,

Your sister,


Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoirAtlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look(Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please Find her onTwitterorFacebook.

What’s your history with beauty pageants? Did you watch Miss America growing up?