The Time I Was a Pageant Queen
I’m cleaning out the apartment I bought eight years ago as a dewy-eyed fiancee, getting ready to put it on the market and kick off a brand-new life, I’m constantly finding little reminders of the twenty-something ingenue I used to be. A dusty, half-written novel stashed under my bed, love letters from rehab via an exhausting ex-boyfriend, a bedazzled discman housing a Ja Rule CD (#murdaaaa). And then, this morning, I found the makeup bag I took with me when I lived in Seville, back in 2001!
I swooned because it contained one of my favorite, favorite beauty products of all time: Lancome Definicils Waterproof Mascara ($26). It’s still in my arsenal (not the same tube, of course). For me, lashes are paramount to looking gorgeous. Lashes and earrings. If you’re missing both, you’re basically a man at that moment. Anyway, I was always looking for a mascara that gave me the lushes, longest, thickest lashes — and since I was pre-Lasik back then and wore contacts, smudge-proof was a huge plus for me, too. Lancome Definicils did it all, and still does. Case in point:
Exhibit A, me at Club Catedral in Seville. Shortly before, I’d quit my job as Glamour’s beauty editor, broken up with the aforementioned boyfriend, put my shit in storage and moved to Spain. I need a sabbatical, but badly. The plan was to teach English at a charming little private elementary school — but I ended up playing tons of hooky, riding around on the back of my boutique-owner friend Ana’s vespa and writing my first novel, The Accidental Diva. This night, Ana took me to Seville’s most famous (read: only) nightclub for International Night. There were tons of exchange students living there, plus an American naval base an hour away, so every Wednesday Club Catedral had an “if you’re not Spanish you get a free shot” thing.
So there I was, nursing a kamikaze and wiggling around to Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Outta My Head” (the only thing anyone played in Europe that entire fall). It was August, and a good 105 degrees in southern Spain. The old school fans barely created a breeze and everyone was drenched in sweat — but somehow it just made people look hotter, like we were all in an Enrique Iglesias video. Suddenly, I heard the DJ announce in heavily accented English, “And now we have Miss Catedral International pagaent! Same like every year! If you entered your name on the list, line up at bar! Here are names: Blah, blah, blah-dy blah, TIA WILLIAMS, blah, blah…”
I froze, mid-wiggle. Ana burst out laughing.
“You need to win this, Candela!” Ana renamed me Candela during my stay there, because Tia means “aunt” in Spanish, and thus was not sexy.
“What are they gonna make me do?”
“Its easy! You must pick a song, walk down the runway and dance very little. And the crowd decides the winner! Go line up, go, go, go!”
I was not tipsy enough to digest entering an bottom rung pageant at a ticky-tacky discoteque. But hey. YOLO! So I downed my shot, shook my hair out from its ponytail and got in line behind an African girl and two Russian teenagers, both wearing cropped tops superimposed with Britney Spears’ face. They clearly danced to “Slave For You” and “Crazy,” and were terrible (though you’d never know it from the drunken cheers of the crowd gathered around the runway). I can take them, I thought to myself, suddenly feeling competitive. When it was my turn, I ordered the DJ to spin Madonna’s “Music” and then I stormed the catwalk with all the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent (acronym it) I could muster, and then busted out a few high school dance team moves. The crowd roared with delight, lit afire by my body rolls and non-ironic popping and locking. And when all twelve of us international stunners lined up at the end of the “pagaent,” I was crowned Miss Catedral International 2001.
I was given a sash, a tiara, a bouquet of flowers and tickets to the local cinema. Two hours later, I kissed Ana on both cheeks and stumbled home in full queen regalia at 3am, a victor. I say all of this to say that it was 200 degrees in that club (seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been sweatier), I’d danced for my life, and it was raining on the way home — and when I got to my apartment, my lashes were still flawless — full and lush, with nary a smear or smudge in sight. Lancome Definicils Waterproof. The business.