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In Plain Sight: A Strip Club Pageant

Saturday, October 04, 2014


Austin Wilde, the pageant winner

The claim that Portland has more strip clubs per capita than any other major city in the U.S. also means that there are many related and interesting ventures that have been spawned by the strip club industry.

I’m as competitive as the next Portlander, but I really don’t care whether our label as Strip City USA is deserved. We also claim to have more female strip club patrons per capita than any other major U.S. city. Although I haven’t seen the scientific tallies of either boast, I choose to believe both.

Call me provincial, but Portland wins.

Following my curiosity beyond this claim is how I opened this Pandora’s box of strip club-inspired contests and how I met the reigning Miss Beautiful Vagina. 

When I first heard about Portland’s annual Beautiful Vagina Pageant it was already in its fifth year—a seasoned pageant by vagina pageant standards. I guess I was never the biggest critic to ever grasp a hand-held mirror because I had to admit that I was still not sure what constituted true beauty, beauty worthy of a trophy, when it comes to women’s nether regions. 

Would the vaginas be displayed like bonsai plants in a wee tree competition? Would there be admirable feats of strength achieved by unwavering commitments to constant kegels? What’s more important: form or function? What would be analogous to the eveningwear competition?

How important is talent? Is it all about the razzle vajazzle?

Although I was more than a bit suspicious that this was another misogynistic ploy to judge women, that suspicion lost out to elevating curiosity ahead of criticism. That’s the point of this In Plain Sight column, after all.

Thankfully, I let curiosity win out over judgment or I might not have ever had the opportunity to meet and chat with this year’s winner of the Beautiful Vagina Pageant, Austin Wilde. 

In case you’re curious: 10 Things You Might Not Have Known About Portland’s Beautiful Vagina Pageant:  

1. The Beautiful Vagina Pageant is one of most important of the many pageants in the stripper industry. This year’s winner, Austin Wilde, was also the winner of another contest, Double Trouble, along with her pageant-mate, Rachael Reckless. Austin was also 2013 Stripper of the Year. The reason for entering these pageants and contests is the same for the stripper industry as it is for any industry—for building career platforms and raising profiles.

2. The founder of this and several other stripper-industry contests was the host of the pageant, DJ Dick Hennessy. Judges included Jedidiah Aaker and Nik Sin, both of Portlandia and other fame and infamy. Tres Shannon brought his Voodoo donut hole knowledge to the judging chair. Strippers extraordinaire and judges Rachael Reckless, Elle Stanger and Charlie Foxx brought insightful performer’s expertise. The celebrity judge panel gathered at the pageant venue, Club Rouge, charged with the responsibility of judging 22 vaginas (23, to be exact, as one contestant actually had two , vaginas).

3. Most, if not all of the contestants were professional strippers. Although most of the contestants dance in the Portland area, it is a national competition. At least one contestant traveled across the country to compete. Each contestant danced to two songs.

The pageant judges

4. The contest started with two preliminary rounds with five contestants ultimately making it into the finals. Contestants were judged on a scale of 1 to 11, with 1 being the lowest and 11 being the highest score. Unlike the Olympics, there were no decimal scores, just integers. Talent like pole tricks, creativity, costumery, and dancing made up 20 percent of the score. The overall attractiveness of the contestant made up 20 percent of the score. A whopping 60 percent of the score was for sheer vaginal beauty.

There was no audience participation in the voting, but I can envision a mobile app for that in the future.

5. Mirrors, flashlights, magnifying glasses, and cameras were among the necessary judging accouterments. Whisper-close views helped determine size, symmetry, color, and other subjective features.

6. From what I could ascertain, the contest might more accurately be called the Beautiful Vulva Pageant, as the inspection and evaluation did not appear to probe quite as deeply as a thorough vaginal inspection would require…nor did it probe as deeply as the many insertables that were employed by some contestants for the talent portion of the competition.

7. I wasn’t able to uncover any seasonal fashion trends, such as no hair before Labor Day, but there were clearly larger trends in what’s considered a beautiful vagina. Those trends may start in strip clubs, but the proliferation of Brazilian wax bars and laser salons indicate that they certainly don’t end there. With the exception of one contestant’s neon shock of a furry button, all of this year’s contestants made “all gone” in their vagscaping.

Like all fashion trends, these contest trends are expected to change over time.

8. Glitter, gel, piercings, projectiles and sex toys were de rigueur. Vajacials were critical for reducing in-grown hairs. Vatooing didn’t appear to extend beyond the temporary airbrushed variety. Most contestants went all out vajazzling with oils, piercings, glitter and other items that may be left over from the scrapbooking craze. 

9. As with other contests and pageants, the scoring methodology may not have been consistent. Perhaps this had less to do with stripper industry politics and allegiances and more to do with the increasing effects of alcohol consumption as the night wore on. 

10. The talent competition was fierce. Austin Wilde is an amazing pole dancer and an incredible performer, and she performs regularly at the Kit Kat Club. One judge was celebrating a birthday and Austin provided the birthday celebrant with the opportunity to blow out candles from her breasts. I’m not entirely sure how it worked, but I’ve always been a sucker for a magic trick. Austin was extremely strategic in tailoring her award-winning performance to each of the judges.

This is not the only similarity between a winning business strategy and a winning beautiful vagina pageant strategy.

While I recognize that no two strippers are any more alike than any two software engineers or real estate agents, the contestant strippers in the Beautiful Vagina Pageant clearly seemed love their job and their industry. 

The Beautiful Vagina Pageant 2014 was described as a complete success and a great time for the industry and the entire city as a…whole.

Like the assessment of any beauty, what constitutes a beautiful vagina is in the eye of the beholder. Whether this In Plain Sight analysis is intriguing or offending depends on whether you’re able to elevate curiosity ahead of criticism.

The 6th Annual Beautiful Vagina contest may just be my calendar must for July 2015. 

A graduate degree in behavioral science, three generations of Portland blood in her veins, 20 years as a real-estate broker, and a lifetime of delving into other people’s business has caused Becki Saltzman’s severe curiosity disorder. She is the author of Arousing the Buy Curious: Real Estate Pillow Talk for Patrons and Professionals, founder of Oomau Media, and she looks forward to expanding membership in the Tribe of the Curious.

Banner Photo Credit: iStock 


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