Ms. Virginia United States winner Bekah Pence captured attention earlier this year when she made it a point to maintain her modesty throughout the competition in an effort to show that beauty and glamour can come alongside humility.
Pence, a Mormon who won the Ms. Virginia United States title on April 12, went on to compete in the Ms. United States event on July 3, but as she readied for the national competition, she learned more about some of the required outfits and was troubled.
"When I found out what they looked like, I was like, 'I'm so sorry, but I can't walk out on stage in that,'" Pence told Deseret News.
When she approached the national directors and explained her moral and religious beliefs, they initially said that alterations weren't allowed. She was disappointed, but Pence turned to prayer, believing that the situation would eventually remedy itself.
"I was afraid that they were going to possibly turn me away or disqualify me, but my director made it very clear that she and her director partner were going to help me in any way they could," she said.
Pence then learned that another contestant named Afton Liddell, who is also a Mormon, had similar concerns, so the two joined together to ask the national directors for accommodations. At that point, the contestant organizers were willing to help.
Pence and Liddell worked together to come up with appropriate alterations to the outfits, which they implemented and donned in the competition.
"It was just a miracle. People don't realize that there is power in simply keeping the commandments," Pence told Deseret News. "There is power in numbers, and it makes it easier for other members to keep their standards."
Standing by their values ended up giving the women a chance to share their faith with others, with Pence adding that their stance also led her to discover that others girls in the competition would have also appreciated more modest attire.
"I cannot even tell you how many times I got comments from the girls where they were like, 'Oh, I didn't know that was an option. I would have worn a one-piece suit,'" Pence told the outlet. "I really realized that, not just with the swimsuit — and especially with the black dress, those women actually felt uncomfortable. That experience was just a testament to me that more women want to value modesty."
Pence previously shared her philosophy on modesty when she spoke with Deseret News back in April.
"I’m a firm believer in not just being modest, but you can also be absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, not just beautiful. I feel like girls don’t feel that way. They think that it’s a step down if you’re modest,” she said. “They don’t think you can be absolutely gorgeous, but I felt that way. I felt like, ‘You know what? This dress is amazing, and I feel gorgeous in it — and I’m modest.”
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