Helping young women feel more comfortable in their own bodies is the reason why 22-year-old South San Francisco native Dana Toney is competing in her first beauty pageant.
Toney, who went to South San Francisco High School, will compete Aug. 16 in Seattle for the first-ever Miss Plus USA pageant. Her current title, given in April, is Miss Golden State Plus USA. Toney, a finalist in the competition, was hesitant do be involved in a pageant, but ultimately decided to give it a shot after she realized it wasn’t your typical beauty pageant.
“We were chosen based off of a reference letter from the community,” she said. “It wasn’t a bunch of pretty girls parading around stage in bikinis.”
She found out about the pageant from her aunt, who tagged her in a Facebook post. Toney deleted the post at first because she didn’t want to get involved in the competition, but ultimately did some research and decided it was a great fit for her. Since then, she walked in her first fashion show two weeks ago in San Francisco.
The competition, for women size 10 and above, will include an evening gown and fitness wear contests, along with interview portion. The mission of Miss Plus USA, broken into a teen section of ages 14-19 and women ages 20-30, is to provide a platform and opportunity for the average size woman through tasteful competition, requiring a healthy lifestyle, class, eloquence and volunteerism. Toney will be competing in a pool of about 20 women. Toney is most nervous to be up on stage.
“It’s my first time on a real big stage,” she said. “I’ve done public speaking, but not huge like this.”
Stepping outside of her comfort zone is worth it though to help others, she said.
“I’m not just doing this for myself, but for the Bay Area, for all the curvy ladies I know that we’re going to break the beauty standards,” said Toney.
It’s also special to Toney that she is part of the inaugural Miss Plus USA pageant.
“I’m a history maker,” said Toney, who is a pastry chef by trade, but works at First Bank in San Mateo. “I’m very glad to be part of the first one.”
A member of the Girls Scouts and Ballet Folklorico Alma de Mexico of South City for 15 years, Toney’s platform in the competition is self-esteem and anti-bullying. In particular, she is focusing on helping young girls learn to love themselves in the now, not when they lose 5 pounds.
“I’ve always been a plus size girl and the biggest girl in my class,” she said. “You don’t have to be a size 2 to consider yourself beautiful.”
When she was in high school, the bullying started to wear her down and she decided it was better just to accept herself.
She’s not sure about future pageants because of the high financial costs of participating. There’s also the sheer fact that there aren’t too many plus size pageants to enter, she said.
“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “There aren’t that many plus size pageants. I would love to see more plus size pageants. I’d be there in a heartbeat — that’s why I felt like I had to do this; there’s not that many.”
During her six-day trip, there will be workshops, a fitness boot camp, touring around Seattle, a photo shoot, a fashion show and a soiree to fight against human trafficking before the final event to crown queens Saturday, Aug. 16 at Neptune Theater.
For more on the pageant, go to missplususa.com. For more on Toney, go to facebook.com/GoldenStatePlusUSA.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105