Destinee Arnold, 19, recently competed in the 52nd Miss International Beauty Pageant held in Okinawa, Japan as Miss Belize.
“As part of her wearing the crown, she got the opportunity to represent Belize at the international pageant held this year in Okinawa,” Opal Enriquez, the national director and co-owner of Queen of the Jewel, which represents Arnold, said. “We were very impressed with her work.”
The competition included bikini wear, evening wear and an interview with the judges, but the contestants were also able to experience Japan.
“Everyday we went somewhere different. They took us to a lot of museums so we experienced a lot of their history and culture. I really love the Okinawan people, they are very sweet. The people were really hospitable,” Arnold said. “I think that’s one of the best things about when you get to the international level is that you get to go to different countries other than the U.S. and Belize.”
Arnold’s mother, Marie McDowell, said she was happy when her daughter came home, with or without a title.
“The whole Japan thing was emotionally and physically draining for me because it was the first time my baby was gone anywhere so far from me without family members. For me, it was a struggle but there was not a day that I did not wake up and I did not send her an inspirational quote, a ‘Good morning’, ‘How was your day?’ ‘What are we doing today?’ I was there for her without physically being there,” said McDowell.
“I know how pageants are when you get to the international level. It gets very political, it didn’t get her down. She loved it, there was no disappointment. She’s a winner in my book and she knew that in her heart. She embraced that experience and she took everything she could from Japan.”
Arnold is currently a third year sociology student at Cal State Fullerton. She said she would like to eventually either go to law school or to a master’s program for human resources. However, prior to her trip to Japan, Arnold had already decided to take the semester off because she would not have been able to tend to her online classes.
Last semester, Arnold worked for the Student Organization Resource Center, was a resident advisor, and attended CSUF full time. At the same time, she held the title of Miss Belize California.
“Last year I did have to balance the pageants with the school and working two jobs. Last year I had the ultimate test,” Arnold said. “I actually finished my last semester with straight A’s and I was very proud of myself. I keep myself on a schedule. It’s a lot of prioritizing and sacrificing your social life. I just keep telling myself I have really understanding friends and I have a supportive family. As long as I had that combination everything will balance itself out, it’s just up to me to take responsibility and make sure my priorities are in the right line.”
After watching her mother’s pageant videos when she was younger, Arnold wanted to follow in her footsteps and enter pageantry.
“I convinced her to let me enter a pageant my sophomore year of high school and I entered the Miss Junior Teen San Bernardino/Anaheim and I won,” said Arnold, who has participated in five pageants and won first place in three. “Ever since then I was addicted to pageants and I want to eventually go to Miss Universe.”
Her mother was surprised to find out that her daughter wanted to participate in pageants and represent Belize.
“I never thought that Destinee would ever be interested in pageants. When she approached me, of course, as a mother I supported her. Like I said, I was shocked that she wanted to get in pageantry because Destinee is one of the most humble persons you may ever meet,” McDowell said. “She’s very shy. She’s not an outwardly, spunky type of girl. I knew that there were certain obstacles in front of her. She was met with a lot of animosity and adversity when she won the title.”
Arnold was interested in representing Belize in order to shine a light on her culture.
“One thing that really motivated me to represent Belize instead of the U.S. is because Belize you will only see them during the introduction and that’s it. Belize isn’t a powerhouse country so it’s rare that someone is successful,” Arnold said. “I really wanted to represent Belize and go back to my roots because the Belizean culture is something that I hold really close to my heart.”
Arnold attributes her success to her mother who is her biggest support system.
“I know that none of this would have been possible without my family and friends especially my mom. My mom has been the saviour of my pageant career,” Arnold said. “When things are falling apart, she will be the one to put it all together. When emotionally I’m not in the right place, she’s there to pick me right back up. She’s been the one person that I know would always be there to support me. She’s the leader of the support team.”
Although Arnold has participated in pageants for years, her mother still has to give her advice when it comes to the criticism she encounters.
“The only thing that I need to remind her of is that Destinee takes a lot of things personally and I always have to remind her that when you get into the spotlight people will pick and prod and poke at you and you got to have a tougher skin because that’s what they’re gonna do,” McDowell said.
Arnold’s favorite part of pageants is the interview with the judges because she gets a chance to connect with them and they get to a chance to really get to know her as a person.
“I just want them to know the real Destinee instead of the pageant girl,” Arnold said. “I basically just want to show my inner beauty more than making sure I am pleasing to the eye. Beautiful is a word that to me society has made very aesthetic. I just want to be known as a person who is intelligent, very humble, a nice person to be around, that type of thing.”
Something Arnold has learned from being in pageant competitions is interpersonal skills with the other ladies who come from different countries, backgrounds and cultures.
“You really learn how to communicate with people who aren’t exactly like you.You get to see things in a way that you’d never seen before and I think that’s what I really benefit from and what I really learn from being in pageantry,” Arnold said. “I have a place to crash in every country now.”
Arnold will be moving to Belize at the end of the month until her reign as Miss Belize is over and she crowns the next Miss Belize.
“I’m at the pinnacle of the pageant career. I think I might call it quits after this. Once you get to the international level, everything is politics. Your talent doesn’t matter anymore, it’s more about what your country can do for the company,” Arnold said. “I don’t know if I want to put my schooling on the backburner for a competition that does not necessarily pay attention to my talent but more of the ability of my country to contribute to the success of their company or what looks good on paper.”
The next pageant Miss Belize will participate in is the 2012 Miss Ethnic World International Pageant on Nov. 14-18.