by Rafa Delfin
IT IS NOT UNUSUAL for a beauty queen to speak up against unacceptable conditions in a pageant in which she is competing. How many times have we heard of pageant contestants getting sick from food poisoning, complaining about bad facilities, or being treated rudely by the pageant organizers? And how many times have we heard stories of pageant winners not getting their prize money and other prizes that had been promised to them by the organizers or sponsors? Recently, Amy Lynne Holbrook gained worldwide attention for speaking ill about the Miss Tourism Queen International 2008 in China. Amy represented the United States. Amy had been chronicling her misadventures in her blog, and when MTQI organizers learned about it, they demanded that she take it down, to which she refused. Despite MTQI's fervent attempts to convince Amy to stay, she decided to withdraw from the pageant - much to the dismay of her fellow contestants and supporters. Critical Beauty has found a kindred spirit in Amy - someone who loves pageants, who promotes vegetarianism, and who supports animal rights. CB is honored to interview this beautiful, articulate and intelligent young woman.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a 23 year-old student, managing a busy international salon in West Hollywood. I have two Italian Greyhounds named Delphina and Tashi. Abundant joy comes in small packages! When I am not herding Italian Greyhounds, you will find me studying or working my free time away on my Mac?that?s if I?m not stuck in traffic. I plan on transferring to UCLA in 2009 and I am currently preparing for a Liberal Arts major. I am dedicating my career to the cause of Animal Welfare.
I love watching documentaries, reading, and writing. I consider myself a huge computer geek! My immediate family lives in San Diego. My mother has been a 2nd grade teacher for 37 years. She taught me how to read by singing hymns and circling words in the church bulletin. One of my fondest memories with her was our visit to Monet's Garden in Giverny, France and Murren, Switzerland. My father is a defense attorney by profession and a political folk singer. He is the ultimate Renaissance man on a Kawasaki 1000 (police motorcycle circa 1996).
My sister is a beautiful peacemaker who keeps my family sane. She is an excellent cook and is constantly fascinated by the weather. She has a cat named Emma who has six toes. My best friend, Julian, has deep compassion for those who are in need financially or spiritually. He is currently studying International Relations, Urban Planning, & Marketing at USC and is a faithful student of Dzogchen Buddhism. He should own stock in Barnes & Noble, his personal heaven:-)
How did you get interested in pageants?
I have watched the Miss USA and Miss Universe competition since I can remember. I was a tall and gangly little girl and beauty queens were so glamorous to me. My good friend since high school was the outgoing Miss San Diego Teen USA when we were 15 years old and she encouraged me to enter when I showed interest in the pageant. My parents thought I was crazy but they wholly supported my ambition.
Name three things you value in life and why?
Honesty. Loyalty. My experiences.
Which person or persons do you admire and why?
Princess Diana. She was the first high profile face to show the world that AIDS could not be caught through skin contact when she was photographed touching a man who was dying of AIDS. Also, the work she did to gain public awareness for the atrocities caused by land mines was unmatched.
Define happiness. What makes you happy?
Chocolate. Finishing a great novel. Failed parking meters.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
Do you believe in God or the afterlife?
I was raised with a Christian mom and a Jewish dad that I believe led me to be very exploratory with my spirituality. I also believe that religions separate people. I am currently studying Buddhism and I believe in the basics of Good and Evil. I believe in reincarnation.
If you were to describe what the purpose of life is to a child, what would you tell him or her?
This question reminds me of the Q & A at Miss Earth 2007 which was "How will you describe the beauty of Mother Nature to a blind child?" Nothing further.
ON MISS TOURISM QUEEN INTERNATIONAL 2008
How did you become the U.S. representative to this pageant and how did you prepare for it
I got a call from my director and he asked me to represent the U.S. in the pageant. This is my fourth international pageant (three have been under his direction) and every other experience was incredible. I attribute much of my traveling from his faith in me.
Did you have any idea what you were getting into when you joined this pageant?
Obviously not. Since my return, I have had numerous people send me emails from around the world stating their personal experience with Miss TQI and thanking me for exposing the truth.
What do you say to your critics who claim that the only reason you stirred controversy is to attract attention to yourself?
I am a catalyst for change, not a fame whore. Not everyone living in Los Angeles wants to be famous.
I'd like to share some facts with you. I have been to China before and I made the choice to go back after I had such a pleasant experience at Miss International held partially in China. I left my full-time college course schedule IN THE MIDDLE OF MID-TERMS to go to China because I saw my participation in Miss TQI as a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am still not caught up on all of my assignments.
I also postponed my new job working full-time as the manager of a salon and I have a ton of work to do now. I spent four months preparing for the pageant, practicing my walk with a coach, finding time to go to the gym, finding the means to buy my pageant wardrobe on a very limited student budget and then driving all over California to pick up these items, and then putting my life on hold to go to Miss TQI.
It just made no sense for me to go home since I feel I came prepared to do my best at the pageant. How sad it is for people to say that I just wanted some media coverage. If I really wanted media coverage, I would have just carried around my "Free Tibet" sign. That could have done it!
Describe a typical day in Miss Tourism Queen International 2008.
NON-COMPETITION DAYSAnd as a catalyst for change, have there been any changes?
Wake up call 6:30 AM (we would get up at 5:30 or 6 to have an hour to prepare for the day)
Breakfast - 7AM
Leave the hotel at 7:30 AM and drive to first event
First event 9AM to 11AM
Possible second event - 11 AM to 12 PM
Lunch (a/k/a publicity tour) - 12 to 1 PM
Third event - 1 PM to 3 PM
Drive back to the hotel to prepare for dinner - 3 PM to 4:30 PM
Arrive at hotel to prepare for dinner event - 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Dinner Event - 6 PM to 9 PM
Drive back to hotel - 9 PM to 10 PM
Pack luggage and take it downstairs (we changed hotels 4 times) - 10 PM to 11 PM
Personal time to email, call, and prep for the next day - 11 PM to 2 AM
Wake up call 6:30 AM (we would get up at 5:30 or 6 to have an hour to prepare for the day, packing and prepping for competition)
Breakfast - 7 AM
Leave the hotel at 7:30 AM and drive to first event
First event - 9 AM to 11 AM
Possible second event - 11 AM to 12 PM
Lunch (aka publicity tour) - 12 PM to 1 PM
Rehearsals - 1 PM to 6 PM
Prep for competition - 6 PM to 7 PM
Competition - 7 PM to 10 PM
Drive back to hotel - 10 PM to 10:30 PM
Pack luggage and take it downstairs (we changed hotels 4 times) - 10:30 PM to 11 PM
Personal time to email, call, and prep for the next day - 11 PM to 2 AM
Throw in the elements with sleep/food/cold situation and it was quite the experience!
Within 24 hours since my blog went global, there had been some major changes. The girls were given continental meals with plenty of veggie options. Also, the girls had a boxed dinner before the Miss Charm show and I was told that they were offered vegetarian meals. They had the opportunity to sleep for one extra hour and were given one afternoon off. The girls were finally taken to a supermarket to do some personal shopping. I am so glad that these changes started to take effect. I no longer had the luxury of enjoying them but the rest of the contestants enjoyed them. For me, this was a positive compromise.
How did the contestants feel about you withdrawing from the pageant?
Some of the girls would sneak in my room because the pageant isolated me from the rest of the girls. In fact, when we arrived to the last hotel, I was put in a room with Miss South Africa (who was also going home) as to not infect the other contestants. Our room was positioned right next to Jerome Too.
I actually wrote notes on scrap paper to 10 girls that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to which we delivered by one of the girls who snuck in my room to see how I was doing. Others would write me emails from their room to mine to say hello and ask how I was doing. It was not in their best interest for the organizer to see them communicating with me for competition purposes. I got a few emails from my friends as the pageant that said, "Congratulations! You escaped!"
Since you came back home from China, have you received any updates about the pageant? Have you kept in touch with the contestants?
I am still in contact with about 10 girls. I am actually going to have lunch with Miss Liberia today! We have discussed very little about the competition since the girls have left the pageant. I want to maintain our friendship on the grounds that we enjoyed each other?s company. If I never hear another word about Miss TQI, that would be ok with me!
After your unfortunate experience in MTQI, has it changed your opinion about pageants in general? Would you still encourage young women to enter pageants?
I am still a strong supporter of pageants, although I have not made any decision to vie for another title. Pageants have positively affected everything in my life, from the multiple friendships I have now to the places I have visited all over the world, to the ability to have confidence in my personal choices.
ON MISS INTERNATIONAL 2004
You placed second in the Miss International 2004 pageant, which took place in China. How would you compare your experience in that pageant with the one that you have experienced in Miss Tourism Queen International 2008?
I absolutely adored my time at Miss International. We spent three weeks in Japan and one week in China and I have the fondest memories of visiting the Shinto Temple in Kamakura and having a lovely feast at the Great Wall of China. I also met my dear friend at the pageant (Laura Shields, Miss UK Int. 2004) and now I have the pleasure of seeing her a few times a week since we both live in Los Angeles. There is just no comparing the two competitions because the very mention of Miss International compared to Miss Tourism Queen International is slanderous. One focuses on quality, the other focuses on quantity.
Did you get along with the organizers of this pageant? Were there any problems with the organizers that were tantamount to the problems that you experienced with the MTQI organizers?
Miss International was extremely organized and took excellent care of the contestants. Being the 1st Runner-Up was such an honor considering the long U.S. history of the pageant when it was held in Long Beach, California. My experience at Miss International was divine.
ON VEGETARIANISM & ANIMAL RIGHTS
When, why and how did you become a vegetarian?
I made the choice to become a vegetarian when I was 18 after reading "Fast Food Nation" on the plane ride home from Ecuador, where I represented the U.S. at Miss Teen International. That became my "gateway" to a humane way to maintaining proper health and nutrition. When a subject interests me, I usually research it to find out all of the information available.
After seeing videos on PETA's website that showed cows who are too lame to walk being dragged to the slaughterhouse by a chain wrapped around their ankle and a forklift, I knew that something had to be done and sometimes it only takes one person to influence a sea of change.
Also, I have done some volunteer work for the animal shelter in Los Angeles, which is forced to put down over 50,000 domestic animals per year due to overpopulation. The very least I could do was to personally decide to stop contributing to animal suffering.
In your blog during your trip to Turkey, you wrote: "As you can see, I have successfully removed any sign of meat from my plate but my mom would be proud that I ate the fish (which is cooked whole in these parts - eyeballs and all)." Does this mean that you don't regard fish as meat? They have feelings, too, you know!
I try to look at everything I support in a very objective light. I have decided that vegetarianism is the humane way to nourish my body and I do not find it at all difficult to be a vegetarian in my own country. I have discovered that traveling can make my dietary preferences limited, depending on cultural circumstances. Fish DO have feelings and I do not choose to eat fish. On this occasion, I was hosted by a group that would have found it very offensive if I had chosen not to partake in the fresh catch. I decided that trying the fish was the diplomatic thing to do because of the hospitality that they had shown me. Over the past year, I have really taken the time to explore animal rights as my chosen profession and I will never look at fish the same way again.
How did you become interested in animal rights and welfare? What can humans learn from animals?
Through my experience at the shelter, I feel that everyone has the ability to grasp the feelings of an animal and experience a deep form of natural understanding if they are quiet, patient, and just listen.
Animals are soothing and live natural lives so they depend on the Earth for resources. Humans have become their greatest predator by domesticating them, depleting their habitats of natural resources, and hunting them for entertainment.
Lastly, it is absolutely shocking that the U.S. Government allows cows and pigs to be jammed in cages so tiny that they cannot even turn around for their entire life and many enter the slaughterhouse with puss-filled lacerations caused by the metal grates at the bottoms of the cage. Chickens might experience the worst treatment of all since they are fed a diet of growth hormones and antibiotics in order to make them grow four times faster than normal which can make their heart explode in their chests and then their lifeless bodies are put on the conveyor belt for human consumption. The beaks of chickens are seared off without any anesthetic so they will not peck each other to death after going insane in those tiny cages, never being able to spread a wing during their entire existence. We can learn to understand the importance of compassion if we choose to. Everything is a personal choice and everyone is responsible for educating themselves.
What is your opinion of PETA? Do you think it is a radical group?
I love PETA. Very few organizations have the gall to stand up to government organizations like the USDA and large corporations like Burberry, KFC, and Sara Lee (who owns Coach Leather Goods and one of the largest slaughterhouses in the Midwest).
If you were to come back as an animal in the next life, what would it be and why?
A giraffe. I like being able to see over people at a concert!
ON POLITICS & SOCIETY
The U.S. presidential elections will take place in November. Will you vote? If so, for whom? Who do you think will win the presidency?
I am a supporter of Dr. Ron Paul as a political activist and I completely support his views on the unnecessary war that the current administration has gotten us into.
In the November elections, I will vote for Barack Obama. Not only is he an excellent speaker and will do wonders for our image abroad, I also feel that he is the perfect candidate to challenge the thick vein of racism that we still have in this country because of his multicultural background. Hopefully, his administration will come prepared with a plan to pick up our failing economy and bring our troops home.
I project that he will be our next president.
Do you think the U.S. soldiers should stay in Iraq or come home?
This is quite a complex issue and I admittedly have never served in the military but I grew up in San Diego, which is home to four bases and the largest military housing community in the world. Many of my friends have had and continue to have their families torn apart by deployment and death in the name of precious resources. Also, the conditions that are often provided for a military family are just not up to par with what they deserve for all of the sacrifices they have made to support our country.
What is your view on illegal immigration in America? Do you approve of the construction of a 700-mile wall along the frontier with Mexico?
I live in Los Angeles, which is a city that is constantly bursting with diversity. It is such a pleasure to walk down the street and hear five different foreign tongues being spoken on the same city block. America is unique for its amazing diversity.
I was born in this country and I have no idea what it would be like to risk my life stuffed under the bed of a truck for $1000, hoping to find work for menial wages rather than stay in my own country. It would be unfair for me to form an opinion on this issue since I know so many people that are living in the U.S. illegally, many of which have earned the monetary resources to file the documents to be "legal" but just can't get through all of the red tape.
What is your take on same-sex marriage?
Simply stated, love is love. On my insurance form, there is now a box to check called "domestic partnership". I feel that we are moving in the right direction in terms of accepting other people?s chosen lifestyles.
What is your view on abortion?
It is hard to fit every woman's family planning situation into the same small box but I am an advocate of life. Women who find themselves in this difficult situation should know that there are tons of adoption success stories and many options. A child can never have too many people loving them.
What do you think is the greatest problem facing young people today and what can be done about it?
I feel that biased media outlets and the bombardment of advertising are responsible for creating the greatest communication breakdown of our time. Kids no longer have to think for themselves because MTV does that for them.
We must begin to enlighten our young people, teaching them to ask questions, celebrating their unique abilities and help them escape from a lifestyle that supports total disregard for the truth.
PHOTO CREDIT: AMY LYNNE HOLBROOK
ORIGINAL DATE OF PUBLICATION: APRIL 2008
REPUBLISHED ON FEBRUARY 20, 2012