Beauty Queens


“Verity Bootay is kind of hot,” Jennifer said.

“What about Shop to Kill? I love that one!” Brittani said.

“Is that where the killer straps the girl to a dentist’s chair and uses a drill on her, but first he says, ‘Now, this might sting a little… .’?”

“Huh-uh,” Nicole said. “That’s Dentist of the Damned, and the dentist lures ugly girls to his office with a promise to make them pretty, then he tortures and kills them. The sexy girl who’s only going there to ask about cosmetic dentistry for her little sister who was born with a mouth defect is the one who survives. But only after she accidentally has sex with him.”

“Hold up. How do you accidentally have sex with somebody?” Adina scoffed. “Is she all, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see your penis there’?”

Tiara squealed and waved her hands. “Don’t say that word!”

“What? Accidentally? Sorry? Penis?”

“Gah!” Tiara put her fingers in her ears.

“What about phallic?” Petra teased. “Like, ‘Yon volcano is quite phallic, Lady Tiara.’” Tiara looked confused.” Phallic means penislike,” Petra explained.

“Ooh,” Tiara said.

“Right! I remember,” Miss Arkansas said.” Shop to Kill is the one where the girls are trapped in the department store and the killer hunts them down in every department and, like, strangles one with a thong and kills another one with a makeup brush through the head and there’s, like, the most shut up clothes ever!”

“The ribbon vest?”

“Shut. Up.”

“So shut up.”

“I thought there was a shower scene.”

“There’s always a shower scene.”

“I miss showers.”

“And shopping.”



“School.” Everyone stared at Shanti. “What? I like school.” “Me, too,” Nicole said and gave Shanti a fist bump, which Shanti fumbled. “You sure you’re not white, Bollywood?”

“I miss getting in my car and just driving without anybody telling me what to do or how loud I can play the radio or asking if I’ve practiced piano.”

“I miss practicing piano!” “I miss my friends.”

“I miss my playlists I spent two days making and posting to UConnect26.”

“I miss my bed.”





“My laptop.”

“Frozen yogurt.”


“I so miss guys.”

“Yeah,” Jennifer said dreamily. “Sometimes they have nice trucks.”

“I wouldn’t want any guys to see me now. My pits are totally tragic.”

“My legs are, like, man-hairy.”

“No joke. I thought you’d put on kneesocks.”

“You think that’s bad, you should see my —”


The girls screamed with laughter. It was the first time some of them had laughed in days, and it felt good.

“You guys don’t know about hair trauma. I am a black woman without her grease. My weave is all kinds of messed up right now,” Nicole said.

“I like it natural,” Petra said.

“My mom would freak out. I got my first relaxer at five.”


“She wanted me to blend in,” Nicole said with a sigh. “Have you ever been to Colorado? I think there are ten black people in the whole state. I don’t miss people looking at me funny.”

The wind caught the fire and it flared. Somewhere in the jungle, an unidentified bird trilled, cawed, and fell silent.

“I don’t miss the baton twirling,” Brittani said softly. “Or the teeth bleaching.”

“I don’t miss having my dad yell at me for messing up during my talent program. If I make one little mistake, he gets real upset and says I don’t appreciate what he and my mom have sacrificed for me so I can do this,” Tiara said.

“What they’ve sacrificed,” Petra scoffed.

“That sounds like my mom,” Miss Arkansas said. “She’s all, ‘Sparkle, sparkle, sparkle!’ Sometimes I want to say, ‘If you like this so much, why don’t you put down the donuts and get up here and sparkle yourself?’”

Miss Montana stared into the fire. “Sometimes I just want to go in a room and break things and scream. Like, it’s so much pressure all the time and if you get upset or angry, people say, ‘Are you on the rag or something?’ And it’s like I want to say, ‘No. I’m just pissed off right now. Can’t I just be pissed off? How come that’s not okay for me?’ Like my dad will say, ‘I can’t talk to you when you’re hysterical.’ And I’m totally not being hysterical! I’m just mad. And he’s the one losing it. But then I feel embarrassed anyway. So I slap on that smile and pretend everything’s okay even though it’s not. Anyway.” Miss Montana pasted on an embarrassed half smile. “Sorry for the rant.”