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Exiting an open-water swim with goggle eyes and a veneer of lake slime isn’t the type of activity that makes most people feel glamorous. But for beauty queen Faren Campbell, it’s one of the times she feels most beautiful. Campbell has racked up multiple beauty pageant titles, including Miss Bikini United States and runner-up for Miss Northwest DC for America, yet says a hard-earned race medal can be just as satisfying as winning as a sash and a tiara.
“I have always lived a very active lifestyle,” said Campbell. “My parents always wanted us to be in something active, and as an adult, that grew into a love for trail running and ultramarathons.” When a friend took up triathlon, Campbell came along for a few training sessions–casually at first, then with a dedicated goal of completing her first sprint triathlon in April 2017. After crossing the finish line of that first race, Campbell wanted more. In October 2017, she raced her first half-Iron distance event, and in 2019, she finished Ironman Louisville.
Triathlon has a lot of parallels to the pageant world, said Campbell. Goal-setting, discipline, determination, and time management factor heavily into both, as does endurance.
“Stamina plays a part in both worlds,” said Campbell. “Obviously, triathlon is an endurance event. With modeling and pageants, you can be on stage or a set for a long time. You have to be healthy to withstand the chaos behind the scenes and being on your feet.”
Though pageant competition of days past focused simply on aesthetics, today’s competitors are judged on more than just hair and makeup. “The industry is turning to well-rounded women,” explained Campbell. “They encourage having a career, education, and some sort of physical ability.” Triathlon factors heavily into that, as it allows Campbell to serve as an example of beauty that includes not just how the body looks, but the amazing things it can do.
“I love being a part of the pageant world where I meet incredible women doing amazing things for their communities,” said Campbell. “This is our way of showing that we have the brains, health, and beauty.”