Saartje has a big smile on her face, wearing the crown and sash she received when she was crowned Miss beauty of Zuid-Holland. It took her fourteen months to win the title. The contest started in March 2020 and was supposed to end eight weeks later. Yet, due to the slowly eased corona lockdown measures, it wasn’t until April that Saartje finally got to meet her fellow candidates and join the catwalk training, dancing classes and boxing classes, after which she competed in the finale, which was broadcasted via zoom.

The unusually long time made the contest fiercer, because ‘everyone had so much time to work on self-development’, Saartje says openly. The most important part of the contest is the finale performance, consisting of two walks in bikini and a gala dress. Besides the finale, all candidates need to work on gathering money for their good causes (Saartje’s is to raise awareness for eco-friendly activities and sustainability), presenting themselves to the judges during conversations and preparing a speech on their chosen topic (the same one as their chosen causes). The vote from the audience also counts for 10 percent of the final ‘grade’. “None of them are decisive. But if you don’t make an effort, you are not likely to have a good result”, Saartje explains.

Why not give it a go?

In 2020, Saartje was nominated by a previous Miss Teen of Zuid-Holland. “I thought, this my thing. I love girly stuff, why not give it a go?” She didn’t expect the contest to last fourteen months, but she enjoyed her journey. “I and other candidates have been keeping in touch with each other all this time via group chats or Instagram, so I didn’t really feel that I was in this alone.”

Saartje looks forward to the opportunities that will follow from the contest. “I don’t think there’s any money involved in winning the contest, although we also do some small stuff for the sponsors. It’s more about the name, and you also might get the chance to participate in Miss Earth. You get to meet all these beautiful women from all over the world. I think every girl in the contest would love to go.”

Brain before beauty

The twelve winners representing their provinces do good things together. “We raise money for a Dutch charity organisation called Linda Foundation, which raises money for poor people in the Netherlands. We all have our own ways to contribute to it. I paint jackets, upcycle old clothes and sell them to raise money”, Saartje notes.

Saartje believes that her title does not only mean that she looks good, but that it’s also about the ideals she stands for. “At the beginning, I didn’t really know much about what becoming Miss Beauty means or stands for. But soon I started to realise that how you present yourself, or how you participate in activities to raise money for a good cause, really has a lot of impact on whether you will get the crown. It’s really brain before beauty.”

Saartje Langstraat miss beauty zuid-holland – Amber Leijen
Saartje on campus, with her crown and sash Image credit: Amber Leijen

‘Comfortable, timeless, and fashionable’

Sewing has long been Saartje’s hobby. She makes clothes for herself, her family and her friends, using eco-friendly fabrics. “I’m a bit obsessive or even maniacal when I’m making clothes. I won’t go to sleep until it’s done.”

“The clothes I make are inspired by clothing that I wore during my time as a ballet dancer”, Saartje explains, which she has been for almost all her life. “It’s all really comfortable and you don’t need to wear a bra underneath it, which is perfect”, Saartje says. “The simpleness and timelessness are what I’m going for. It’s a good example of slow fashion. I once upcycled several old jeans and sewed them into a trench coat. That is my favourite piece of clothing I’ve ever made.”

She became a huge fan of slow fashion, mainly because of the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry. Her idea on being fashionable has also changed. “Fast fashion relies on Instagram models who buy a huge amount of clothes very frequently. In the past, I thought that it would be very easy to be fashionable if you have many clothes. But that’s not being truly fashionable in my eyes anymore. I realised that it’s the quality, not the quantity, that matters.” Saartje chuckles: “My closet has shrunk a lot since then. Most of my clothes are either vintage, self-made, or bought consciously.”

‘Confidence is not earned but taken’

The message that Saartje wants to send to all the girls is that ‘you don’t need any validation from others to feel good about yourself’. “Even though you are a pageant queen, you always have your insecurities. And that’s unnecessary. I used to feel insecure about my smile, but I realised that my smile is pretty nice in photo shoots. Now I’m confident to smile. That didn’t come from anyone but me.” She also encourages girls to feel free to be themselves. In Saartje’s eyes, being comfortable with who you are is all that matters. “Don’t worry about how you fit in, please worry about how you can stand out.”

Saartje wants to do a master’s in arts or art direction after her bachelor’s in communication and media and get a ‘normal job’. “I like modelling, but I don’t want to just depend on how I look. I have that brain before beauty.”