The Miss America Pageant won’t leave me alone. Just as soon as I recover from the feelings of body shaming that accompanied every pageant of my youth, the Pageant hits the headlines again. And I am again that tubby little girl sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday night, windows wide open in the living room to catch a breath of air on a warm September evening, knowing that two blocks away the most beautiful woman in America would soon be crowned and I would never, ever be able to be her.
There were no pageants for the girl who could read the most books over summer vacation. My friend Grace and I would have fought fiercely for that honor. There was no pageant honoring the girl who read Gone With The Wind in one sitting. (You would have thought they’d at least have had an iron butt pageant for that one.) Back in the day, there wasn’t a lot of recognition for girls based on their brains. Ergo, the bathing suit competition.
Now I will admit that over the years, the Pageant has tried to play down this aspect of the competition. But it used to be that the swim suit and evening gown portions of the Pageant were way more popular than the talent or interview segments. But then, how many one armed flaming baton twirlers can any given competition truly recognize? Especially when surrounded by all those talented ventriloquists. So it seemed to me, as I sat in that dark living room watching these gorgeous women parading around in beautiful clothes with perfectly coifed hair and stunning makeup, that all my brains meant nothing to the world compared to a smile so brilliant it could be seen from outer space. And I had no talent except for writing and it’s hard to create a competition piece based on reading an essay onstage.
The news is very vague about what it roiling the Pageant organization right now. There have been board resignations. Cries of a toxic atmosphere. Statements that any given resignation was forced and not voluntary. I’m guessing that a lot of this turns back to the recent decision to can the swim suit competition – oops, I’m sorry, healthy body competition. IMHO, they would have been better off dumping the interview/question segment.
Let’s be honest here. That segment gets watched more to see which contestant will embarrass herself the most compared to the others with her answer. And the questions! The questions! You are asking a barely twenty something how she would solve world hunger. There are people with PhDs who don’t know the answer to that. How the hell is this pretty little girl supposed to? Better they should have dumped this and kept the swim suit, especially if they are looking at viewership numbers.
Here’s my prediction. This year people will tune in to see what a Pageant without the swimsuit competition looks like. The families of the contestants will think it’s all wonderful. The rest of the audience – a lot of whom I’m guessing are men who dvr’d it and are fast forwarding to try to find the swimsuit portion – not so much. And when they can’t find the swimsuit competition, when they realize that it no longer exists, they will not come back again next year. Eventually, the Miss America Pageant will have to decide it it’s worth it when they only have about 500 viewers and they are all relatives of one contestant or another.
Until then, and as controversy continues to roil the board, let me make this suggestion. You call yourself one of the largest organization for women’s scholarships across the nation. So why not just truly become that. Dump the shoes, the hair, the make up, the evening gowns and the parade in front of judges. Instead, offer a true scholarship competition that has nothing to do with what size evening gown you wear – and please don’t try to tell me that doesn’t matter anymore. There is not a state pageant contestant onstage who isn’t at the largest a size 2.
Anyhow, if you truly want to be a scholarship competition, then be one. There are a lot of too skinny, too chubby, hair too straggly girls out there whose brains are absolutely gorgeous. Give them a chance to take a run for the crown.