This past weekend was a busy one for me. I had a friend in town and got to attend a magical wedding (after a few bumps in the road!) but I’ll get to that later because today I want to talk about last night’s Miss America Pageant.
If you didn’t watch and you don’t mind spoilers…our new Miss America is 21 year old (I think that’s correct) Betty Cantrell from Georgia. Let me first say that I am super happy for the winner and wish her the best year of her life to date. I mean, come on, with a name like Betty Cantrell…you were destined to win right? ha!
I have to be honest and admit that I was first rooting for my home state of NC but then turned my affections to SC as she was placed in the top 15. Some things about this year were great…others not so much…but many things were noteworthy.
The Vanessa Williams apology
This is one of those things that I thought was great and connects to a lot of what I touch on in this post. There were a lot of people on twitter who were not so pleased but I have to say that I was. If you are unaware of the situation, lets have a mini history lesson. 10 months after Vanessa was crowned, she was backed into a corner to resign after nude photos she had taken two years prior surfaced. Penthouse published them and Vanessa’s life was turned upside down. After being the first African American woman crowned, she already had a tough time in her reign, then the photo ‘scandal’ happened. You can read more about all that here .
People who were not ok with it felt she was receiving an apology for making a stupid decision but I’m not sure I see it that way. I recall the situation with Tara Conner (Miss USA 2006) who after a drug ‘scandal’ (don’t you just love that word…), was given a second chance by none other than the terrible Donald Trump (and his people I’m sure).
What I’m trying to say is that to me, the apology felt like an extension of grace that she didn’t receive all those years ago because it wasn’t the norm in the culture at the time. Maybe some of it had to do with here color but maybe not. Maybe it was only because of the nude photos. I suppose you could ask where to draw the line but that brings me to my next observation…
The fear of “sexy”
I got SO tired of listening to the contestants separate sexy from classy. During evening gown, when describing their dresses, they all kept saying things like “I don’t think it’s too sexy…it’s classy” “I want to be classy..” I’m looking at you GA! But she wasn’t the only one, they all pretty much got up there and said something similar except for (I think) Louisiana. She took the position that sexy and classy can be one in the same. Sexy to her was equal to confidence and hearing that was a breath of fresh air. Why do we continue on with the notion that sexy=trashy? To me that sounds like a jealous judgment started by other females who felt insecure. Either that or it’s a cultural thing that needs to be done away with.
My question is, why do the Miss America contestants feel like they have to deny feeling sexy to be portrayed as classy? I realize that in those voice overs they are being asked questions by producers and whatnot but if the girls really don’t feel this way, then why is the Miss America organization trying to draw out answers that only perpetuate a stereotype like that? Why do they- the girls and the organization- make it seem like to be sexy is a bad thing? Women can be classy and sexy at the same time!
Now whether or not having nude photos taken of you in the past goes in the “sexy” or “trashy” classification, I’m not sure if I want to make a judgment on that entirely as there are numerous styles in which people are photographed in the nude but it does make me wonder about…
The lack of diversity
I could spend this entire time talking about how there were FOUR women of color in the ENTIRE GROUP OF 51 GIRLS but even beyond that, as I get older, I wonder where are the women with life experience beyond school and charity work? Where are the women with tattoos? Where are the women with past mistakes and bad decisions that have risen above them?
I have always love the Miss America organization and I always will, having competed myself as a teen. The young women involved are in fact AMAZING but sitting at home, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not I would feel I belonged had I not participated all those years ago. It’s one thing to be a role model, it’s another to be a symbol of unattainable perfection.
This is another reason why I felt the apology to Vanessa was so necessary because it didn’t feel like condoning nude photos, it felt like extending grace to someone who is a beautiful and wonderful person, who made a decision that was less than stellar (depending on your view point). It doesn’t matter whether you think it was right or wrong, everyone messes up, even Miss Americas.
Now moving on to the more creative aspects of the competition…
Miss Colorado’s monologue
Ok so first I need to start off by saying I thought what she did was AMAZING. I think it’s a beautiful thing the way she has become a voice for the amazing community of nurses we have in this country and the beloved patients that they treat. However- utoh..- I do not think what she did was an acceptable ‘talent’ option.
Someone on twitter said to me that nursing is a talent- ok, I can believe and agree with that but she didn’t do anything nursing related on stage. Acting is most certainly a talent, but she wasn’t embodying a character in that piece. She was speaking about a personal experience so there was no acting really involved. The only thing of talent I felt like she exhibited was her public speaking ability. That is most certainly a talent and I would have given her points for maybe that alone.
As Miss America you do need to be poised when you speak at engagements and I felt confident she could represent the country amazingly in that aspect by what she did. Another way to show your public speaking abilities though is with…
This is typically my favorite part of the competition. I don’t care how smart you are, or how awesome of a public speaker you are- this just sucks all the air from your lungs, your heart is racing, your stomach is upside down- it’s insane. The pressure is real. This year, I’m sad to say that I was beyond disappointed with this phase of the competition.
First of all, these questions were overall awful. I’m not sure if the judges write them or what but they were terrible. They were too opinion influenced I felt. There weren’t enough questions asking for ideas for change. Would you cut funding for Planned Parenthood? Ok this question is relevant but I just felt the phrasing was a little too…presidential debate and not American woman with insight. Who wouldy you put on the $10 bill? I think that was an essay question for middle schoolers this year as well. Do you think Tom Brady cheated? What??!
Despite their questions, some answered alright and some aren’t welcome in the New England area anymore. I was really hoping SC would kill the question because I thought that might get her the crown but then she didn’t even place so I’m not sure what happened there but I didn’t think her answer was that bad at all. As a whole, some things just didn’t fit. It wasn’t just the onstage question portion but for me it was also…
The ‘reality tv’ feel
I’ve seen multiple times where Vanessa Williams was quoted as saying the pageant is going in a new direction but I’m not sure I like it! It felt like I was watching an American Idol style of pageant instead of a competition for poise and grace. For instance, why were the judges on the stage? That was just tacky to me. I want to see the competitors, NOT the judges faces!
And then to stop and talk to the judges right there on stage like it was about them as well? I just ‘can’t even’. I remember feeling a little uneasy when they started bringing the girls out in their talent attire and calling them to perform from there but it’s not so bad. This whole…judges are a part of the show thing though…it’s got to go. Along with….
What the heck was that about? No seriously, does anyone know? That was just. Awful. No more words than that. Just awful.
So there you have it, my ‘top 7’ (LOL) thoughts on last night’s pageant! If you missed it and didn’t set your DVR, I’m sure they’ll be running it on CMT here today/tomorrow or at some point here in the near future. If you did watch, I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments below or post a link to your own blog post with your thoughts!
Happy Monday to ya!