“There she isn’t!”
In the midst of the physical move into our newest salon, I managed to hopefully sound sensible to the media that requested interviews about the shocking news from Atlantic City…. the Miss America Pageant will no longer include competition of swimsuits or evening gowns. What did I think?
For those of you that are interested: keep reading as my answers are fact and history filled…and not short.
In my Columbia, Missouri years, I rose from being a business donor, board member, to the ultimate role of Executive Director of that city’s pageant for seven years. My job was to recruit top candidates and upon winning, manage their preparation and training to the next level. In those years, we managed to get three consecutive Miss Columbia’s crowned Miss Missouri. All were Top Ten finalists at the national finals in Atlantic City. (That triple win had never been accomplished in the history of this historic national event that was started in 1921.)
At the same time, I was selling or designing gowns for lots of other contestants both in Missouri and surrounding states. It was a heady season of my life and reached the pinnacle as “my” last girl, was crowned Miss America. Debbye remains the only Miss A to come from Missouri.
I went on to coordinate and gown each of those girls again as they became brides and are still dear friends to our family.
The Miss America Pageant was conceived by the Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, to be held the week after Labor Day, as a reason those who came to “the shore” for the summer, would stay/spend one week longer. It was a “bathing beauty contest.” As it grew in popularity, the categories of interview, talent and evening gown were added. For a long time, the Miss America Pageant scored higher viewership than the Super Bowl.
Miss America 1952 stated that she didn’t want her official portrait to be one of her wearing her competition swimsuit with train and crown. The corporate sponsor, Catalina, got in huff, pulled their money and started a competitive pageant: Miss USA. (Which requires minimal interview and no talent.)
The scoring for swimsuit and evening gown was always the smallest percentages, but they were a part of the total package of what little girls and the country perceived to be our “ideal.”
I have judged many pageants as I see not just the benefit of girls polishing up and making a strong first impression (just like a job interview), BUT I when I learned that the Miss America Pageant was the single largest provider of scholarships to women, I threw my weight fully into it.
As the father of three daughters, employees that are all women, customers that are all women, I have never felt or heard that anyone thought the swimsuit competition was demeaning to women. We all know how much more confident we feel with good nutrition and a personal trainer. Why not spotlight those benefits?
During the interview with KCTV-5, I used the metaphor of a new governing board running our city’s beloved American Royal and suggesting we “leave out the horse part.” Or how about a new CEO for the Kentucky Derby (another long held national treasure) but dropping mint juleps and beautiful hats)?!
Bottom line: I think this is going to backfire quickly. The MeToo Movement is about empowering women. The Miss America Pageant is about empowering women with education. I predict the viewership will plummet. It won’t get a network to pick it up. Without a network, the deep pocket corporate sponsors will stop giving and the enormous scholarships will wither away. Everyone loses.
There is always a time for respecting a tradition. This is one of those times. The pageant has been around for 96 years. It isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing. MJN
P.S. Enjoy some of the pics of that season of my life. I was by the runway when Gretchen Carlson (the new CEO of Miss A.) was crowned and have been around her a hand full of times. I think her she is brave, smart and articulate. I wish her luck in this new direction.