There She Is, Miss America!

On the title song of her recent album, Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves sings about being a southern girl who won’t compete in beauty pageants.

And it ain't that I don't care about world peace
But I don't see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage

It’s a light-hearted song that echoes the sentiment of 99.9% of the female population that feels like they couldn’t win a beauty pageant if they tried. So they joke about them. Heck, we all joke about them.

Some of the ridicule heaped on beauty pageants is deserved. The reality show, Toddlers & Tiaras, was a joke. Oh, the pageants are real, but I’m guessing Honey Boo Boo will have a standing date with a therapist for years to come.

We were channel surfing we when happened up on last weekend’s Miss America pageant. In our twenty-five years of marriage, we’ve never watched a single minute of this parade, yet here we were. Seeing the pageant was down to its final half-hour, we settled in for the finale.

Bonus: Contestants from Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana were all finalists. It seemed a good bet that the new Miss America would be a Southern girl.

Double-bonus: Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell was a former 4-H’er. As I’ve written before, my wife is a former director of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Program that oversees 4-H and, she remains passionate about its mission. For that reason alone, Betty Cantrell had to win. She must represent!  

You likely know by now that she did. But let’s double-back to the lighter side of pageants.

“It’s not a beauty pageant, it’s a scholarship pageant.” Many years ago, that line became the pillar and the defense of the Miss America pageant. “This isn’t just about parading beautiful girls across the stage, it’s a display of talent and knowledge, as well.”

Give the contestants their due. Indeed, it takes a fairly well-rounded young woman to compete on the national level. Much work and prep goes into getting your face on national TV. And the stakes are high. As the new Miss America, Betty Cantrell won a $50,000 scholarship.

But while pageant contestants may be the subjects of songs, sitcoms and silly movies, it’s the pageant – the show itself - that’s the real joke.

This year’s Miss America pageant officially apologized to former title-holder Vanessa Williams for stripping her of her crown over thirty years ago after some nude photos of her were published. Good for her that she went about her life, becoming an enormously successful entertainer (with her clothes on), but why the apology? I suspect if similar photos of the new Miss America were to surface, they would again snatch away the crown.

I also suspect that the reason they apologized to Vanessa, gave her a new crown and made her lead judge for this year’s pageant is because she won, anyway. They took away her crown, but she grabbed the brass ring. She succeeded despite the scandal. She became bigger than Miss America or ‘former Miss America’ and the pageant felt it could benefit from her star power.

Questions from the judging panel were off-the-chart odd.

To Miss Georgia: did Tom Brady cheat?

Huh? Does Miss America need to have an opinion on Deflate-gate? I don’t even have an opinion on that, other than, of course, he cheated.

To Miss South Carolina: do you support a ban on military assault weapons?

If I’m Miss South Carolina, I’m thinking, “Whoa. I’m about to lose the Miss America title because I do - or do not - support someone’s right to own an assault rifle.” That’s pretty heady stuff for 20-year old college students.

But hey, it’s not a beauty pageant, it’s a scholarship pageant. One that big chicks cannot win no matter how smart they are or what instrument they play. One that assumes you need scholarship money because that really cute bikini you wore on stage didn’t come from Macy’s, honey!

I like that Miss Colorado thought Ellen Degeneres should be the face on the $10 bill. I like Ellen. In fact, I could support any Ellen: Degeneres, Pompeo, Page, Barkin. If you’re named Ellen, you’re pretty, apparently. Though I realize it’s not a beauty contest.

A Friend Indeed

Damn Yankees!