When I was growing up I never missed the Miss America pageant. I always made sure I had all my homework, practicing and chores finished so I would be able to sit uninterrupted and watch the pageant. I dreamed of being Miss America. After watching, I would play “Miss America Pageant” for hours in my room. I would walk the runway, accept the crown, bend down and look shocked as the former Miss America tries to pin the crown in place, pretend to cry, and wave at my imaginary audience looking overwhelmed, humbled and excited. I never watched the “other” pageant. (Miss USA) I respected the Miss America Pageant and foundation for promoting inner beauty, intelligence, good public speaking skills, and my favorite---the talent competition. Over the years I have watched some incredible talent grace the Miss America stage. I remember Susan Powell (Miss Oklahoma) claimed the 1981 Miss America title. She was a vocal performance major at Oklahoma City University. She performed a rendition of "Lucy's Aria" from Gian Carlo Menotti's opera, The Telephone. I can still hear and see her singing it in my memory today. Gretchen Carlson (Fox News Anchor) not only won Miss America in 1989, but she also won the preliminary talent competition with her classical violin solo. The talent portion has always been my favorite portion of the pageant.
I started to lose interest in the Miss America pageant in 1997 when the total focus of the pageant became the fact that it would be the first year the contestants could wear two-piece swimsuits. It was the only thing they talked about and it overshadowed everything else in the pageant. The girls got skinnier and more like super models instead of normal healthy young women.
This year I used the DVR so I could watch it later. I noticed that everyone wears two pieces now. I am sure this has been the norm ever since 1997. I was struck by how extremely thin and “chiseled” the women looked. If the swimsuit portion was unimpressive to me, the evening gown competition was a glaring look into the minds of our young women today. The selection of the evening gown was to show the contestants’ taste, confidence and flair for fashion. They were recorded talking about how they felt in their gown, why they chose the gown, or something along that line of questioning.
Here are a few quotes from the evening gown portion of the pageant that particularly caught my attention:
"My gown definitely has a little bit of a sex appeal to it. It has a high slit, a low cut, but is basically just showcasing the body that I’ve worked so hard on my entire life." (Miss Illinois)
"In today’s society, ‘sexy’ is very subjective and so is ‘beauty’. So for me, Miss America being sexy is rocking a stylish outfit, looking hot, and also appealing to young women who are trying to relate to her." (Miss California)
"I think Miss America is sexy. And Miss America does need to be sexy because it is all about sex appeal these days. I think being sexy is being confident with who you are and being able to strut your stuff in any given situation and know that you are sexy while doing it.” (Miss Alabama)
I have always held the Miss America pageant up to be "ideal" pageant because it focused on scholarship, whole beauty, all-around character, talent, and intelligence. I admired the women of years past. They were beautiful, yet normal. Not anymore.
I would love to sit and watch the pageant with my girls. I did it once. We played "interview" during the commercials and video-taped their answers. I had them walk into the room and introduce themselves with a "one-liner" about their state. It was so much fun. Now, I hesitate to watch it with them because of the image it portrays as "ideal". I don't want my girls growing up focused on their body....focused on being "hot" or "sexy" because that is what is expected from the all-American girl.
I pray we can reclaim innocence, true beauty....loveliness......intelligence....things to be proud of. I fear it will only get worse. Come on, moms. Don't try to let your girls grow up too fast by wearing clothes that are so fashion-forward that they are immodest. Don't let them begin wearing make up so soon. They are beautiful young girls who are being led to believe by society that their appearance is flawed and not good enough. We need to stop talking about our weight and start talking about our health. Dads need to step in and reassure their daughters of their beauty....their natural beauty. They need to set the tone for their wardrobe by going shopping with their daughters. Fathers need to look their daughters in the eyes and tell them how beautiful they are.
So, my days of the annual Miss America event at home have come to an end. It makes me sad. I have such fond memories of it. I even had the Miss America Barbie doll! It was never about the body. It was always about poise, intelligence, and the talent. Why am I surprised when I look at society today. Magazines, clothes, commercials for lingerie during prime time television hours, and airbrushing being offered on your child's school pictures to "fix" their imperfections.
I will be on my knees a little longer tomorrow for my daughters.
Will you join me?