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Friday, August 29, 2008

Can Miss America be President?

Can Miss America Be President?

Beauty pageant camaraderie is similar to the "good 'ol boys" network. Appearances and connections get you ahead. Sarah Palin may well be on her way to giving Miss America pageants some more credibility. Maybe the "good 'ol boys’ network" will realize "beauty" and "intelligence" can exist in one body.

The good 'ol boys might think the country is lowering its standards - but perhaps we are gradually opening our eyes to a new way of thinking. Kennedy, Ferraro, Hillary, Obama - and hopefully Palin - will give credence to the virtue of potential and the value of family.

Beauty and political networks both have their scandals. In 1957 Miss USA was dethroned because the secret-snatchers found out that she was really married and a mother of two. Maybe Palin can let beautiful people know it's okay to be a mom. Beauty and intelligence are rarely seen together. But beauty, intelligence and motherhood? It’s a media rarity. But women of that class are working hard in the hidden corners of the world. Many aren't as fortunate as us in the US and could get killed for their intelligence. Many prefer less prolific jobs than vice-president. But America and other nations are full of beautiful, intelligent mothers. Working mothers can relate to Palin.

Then there are the scandals that beauty pageant contestants and the political boys both face. More than a few have been dethroned for posing nude - although that probably is not considered humiliation these days - just a financial maneuver. The pageants have flip-flopped from swimsuits to no swimsuits and back again a few times. No wonder these beautiful women are confused.

Beauty pageants can handle the media though. In 1948 reporters protested because Miss America was in a gown instead of a swimsuit when she received her crown. The pageant tactfully conceded by allowing them to take photos of the runner-ups in swimsuits.

The most memorable clothing conflict in my time was in 1984 - the same year Sarah Palin was competing in the Miss Alaska pageant and Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as Vice President Nominee. It was also the same year I had my first son, and a year after Vanessa L. Williams was the first black to win Miss USA - and winning racist death threats along with her crown. (Who says racism doesn't exit? Whites?)

Unfortunately, Miss Vanessa Williams, much like politicians, had some secret-chasers. Posing nude for Playboy was discovered and frowned upon, and Vanessa had to step down. The runner-up, Suzzette Charles, another singer and actress, was therefore the second black holding the crown - for a record-short period of seven weeks.

Today, it's easy to witness the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants and see that race is not an issue. (Judging by looks - yes. Race - no.) Vanessa's dethroning didn't hold back her musical and acting talents. She went on the receive Emmy, Grammy and Tony award nominations and currently stars in Ugly Betty.

The first black was allowed in the Miss Universe pageant in 1959 (the year Alaska became a state), and 1960 the first black participated in the Miss USA pageant. It wasn't until 1983 that a black won. They're still far ahead of the "good 'ol boys" network though when it comes to race. Oh - and by the way - Sarah Palin was defeated by Maryline Blackburn, who is black and beautiful and now working as a professional singer.

It appears from Pageantry Magazine that most beauty pageant winners go on to media ventures, such as television, radio and music. But all that omega from fresh Alaskan fish must be working wonders in the Alaskan winners, since Wikipedia suggests that more than a few Alaskan winners went into medical fields.

Beauty pageants are an interesting way of capitalizing on human resources. The fact that the Miss America Pageant (started in 1921) was started by local businessmen to attract tourists to America isn't something I am proud of in my American history. (Oops, did I just say I wasn't proud of America?) But pageant advocates haven't been standing idly by wallowing in beautiful ignorance either. Teen drug abuse, breast and ovarian cancer, and HIV/AIDS charities receive significant help from Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants. Beautiful do-gooders.

Pageant winners are, in fact, national and international ambassadors. And international conflict infiltrates beauty pageants as well as politics. The Pageant Almanac has a beauty pageant timeline of historical events that include:

1970 - Feminist protesters throw flour bombs during Miss World 1970.
1974 - Feminists protest at Miss America.
1993 - Miss USA, Kenya Moore, is booed by the Mexican audience at Miss Universe.
2002 - Miss World is slated to be held in Abuja, Nigeria. Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman, is sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Miss World attempted to use the publicity of the event to bring awareness to the issue. After the event's security is threatened by anti-pageant protests and riots, several contestants withdraw and the pageant is moved to London, United Kingdom.
2003 - Vida Samadzai represents Afghanistan at Miss Earth, although she resides in the United States. Her appearance in a bikini causes an uproar in her native country.
2005 - Locals in Thailand protest at Miss Universe 2005 after contestants wearing swimsuits are filmed in front of sacred monuments.
2005 - Pakistan is represented in an international pageant for the first time at Miss Earth. Her participation causes an uproar in her native country.
2007 - Miss USA, Rachel Smith, is booed by the Mexican audience at Miss Universe. Smith also falls during the evening gown competition but recovers with grace and a smile.

(The flour bombs were also referred to as smoke bombs. Women were always less violent than men.)

Are beauty pageant networks gender-biased? It certainly appears so. It wasn't until 2001 that a male participated - sort of. More specifically, it was a transsexual who almost won the honor of being of Miss Universe as a representative of China. Quickly, the rules were revised to declare the contestants must be a "natural-born woman." Similar to the president's "natural born" requirements for U.S. Presidency.

The Miss Universe motto (since 1960) is in fact:
"We, the young women of the universe, believe people everywhere are seeking peace, tolerance and mutual understanding. We pledge to spread this message in every way we can, wherever we go."
Maybe carrying that message in our hearts can make all of us beautiful inside. Carrying that message to the presidency might even make America a country to be proud of.


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