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Jan 27/17

3 Ways Beauty Pageants are Still Relevant Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

About 10 years ago, I was a judge for about a year in a state pageant. Since then, I’ve kept a love/hate relationship with the whole idea of pageants.

It’s easy to love something with that much glitter and the never-ending potential for fire batons. The feminist in me worries about the values it teaches, and if they are the right ones. The Miss America pageant, originally created to extend the tourist season in Atlantic City, has been searching for relevance for the past few years. With competition from the Miss USA system, among others, sponsorships and TV contracts are hard to land. With sagging ratings and a changing culture, it’s easy to believe pageants are antiquated and have no real application on your life, but you would be wrong. Pageants are still directly influencing American culture today. For example:

1) Misuse of the word “passionate:” There is a better than average chance that you have declared yourself to be “passionate” about some cause or other. No, you’re not. Very few people in the world rise to that level of enthusiasm. The word “passionate” started being misused by pageant contestants easily 15 years ago, around the time it was decided each contestant should have platform issue. This way, when she was called upon to go open a supermarket or show off her pretty crown at elementary schools, she would have something of substance to talk about. These girls are “passionate” about everything from organ donation to fending off child predators, worthy causes to be sure. They are fine marketers too, make no mistake. They show up with catchy slogans to demonstrate their “passion” for sunscreen use – Slip, Slop, Slather: Protect your skin from the sun.

Proof it has gone too far: Then Arkansas Governor candidate Asa Hutchinson was quoted in the Hope Star in 2006 as being, “passionate about economic development.” Now I believe this was a priority for his campaign, but “passionate”? I did not consult with his wife, but I predict he has never once in the heat of the moment forgotten her name and yelled out, “Economic Development!”

I’m sad to report the past eight years have done nothing to improve the passion situation. It’s seeped its way into common usage. We must wait for its replacement so that people can just go back to caring about things again.

2) Real Estate Listing your resume: Anyone who’s ever bought a house learns quickly how to read between the lines: “Handyman’s Dream” really means falling apart, and “cozy” means it is physically impossible to be more than arm’s length away from your spouse at any time. Serious pageant contestants know how to do this to their resumes. Between music lessons, interview coaching, workouts and school, they’ve got to get some volunteer hours in to be the leaders of their community they claim to be.

Manning the package hold table at the Arts Center annual sale is now “contributing to the arts in the community.” Picking up litter in the city park is “leading the campaign to beautify our town and restore pride in its history.” The most pageant-esque bio in recent history: Tim Tebow. He’s not just a missionary kid, which is noble all on its own. No, he’s a miracle of birth, who served in an actual leper colony in the Philippines before becoming the greatest quarterback in the history of the game. Ever.

It would be nice to believe this is the pinnacle of inflated personal tales. If you think it will stop here, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona I’d like to talk to you about.

3) You’ve brushed up on your geography: While normally this would be considered a good thing, it’s based on a sad case of schadenfreude. Who can forget the tortured answer of Miss South Carolina in the Teen USA pageant in 2007? Absolutely no one is going to let something like that happen to her in the future. I suspect this is why when I was interviewing a contestant, she was quick to explain where her hometown of Moro was located, “I go to school in Marianna and go to Wal-Mart in Forrest City.” Of course, the sad truth is that once stage lights hit you, no amount of make-up or education can keep you from having one of those moments. Just ask Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Love pageants or hate them, there is a seemingly endless supply of young women willing to tease their hair as high as necessary to get a crown, and with it, a ticket out of their small town. There are some who take advantage of the system, often the only such place like it in their area, to learn interview and presentation skills.

Still others learn early the value of a once fresh face and a faded sash for those who stick close to home. Everybody’s gotta be something; “pretty girl” is better than a lot of other options. The rest of us must stay alert. Who knows what new cultural phenomenon these beauties will come up with next?

Kerri Jackson Case is physically incapable of parking legally. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, son and two smelly dogs. If you’re around at suppertime, she’ll feed you. You can follow her unremarkable but thoroughly entertaining life at



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