Is There Still Beauty in Beauty Pageants?

Miss America Changes With the Times

As a woman who is constantly on the search for the meaning of beauty, it’s difficult to ignore the effect that the tradition of the beauty pageant has had on what Americans, in particular, consider beautiful. Beauty pageants in America have long held an influence over that perception, but many have taken issue with the concept of the beauty pageant.

Many have said that beauty pageants demean women, and that parading young girls around in swimsuits should not be a litmus test for beauty. I agree, as I believe that beauty has little to do with how a woman looks in a bathing suit or an evening gown. It’s more about how a woman carries herself, her confidence, her kindness and the power of her heart and consideration for others.

One pageant that has responded to this criticism and had the courage to change with the times is the Miss America pageant. As one of the oldest pageants, first taking place in 1921, it faced the biggest challenge to evolve over the years. However, from what I see, it has done a splendid job.

A quick visit to their current Web site reveals their mission. Across the top, next to the Miss America logo, are the words “Style, Service, Scholarship and Success.” I can think of no better words to describe a young woman’s path to her inner beauty.

What’s more, the focus of the pageant is less about outer appearance, but about inner strength, intelligence and resolve. In 1989, the pageant shifted the competition to what it called the “platform” concept, which requires every contestant to choose a social issue about which she is passionate and to demonstrate its relevance to the people of America.

This concept has placed past Miss Americas at the forefront of issues such as homelessness, HIV/AIDS prevention, domestic violence, diabetes awareness, character education, literacy and more. Standing up and supporting people who are less fortunate and spending time to advocate for social causes are now important parts of the process. Not coincidentally, it also motivates not only contestants but also fans of the competition to focus on the aspects of inner beauty in a significant way.

Education is also an important mission of the pageant. Last year, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance for young women all over the country. Now, this was not handed out just to contestants at the national level, but also to more than 12,000 young women who competed in the state and local competitions.

Any pageant that can help that many young women get a good education, and motivate others to do the same, demonstrates to me that they care less about hair and makeup than they do about the empowerment of women everywhere — and powerful women are beautiful women.

For instance, the Web site tells the story of Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, a young woman from the small town of Monroe, Michigan, who entered a local Miss America competition because of the scholarship money that was being offered to winners. She not only won her local contest, but she was eventually named Miss America 1988. She used the scholarship money to earn her degree and ultimately fulfilled her dream of opening a hospice center to care for the terminally ill of her hometown.

Beauty like that cannot be ignored, and it proves to me that there is still life, love and value in pageants like Miss America. They have come a long way from being about who is the prettiest girl on the outside. Today, the pageant proudly displays the inner beauty of their contestants and it should serve as an inspiration to women everywhere.

Yours in beauty,



One Response to “Is There Still Beauty in Beauty Pageants?”
  1. Kecia Sobery says:

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So nice to seek out any person with some unique ideas on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this web site is one thing that’s needed on the internet, somebody with somewhat originality. useful job for bringing something new to the web!

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