New York, 2021-12-14 02:11:32. Miss America celebrated its 100th anniversary. Will it last another 100 years?
UNCASVILLE, CONN. – With Miss America turning 100, a major question remains unanswered: Is it still relevant?
Born out of the 1921 Atlantic City beauty pageant, just one year after women were granted the right to vote, the attractive pageant maintains a complex presence in American culture that has since gone through multiple waves of feminism. Participation and viewership have plummeted since the height of the 1960s — when the next Miss America is crowned Thursday, her coronation will only be available to broadcast on NBC’s Peacock Service, which has been diverted from the throne of prime-time broadcasting.
Miss America’s organizers and enthusiasts stress that the annual ritual is here to stay and will continue to change over time. And while they may not have actually come up with a plan for world peace, many participants say the organization — described as one of the largest providers of scholarships to young women — has changed their lives, opening doors for them both professionally and personally. They believe that others should have the same opportunities.
Miss America 2004 Erica Dunlap, who graduated from college and is debt-free, said he started a public relations firm and became a television personality.
Miss America fans often cheer for their state competitor as much as they do for a local sports team. However, some expressed disappointment about some of the competition’s attempts to adapt to contemporary mores and evolve from its retrograde beginnings.
Margot Mifflin, author of The Hunt for Miss America: Miss 100 Years of Quest for Defining Femininity said. She said fans are divided over the course of the competition – it’s no longer a “Queen pageant”. She said some want it to be about “beauty and fitness” while others embrace the move toward focusing on leadership, talent and communication skills.
Meanwhile, the competition continues to be swallowed up by calls for more diversity.
In the late 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, minority women were disqualified under “Rule Seven,” which states that contestants must be “healthy and of white race.”
1968 saw the Miss Black America contest, set up for a revolution against the lack of diversity, as well as a protest by several hundred women organized by the feminist group New York Radical Women, which called Miss America “an image that oppresses women in every region in which it claims to be represent us.”
The first black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, wasn’t crowned until 1984 – she gave up her title due to a nude photo scandal, and only received an apology from the organization in 2015. At least 11 minority women won the title in all.
Miss America, President and CEO Chantelle Krebs, the unpaid former South Dakota Secretary of State, asserts that the Miss America Organization is “committed to diversity, equality and inclusion.” The event has also been at the “centre of social issues” for the past 100 years, she said, noting that the winners have dealt with serious modern-day issues during their reign, from HIV/AIDS awareness to the scourge of opioid abuse. But Mifflin notes that the modernization of competition occurred “behind the much broader culture of women’s advancement”.
It wasn’t until 2018 that the judgment on physical appearance was overturned, with the help of former Miss America Gretchen Carlson, who ended up stepping down as board chair. Carlson was part of an all-women leadership team that took over after an email scandal in which male leaders insulted the former Miss Americas, tarnishing their looks, their intelligence and even their sexuality. While some welcomed the changes as a way to make the event more significant, many government organizations rebelled against the new leadership team.
“I say in the book he was always in dialogue with feminism, but behind feminism,” Mifflin said of the Miss America pageant. “So it always seems like he’s trying to catch up.”
Dunlap, the seventh Miss Black America, believes the competition – which she has no problem calling a pageant – needs to become more diverse in order to remain relevant. She noted, for example, that there were no Hispanic winners.
She said there is more work to be done to help young women of color participate at a local level, such as helping them cover the high costs of participation – including developing their talents and buying gowns – so they can pursue the same change in life. chances.
This year, the nonprofit — run by an enthusiastic group of volunteers at the national, state, and local levels — announced that the highest scholarship awarded on December 16 will double to $100,000. The change was made possible thanks to a donation from Miss America 1996 Shawntel Smith Wuerch and her husband Ryan Wuerch. According to the organization, a total of $435,500 in scholarship money will be distributed in this year’s competition, while more than $5 million is awarded annually through national, state, and local programs.
Dunlap hopes that in the coming years, rather than looking for what she calls “it girl” that can attract success on social media, the Miss America organization will focus on promoting “the organization’s continuity.” Organizers are doing just that, Krebs says, noting that the number of annual participants has increased from about 5,000 to 6,500 after the 2018 changes.
“I just feel like there’s a mixed message about whether you can be beautiful and attractive and still be smart too. And I think that’s silly to me,” Dunlap said. “It’s like a woman can only do one thing, so pick a side. And that’s not right.”
It’s unclear whether the decision to move the competition online says more about the fate of broadcast television than Miss America. NBCUniversal Media was bullish about its streaming service and Krebs insisted that moving to broadcasting was the organization’s decision and had nothing to do with viewership numbers.
In 2019, the Miss America Final on NBC drew 3.6 million viewers, an all-time low. In contrast, the 1954 competition attracted 27 million viewers when the competition was far less over eyeballs.
“If you say you want to be close to the next 100 years, we definitely have the urge to flow because that’s where our future is,” Krebs said, noting how young we are—and remember, they must be the Miss America contestants. 17-25 year olds – They are less likely to have access to broadcast television.
Some fear that going online could lead to the downfall of what is often called “the first reality TV show,” which went live in 1954.
“We have witnessed the demise of a historic event that helped shape the lives of Americans,” one fan stated on Facebook. Another agreed with Krebs, predicting that “the audience we can reach is bigger than ever!”
Yet another fan remains annoyed that the event is no longer in Atlantic City – he moved to a Connecticut casino in 2019 – “unfortunately after 100 years it seems to be over.”
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