Miss America

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Erika Harold, Miss America 2003, wears the traditional winner's tiara.

The Miss America pageant (not to be confused with the similar Miss USA pageant) is a long-standing competition which awards prizes to young female contestants from the states of the United States of America. The first prize winner of the national pageant is awarded the title of "Miss America" for one year.

The Pageant originated as a beauty contest in the early 1920s, but now prefers to avoid terms like "beauty contest" since beauty is no longer the primary criterion used to judge contestants. Some involved with the organization say that "other pageants are looking for a model, but Miss America is looking for a role model".



The Miss America competition originated on September 7, 1921 as a beauty contest in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was initiated in an attempt to keep tourists in Atlantic City after Labor Day.

In the early years of the pageant, a beauty competition of the women wearing bathing suits was the main event. When the Miss America organization decided to make this a less important part of the competition, swimsuit-making sponsors started their own separate pageant, Miss USA. Yolande Betbeze, Miss America 1951, refused to pose for publicity pictures while wearing a swimsuit, citing that she wanted to be recognized as a serious opera singer. Catalina Swimwear, which was a Miss America sponsor, split off and created the Miss USA/Universe pageants.

The pageant has been nationally televised since 1954. The pageant peaked in the early 1960s when it was repeatedly the highest-rated program on American television. It was seen as a symbol of the United States, Miss America often referred to as the female equivalent of the President. The pageant stressed conservative values; contestants were not expected to have ambitions beyond being a good wife. It was also only open to whites, a parallel Miss Black America pageant being held.

With the rise of feminism and the civil rights movement the pageant became a focus of protests each year, and its audience began to fade. In the 1970s it began to change, admitting Blacks and encouraging a new type of professional women. This was symbolized by the 1974 victory of Rebecca Ann King, an outspokenly pro-choice law student.

Still ratings flagged. In an attempt to create a younger image, Bert Parks emcee from 1954 to 1979 was fired. Parks had virtually became an American icon, singing the show's signature song, "There She Is," as the newly-crowned Miss America took her walk down the ramp. His firing prompted a public outcry. In protest, Johnny Carson organized a letter writing campaign to reinstate Parks; it was unsuccessful.

In 1984, Vanessa Lynn Williams became the first Black winner, but was forced to relinquish her title when Penthouse magazine published nude pictures of her that were taken before her contest victories; finalist Suzette Charles was crowned Miss America.

In the 1990s the pageant was reformed into The Miss America Organization, a not-for-profit corporation with three divisions: the Miss America Pageant, a scholarship fund, and a Miss America foundation.

The pageant's audience has eroded. In 2004, when its audience fell to fewer than 10 million viewers, ABC decided to drop the pageant. "Broadcasters show data proving that the talent show and the interviews, the pageant's answers to feminist criticism, were the least popular portions of the pageant, while the swimsuit part still had the power to bring viewers back from the kitchen. So pageant officials - who still require chaperones for contestants when they are in Atlantic City - are thinking about showing a little more." [1] (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/09/nyregion/09pageant.html?pagewanted=1)


Miss America is connected to various subsidiary programs throughout the U.S.A. Local contests select local representatives (e.g., "Miss Mobile, Alabama") who go on to participate in state pageants (e.g., for "Miss Alabama"). The winners of the various state pageants (plus a pageant for "Miss District of Columbia") go on to compete for the title of "Miss America" at an annual competition held in Atlantic City. Miss Virgin Islands competed for the first time in the 2004 pageant.

Contestants for Miss America and the various state and local pageants are selected by panels of judges based on a set of four competitions:

1) Interview Each contestant converses with the judges on a variety of topics, from frivolous trivia to serious political and social issues. The contestant is awarded points for being well spoken, polite, articulate, and confident. This competition is less known by the general public than other aspects of the pageant, since unlike the other three does not take place on a theater stage nor is it usually televised.
2) Talent The contestant performs on stage before the judges and an audience. The most common talents are singing or dancing, but a variety of other talents may be exibited at the contestant's choosing; some have demonstrated juggling or playing musical instruments; one even chose to demonstrate the proper way to pack a suitcase.
3) Swimsuit In the famous swimsuit competition contestants rapidly walk on and off stage in swimsuits and high-heeled shoes. The Miss America pageant regulates certain minimum standards of modesty the swimwear must comply with. Judging for this portion of the competition focuses on overall physical fitness, poise and posture. Until recently, the contestants were required to wear identical, somewhat dated, one-piece suits. Recently, the organization has allowed contestants to choose conservative two-piece suits (bikinis) or more modern one-piece suits.
4) Evening gown Similar to the swimsuit competiton, but the contestants walk slowly in formal evening gowns.

A casual wear section was added to the Miss America competition in 2003, and is filtering down to state and local competitions.

A community service platform became a requirement of Miss America contestants beginning with the 1989 pageant. Platforms promoted by previous Miss Americas have included AIDS awareness and prevention, diabetes awareness, outreach for homeless veterans, domestic violence awareness and support for terminal breast cancer patients.

Prizes are given at local, state, and national level, consisting most commonly of scholarships for use in higher education, sometimes suplimented with money and merchandise donated by sponsors.

The winners

Year Miss America From
1921 Margaret Gorman Washington, D.C.
1922-23 Mary Campbell Columbus, Ohio
1924 Ruth Malcolmson Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1925 Fay Lamphier Oakland, California
1926 Norma Smallwood Tulsa, Oklahoma
1927 Lois Delaner Joliet, Illinois
1933 Marion Bergeron West Haven, Connecticut
1935 Henrietta Leaver Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1936 Rose Coyle Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1937 Bette Cooper Bertrand Island, New Jersey
1938 Marilyn Meseke Marion, Ohio
1939 Patricia Donnelly Detroit, Michigan
1940 Frances Marie Burke Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1941 Rosemary LaPlanche Los Angeles, California
1942 Jo-Carroll Dennison Tyler, Texas
1943 Jean Bartel Los Angeles, California
1944 Venus Ramey Washington, D.C.
1945 Bess Myerson New York, New York
1946 Marilyn Buferd Los Angeles, California
1947 Barbara Walker Memphis, Tennessee
1948 BeBe Shopp Hopkins, Minnesota
1949 Jacque Mercer Litchfield, Arizona
1951 Yolande Betbeze Mobile, Alabama
1952 Coleen Kay Hutchins Salt Lake City, Utah
1953 Neva Jane Langley Macon, Georgia
1954 Evelyn Margaret Ay Ephrata, Pennsylvania
1955 Lee Meriwether San Francisco, California
1956 Sharon Ritchie Denver, Colorado
1957 Marian McKnight Manning, South Carolina
1958 Marilyn Van Derbur Denver, Colorado
1959 Mary Ann Mobley Brandon, Mississippi
1960 Lynda Lee Mead Natchez, Mississippi
1961 Nancy Fleming Montague, Michigan
1962 Maria Fletcher Asheville, North Carolina
1963 Jacquelyn Mayer Sandusky, Ohio
1964 Donna Axum El Dorado, Arkansas
1965 Vonda Kay Van Dyke Phoenix, Arizona
1966 Deborah Irene Bryant Overland Park, Kansas
1967 Jane Anne Jayroe Laverne, Oklahoma
1968 Debra Dene Barnes Moran, Kansas
1969 Judith Anne Ford Belvidere, Illinois
1970 Pamela Anne Eldred Birmingham, Michigan
1971 Phyllis Ann George Denton, Texas
1972 Laurie Lea Schaefer Columbus, Ohio
1973 Terry Anne Meeuwsen De Pere, Wisconsin
1974 Rebecca Ann King Denver, Colorado
1975 Shirley Cothran Fort Worth, Texas
1976 Tawny Elaine Godin Yonkers, New York
1977 Dorothy Kathleen Benham Edina, Minnesota
1978 Susan Perkins Columbus, Ohio
1979 Kylene Barker Galax, Virginia
1980 Cheryl Prewitt Ackerman, Mississippi
1981 Susan Powell Elk City, Oklahoma
1982 Elizabeth Ward Russellville, Arkansas
1983 Debra Maffett Anaheim, California
1984 Vanessa Williams Milwood, New York (resigned)
1984 Suzette Charles Mays Landing, New Jersey
1985 Sharlene Wells Salt Lake City, Utah
1986 Susan Akin Meridian, Mississippi
1987 Kellye Cash Memphis, Tennessee
1988 Kaye Lani Rae Rafko Monroe, Michigan
1989 Gretchen Carlson Anoka, Minnesota
1990 Debbye Turner Mexico, Missouri
1991 Marjorie Judith Vincent Oak Park, Illinois
1992 Carolyn Suzanne Sapp Honolulu, Hawaii
1993 Leanza Cornett Jacksonville, Florida
1994 Kimberly Clarice Aiken Columbia, South Carolina
1995 Heather Whitestone Birmingham, Alabama
1996 Shawntel Smith Muldrow, Oklahoma
1997 Tara Dawn Holland Overland Park, Kansas
1998 Katherine Shindle Evanston, Illinois
1999 Nicole Johnson Roanoke, Virginia
2000 Heather French Maysville, Kentucky
2001 Angela Perez Baraquio Honolulu, Hawaii
2002 Katie Harman Gresham, Oregon
2003 Erika Harold Urbana, Illinois
2004 Ericka Dunlap Orlando, Florida
2005 Deidre Downs Birmingham, Alabama

See also

External links


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