Take it to the Mat: Miss America vs. Miss USA

When it comes to chick contests, I’m admittedly more interested in Roller Derby and erotic wrestling than in glued and sprayed swimsuit competitions. However, in the aftermath of this whole Miss California USA “Opposite-Marriage” thingy, I feel compelled to point out that all pageant queens aren’t created equal.

The Miss America pageant was founded in 1921. It began as a “beauty contest”, a title it now eschews in favor in of “pageant”. However, swimsuit and evening gown competitions, which remain part of the deal, now make up only 35 percent of a competitor’s total score.

Contestants are also judged on their lengthy personal interview, which makes up 25 percent of their overall score and does not take place in front of an audience, nor is it usually televised. During their interview they are awarded points based on their ability to be well-spoken, polite, articulate, and confident. Their overall score is also based on a talent competition, and their answer to an unrehearsed question they must answer on stage, which is suppposed to judge their ability to formulate an intelligent, thoughtful answer, on the spot.

The primary prizes for the winner and her runners-up are scholarships to the educational institutions of their choice. The Miss America Scholarship program, along with its local and state affiliates is the largest provider of scholarship money to young women in the world, and in 2006 made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance.

Young women enter the Miss America pageant by winning regional and state competitions. Miss California is one of those state pageants.

Miss California 2008 is Jackie Geist.

The Miss America USA pageant has been held since 1952, in order to select the USA’s entrant into the Miss Universe pageant. Both of these pageants are operated by the Miss Universe organization, which also operates Miss Teen USA. Competition consists of an interview, and swimsuit and evening gown competitions. There is no talent competition.

The swimsuit and evening gown competitions are held and eliminations are made before the remaining contestants are interviewed. Since 2001, the entire “interview” consists of a single question.

The question portion has now been made famous by Miss California USA 2008, Carrie Prejean, who grabbed a political hot potato in an attempt to please a notoriously conservative pageant audience. She bungled it, burning her impeccably manicured fingers in the process, but landing herself a spokeperson position with one of the most conservative, bigoted organizations in America, NOM, the National Organization for “Opposite” Marriage”. (Now known as “NOOM”.)

The Miss America USA pageant was orginally organized and owned by the swimsuit company Catalina. It has gone through several ownerships since then, and since 1996 has been owned by “The Donald” Trump.

In 2006, Trump’s organization was rocked by scandal, when news organizations reported that Miss USA, Tara Conner, had been drinking underage, tested positive for cocaine, and was in a lesbian entanglement with Miss Teen USA Katie Blair. She entered a rehab program and was allowed to retain her title.

In 2007, scandal hit again when Miss Nevada USA was stripped of her title after a series of photographs appeared in the media, showing her kissing and groping girls, and baring body parts in the very best “Girls Gone Wild” tradition.

By comparison, Miss America travels with a chaperone during the competition and her reign, an element of the pageant that was famously spoofed in a 1994 espisode of Seinfeld.


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