Beauty pageant biz alive

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Beauty Pageant Biz is Alive and Well

And in Yoknapatawpha County

Miss World Canada 2012 Grand Crowning Gala
By Courtney Woodford [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival Pageant, happening this week, reminds us that the beauty pageant business is alive, well, and thriving.

Fostered by the Miss America Organization, the beauty pageant as an institution and as an event has come a long way since their first pageant in 1921 was held in Atlantic City.

Originally established to entice people to extend their Labor Day stay in the beachside city, the Miss America organization now offers $42 million in scholarships, the single largest scholarship organization for women in the world.

The organization franchises 1,200 contests nationwide at local and state levels, with over 10,000 young women competing in pageants they hope will win them a crown and transform their lives. Some enter just to appear on TV. Others dream of being discovered by modeling agencies, Broadway shows, TV, or movies. And many really do hope for a scholarship to further their education.

The Miss America pageant—whose eligibility rules specify that only single women between 17 and 24 years old who have never been a parent or posed in the nude may enter—may be the largest, but it is by no means the only beauty pageant looking for a share of the multi-billion dollar business.

Since Catalina Swimwear began their own Miss USA and Miss Universe competitions in 1951, there has been a proliferation of other pageants looking for a slice of the lucrative pageant pie. Pageants for women and girls of all ages—from birth to near-death—are held worldwide every year.

These pageants may vary in their qualifications for entry, but most have one thing in common—they're operated by a for-profit organization that solicits primarily girls and young women to compete for recognition and prizes from a promoter. The key words here are "for-profit."

The entrant usually pays a registration fee and a sponsorship fee—and a business sponsor, friends, or family members may pay those fees in full or in part. Fees generally cover the cost of the pageant, including salaries for company personnel and company profits.

The contestant must pay for their own clothing, costumes, makeup, travel, food, and sometimes lodging for themselves and a chaperone. Often a talent competition costs extra.

One of the Baby Beauty contests charges $1,000 just to enter. Even the little children's clothes and costumes may cost thousands of dollars, in addition to the usual pageant expenses. We all remember the videos of JonBenét Ramsey prancing and posing in her expensive costumes — and looking much too grown up for a six-year-old.

There are contests for babies, children, pre-teens, junior-teens, teens, Miss, Mrs., Miss Plump, Ms. Over 50—you-name-it.

One year, an organization held their entire pageant on a cruise of the Western Caribbean with contests for pre-teen, teen, Miss, Ms., and Mrs. "complete with crowns and sashes." Of course, "the entire family" was invited—at the family's own expense. Who do you suppose profited from that one?

The name of the game is competition and winning—competition between contestants, competition between sponsors, competition to coach a winner.

Competition, winning—and money.

Everyone wants to be a winner, sponsor a winner, coach a winner. There is no fame or profit in being or backing a runner-up. Who remembers the runners-up? It's winning that counts and pays off.

Is it any wonder that a contestant might make eleven tries over seven years of eligibility in two states as Miss America 1981, Debbye Turner, did? Isn't it a wonder, with all that's at stake, that anyone wins Miss Congeniality?

How can the two runners-up smile and look excited when someone else is announced as the winner? They must feel like looking—or throwing—daggers at the winner after all the months or years they prepared and the thousands of dollars they invested in themselves.

Oh well, if you're 17 and graduated from high school by June 30 or aren't older than 24, there's always next year.

By Oxford Weekly Planet at 1:30 PM


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