What is the Miss America Pageant?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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The Miss America Pageant is an annual event held in September in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the event, women from all 50 states, Washington, DC, and the United States Virgin Islands compete for the Miss America crown in a series of events. The Pageant is put on by the Miss America Organization, which provides scholarships to the winner and runners-up. The Miss America Organization is the largest provider of scholarships to young women in the world, with annual disbursements measuring in the millions.

This event started in 1921 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a beauty contest. The event was designed to attract tourists to the area in the hopes of persuading them to stay on past labor day. Until 2004, the Miss America Pageant was held in Atlantic City every year. At the event, women between the ages of 17 and 24 representing their states compete in five events and advance their community service platforms, a requirement which has been in place since 1989.


Every Miss America candidate meets with a panel of judges for a private interview, and then competes on stage in an evening wear competition, in which she is judged on poise and style, along with a “lifestyle and fitness” competition, better known as the swimsuit competition. Candidates also have to demonstrate a talent on stage, and answer an on stage question, which tests their ability to respond professionally and eloquently. The winner of the pageant is entitled to be called Miss America for the following year.

Like many beauty pageants, the Miss America Pageant has not been without controversy. Some people feel that pageants are demeaning to young women, or that they promote unhealthy standards of beauty. Others argue that the scholarship opportunities are quite significant, and they stress the organization's goal of supporting strong, confident young women.

The Miss America Pageant has also been plagued with historical problems. Black women were not allowed to compete until 1970; prior to this point, candidates had to be “of the white race,” and they were required to answer questions about their ancestors to prove this. Black women were allowed in the pageant only as supporters in dance numbers, and the pageant was politically conservative. By the 1970s, flagging interest and declining television rating sparked a revamping of the Miss America Pageant, with a focus on modern women and their values.


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Post 3

Miss America pageant may have moved on from its racist days but people haven't changed much! When an Indian-American won Miss America for 2014, there was so much hate speech online and elsewhere. People didn't think she deserved it because she's of Indian descent. It's sad that people don't realize that all Americans descended from somewhere else except for Native Americans.

Post 2

@literally45-- But you forget that the goal of the Miss America pageant was also for the purposes of tourism.

Miss America Pageant is, at the core, a philanthropic organization though. I follow Miss America on their social networking site and they do a lot of social service. Miss America is required to represent the organization and take part in various social causes and activities. And the candidates and winners are already women who are active in these types of activities to help others and bring attention to important causes. I know that as of 2015, the organization also donates to children's hospitals.

Post 1

I am against the idea of judging someone and their merit based on the outer appearance. I think that in beauty pageants sometimes, those who are less qualified may win just because they are prettier or taller or thinner. When the goal is to help young girls and women make something of themselves and gain self-esteem, I don't think this works. What about all of the girls who don't win? How are their self-esteem affected?

If an organization wishes to give young women scholarships for education, that's great. That can also be done based on other factors.

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