Reflections on the Miss USA "Scandal"

By: Tara Wheeler
By: Tara Wheeler

A new Miss USA was crowned this past weekend and it wasn't without a "scandal". I competed in Miss America, not Miss USA (I'll explain... there's a BIG difference) but I've still got an opinion on the competition, the crazy accusations, and the on-stage question slip-up... here it is!

A new Miss USA was crowned this past weekend and it wasn't without a "scandal". I competed in Miss America, not Miss USA (I'll explain... there's a BIG difference) but I've still got an opinion on the competition, the crazy accusations, and the on-stage question slip-up... here it is!

First, the background for those that may not know:

I was Miss Virginia 2008 and competed at Miss America in 2009. I did not compete in pageants as a child. I entered on a whim while I was in college because I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone (I was in the Air Force and on the Penn State ice hockey team... so this was definitely something different for me!). I had heard about the scholarship opportunities and thought it would be a fun way to bond with my mom (it was!), so I dug out my old prom dress and the rest is history.  (for more details, check out my earlier blogs about my year, the competition, the false stereotypes, etc. )

Now, the difference:

Miss America: Non-profit, historic organization with a focus on community service, talent, fitness, and intelligence. The competition is free to enter. Each contestant showcases a talent, illustrates poise in evening wear (hence, my prom gown being dug out of the closet), and fitness in swimwear. They're also grilled on current events, politics, social issues, and their service to the community in a private interview with a panel of judges. Miss America is the largest provider of scholarships to women in the world. Miss America contestants often go on to become doctors, lawyers, politicians, and *ahem* news anchors.

Miss USA: For-profit beauty competition run by Donald Trump. Interview isn't highly stressed, but looks are. Contestants compete in swimwear and evening gown as well as a short question and answer session. There's no talent portion of the competition. The winner of Miss USA goes on to compete in Miss Universe. This pageant is great for aspiring models and spokeswomen. Recent pageant scandals have been centered around Miss USA contestants.

                                Miss USA Finalists

Now that we've got that out of the way... On to the "scandal"

Miss Pennsylvania resigned her title just hours after not making the cut at Miss USA. She claims that a fellow contestant told her who the top 5 would be backstage; saying she had seen the names of the official top 5 listed in a folder during that morning's rehearsal. Honestly, from a production standpoint, I can see how organizers would already know and need to know the top 5 for tv-planning purposes. All of the preliminary competitions had been held earlier that week and the scores had been tallied. I believe everyone had a fair shot when the competition started off, but by the day of the final show, the field had been narrowed. The final night is mainly just "for show" but also a way for the judges to finalize their winner after narrowing the field down to a hand-full of contestants. I don't think it was rigged or unfair... but I also don't think folks from production should be so lackadaisical with their documents around contestants.

Also, as a state titleholder in any organization, I believe it's important not to jump to conclusions or make rash decisions. While I admire Miss PA USA  for taking a stance when she feels something's immoral, I wish she would have at least given it a few days and asked some important questions before quitting.

During the pageant itself, there was a bit of an awkward on-stage-question response from one contestant who DID make the top 5. Miss Ohio was asked "Do you think women are depicted in movies and on television in an accurate and positive way and please give us an example."

She responded with: "I think it depends on the movie. I think there are some movies that depict women in a very positive role and some movies that put them in a little bit more of a negative role, but by the end of the movie they show that woman power that I know we all have. Such as the movie 'Pretty Woman.' We had a wonderful, beautiful woman, Julia Roberts, and she was having a rough time. But you know what? She came out on top and she didn't let anyone stay in her path."


I've read plenty of snarky blogs and comments about this one, but I try to stay off my high horse and instead, give people the benefit of the doubt. When you're on the spot in front of millions of people and the only thing between you and your dreams is your response to one question; I can imagine it would be easy to stumble. What I THINK she may have been trying to say was something along the lines of: even a movie about a female prostitute has a character that's strong and lovable with admirable traits. Maybe it was the first movie that popped into her head and she just went with it? However, after Miss SC Teen USA's messy on stage question from a few years back; every contestant should try avoid using "such as" for a while.




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