She takes off her swim suit and drops it because it no longer fits. She hasn’t gained weight. It hasn’t shrunk. She’s matured. Her name is Miss America.
Times change. Priorities change. Values change. Rules change. Therefore, Gretchen Carlson, Chairman of the Miss America Board of Directors, announced on June 5, 2018 that the annual beauty pageant turned scholarship program would be undergoing major changes this year. “Miss America will be a competition, not a pageant,” Carlson declared. “There will be no swim suit competition. Evening gowns won’t be required.” There will be more room for individuality and self-expression, she implied. Carlson added perfect figures will not be a priority and there will be other changes, too.
But, I wondered, what are these other changes? So I went directly to the source. “Ms. Carlson?” I asked, but was stopped before I could continue.
“You will refer to me as ‘Ms. Carlson, Miss America 1989.’ And you will make no reference to my years on FOX News. Now, what is your question?”
“I am curious,” I said, “about the other changes in the Miss America program.”
“First,” the former Fox News co-host said, “contestants will not be expected to ‘love all the other girls’ in the competition or ‘consider them sisters forever’ as have generations of contestants before them. They are, in fact, being given permission to dislike other competitors. But they may not refer to them as bitches,’ unless, of course, they are.”
I was told about another change by a reliable source, a former Miss America official, as he was being released from prison. The age of eligibility has been raised. Contestants now may be as old as 50. But those between 25 and 50 must make certain their walkers are in perfect working order and pose no threat to the safety of the other contestants. In addition, walkers may not display political paraphernalia. Religious icons, however, are permissible.
My research left me with mixed feelings. I felt as conflicted as Miss Iowa 1974 who could both tap dance and yodel, but was limited to one for the talent competition. She unfortunately chose the wrong one as she was asked to leave the pageant during the preliminaries after she apparently yodeled a Swiss expletive.
I am glad to see the elimination of the bathing suit competition because it made me feel fat and decrepit. And I know I am not fat. But I am saddened to see that evening gowns have become optional. Contestants, instead, are given the choice to wear what they feel best represents them as an individual and as Miss America, were they to win. The reason for this change is that organizers have acknowledged that Miss America winners, when traveling the country or world, rarely make appearances in evening gowns. For me, however, the evening gown competition demonstrates each girl’s taste and style. Was the dress too sexy, too garish, or too ordinary? Did her hairstyle conflict with the dress’s neckline? Was the jewelry too Joan Rivers and not enough Tiffany? Were any of the items worn purchased with coupons? Therefore, I for one, hope some of the contestants opt to wear gowns. In fact, I have several elegant ones they could borrow. If they like gingham or plaid.
I worry, however, that the new changes, particularly those emphasizing individuality, may impact the event negatively. To see how this may occur, I suggest we follow the journey of my imagined next Miss America, the first under the new rules, as she progresses through and wins the pageant…I mean competition.
My imagined winner, who will represent a state I will call East Oklahorado, will make her first appearance on stage with all 50 competitors when they introduce themselves and proudly name their state. She will be wearing skinny jeans tucked into red, white, and blue cowboy boots, and a bold, Greek-letter adorned sorority sweatshirt. It will be at this time we learn, through voice-over, that this contestant’s cause, the issue with which she is most concerned, and the project to which she will dedicate her reign is the struggle for diversity in college sororities. “My house,” she will boast, “at North Central East Oklahorado State College, where I am majoring in Emojis, not only has two African-American members, but a Cambodian refugee, a Guatemalan Dreamer, a homeless drug-addict, an obese girl with acne, and a Jewess. But we will not feel complete until we have a member who is a struggling C-student who both lisps and stutters.”
For her “individual style” look, formerly the evening gown competition, her best opportunity to express her uniqueness, Miss East Oklahorado will wear a simple little black dress with a pearl necklace, as will 37 of the other contestants. For the talent competition, which accounts for 62.389% of the score, the next Miss America will perform Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” which she will insist is not sexist because it does not refer to the object of desire as a ho, bitch, or the “C” word. You know the word…chick. She won’t sing the song, but will play “P.Y.T.” on a tuba while clog dancing—yes, one may now multi-talent, provided the talents do not involve cherry stems or stripper poles. During this portion of the competition, Miss East Oklahorado will be wearing a form-fitting sleeveless red-sequin evening gown, which will accentuate her 5’ 4”, 165 pound frame and will expose her forearm tattoos of Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Popping out of the tuba’s horn at the end of the performance will be an American Eagle, wearing Michael Jackson’s white sequined glove on one talon.
At this point, while the judges are tallying scores to determine the five semi-finalists, buxom Miss America 2015, wearing a brief white two-piece swim suit, will introduce viewers to the judges. They are Kevin Spacey, Martina Navratilova, Vladimir Putin, Stormy Daniels, and one of the Kardashians—I think the one whose name starts with a “K.”
As one of the five semi-finalists, Miss East Oklahorado will participate in the important question-and-answer portion of the competition. She will have chosen to wear the army uniform, including the patrol cap, her mother wore when she fought in the second Iraq War. The camera will then pan to her mother in the audience who will be wearing an American flag-patterned dress purchased at K-Mart.
Miss East Oklahorado then will be asked by judge Kevin Spacey, “If you could be a female character in any film, who would that be and why?”
“Oh, I’d be Scarlett O’Hara,” she will answer with confidence, “because Janet Leigh has always been my favorite actress. Did you know she was once married to Tony…Tony…Romo of the Dallas Cowboys? It was right after she filmed Streetcar Named Retire.” That answer will assure her a spot in the Final Three.
As the Final Three huddle on stage congratulating one another and thinking How the hell did those two bitches get this far?, the host, Jason Mason, who was the least talented member of the ‘90s boy band One of Us is Gay, will say, “Look at our Final Three. Aren’t they beautiful? They look like The Supremes or Destiny’s Child. Except they’re all White.” He will then explain that since the final questions are difficult and complex each contestant will be given 20 minutes to answer. Coffee is served to the judges.
Miss East Oklahorado will go first, guaranteeing her some semblance of attention by the judges, audience, TV viewers, and Donald Trump. Her question will be, “If you could serve as any elected official in the United States, which would it be, why, and what would you do?”
“I would proudly serve,” she will say without hesitation, “as national president of my sorority, Delta Upsilon Mu.”
A sudden outbreak of chanting from the right side of the audience will interrupt the answer. “DUM! DUM! DUM!” Miss East Oklahorado’s sorority sisters will cheer.
“Yes, I am a proud Dummie,” she will continue, “but I will work with the national presidents of all the other sororities, including the really pitiful houses. I would strive to include all college girls in sorority life, whether they are unattractive, overweight, stupid, or come from a home without a swimming pool. You see sororities should be a microcosm of the world. They should be an example of a better America. A better North Korea. A better Russia. Sororities even should be an example of a better Vatican City.” Miss East Oklahorado will pause and look at the emcee. “How much more time do I have?” she will ask.
She will repeat her statement 5 times. “Well, that should fill my 20 minutes,” she will say.
“No,” the host will argue. “Two times five is 10. You still have 10 minutes if you want them.”
Miss East Oklahorado will look at him with skepticism, take out her cell phone, activate the calculator, and look up with surprise. “Oh, you’re right.” And she will repeat her statement five more times.
She will be named Miss America, and the previous title holder will struggle to balance the tiara atop the military patrol cap. The new Miss America will be handed 50 red roses and then will walk the runway, waving as she goes. When she reaches the end, she will salute her mother, step off the runway and present the flowers to her. She will carefully remove her tiara, then her mother’s military cap, place the hat on her mother’s head, replace the tiara on her own, climb onto the runway and rush to the 49 other contestants who embrace her, shrieking their congratulations, but thinking, How did this bitch win this travesty?
It won’t be until the press conference the next day that we will learn the new Miss America intends to use her scholarship winnings to earn her Master’s Degree in Emojis and finance her gender reassignment surgery.