Thursday, January 27, 2011

Perspectives on Miss America

When Miss Nebraska won Miss America on January 15, I was thrilled to see a young, poised, talented, confident contestant from a neighboring state win out over the “Seasoned Southerners”. I applaud the judges for looking past the “pageant patty” certain states have a reputation of producing year after year and crowning a fresh face.

When a young woman wins Miss America, one of the first things that state has to do is find a replacement for her at the state level. Logic says it would be the 1st runner up, right? I mean, we all know the shpeel that the contestants get once it’s narrowed down to the final two ladies: “If for any reason the winner is unable to fulfill her duties, the 1st runner up will assume the title of Miss FILL-IN-THE-BLANK”. 

Over the past several years, though, I have noticed states are having a tough time finding someone willing to serve the remainder of the year as that state’s representative. Points in case: 2009: Indiana wins Miss America, and no one in the top 5 is willing to take over as the new Miss Indiana. 2010: Same scenario in Virginia. 2011: Nebraska has to look to the 3rd runner up to find a state titleholder.

Here is what I don’t understand: why are these 1st runners up given the option of saying no to the job of Miss “STATE”? As 1st runner up, that is part of the gig, part of the risk of competing. You are accepting the fact and the chance that if your state titleholder pulls a Tara Connor and drinks her way out of the title, is kicked out for some reason, or wins Miss America, you are responsible for taking her place. End of story.

Now, I do think some rules should be amended. For instance, if a state titleholder is removed from her position for any reason, including winning Miss America, she should have to forfeit her state scholarship money and remaining prizes to the new state titleholder. Otherwise, you are asking a young woman who was very close to winning the title to give up her eligibility to compete next year for what….no scholarships, prizes, and five months to do the job? Not that it should be a choice, but I can see why so many turn it down.

Here’s what I think should happen: if you are named 1st runner up, you are expected to take the state title if the winner is removed from her position for any reason, including winning Miss America. If you don’t, you are required to sit out from competing for one year, and possibly even forfeit your 1st runner up scholarship since you are not adhering to the rules that you signed in your contract. The former Miss “STATE” will relinquish all state scholarships and unused prizes to the new titleholder. This is fair because Miss America gets her own hefty scholarships and prizes, and the contract is already set up so that if you are removed/leave for any other reason, you forfeit your winnings. The new titleholder, then, would get her 1st runner up scholarships as well as the winner’s. That makes the job a little more attractive, I think.

I get why these ladies turn the job down: they want “their shot” at Miss America. They want a full year to be Miss State. They want to win with all the glitz and pomp and circumstance, not a crummy crowning ceremony. They want the scholarship money. But I think it speaks volumes about the character and intentions of the girls who say “thanks, but no thanks” to the opportunity of serving as Miss STATE.

So let’s pretend those girls who turned down the crown go on to win a local and come back next year. If I were a judge, I would have one question I would be sure to ask each of them: “Why do you think you should be Miss STATE this year when just five months ago you were given the opportunity to have this job and turned it down? Why should I have confidence that you are interested in the job of Miss STATE and not just using it as a stepping stone for a 1-in-53 shot at Miss America?

I would love to hear those answers.

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