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P.T. Barnum started it. He knew a sucker was born every minute, but he had no idea how many suckers could be lured by a parade of pretty girls.
Or maybe he did have an idea, and he was just born a bit too soon.
Barnum’s first beauty pageant in 1854 didn’t get too
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far because people considered it scandalous.
That’s progress for you. Today’s pageants reduce contestants to the bare essentials, let everyone size them up, then throw questions at them to see how articulate and poised they are under pressure.
That’s what got Miss Utah USA in trouble over the weekend. She flubbed her answer to an almost incomprehensible question from NeNe Leakes that, as near as I can tell, had something to do with whether women should be paid the same as men.
It wasn’t the first time a beauty contestant flubbed a question. But when it happens, the nation seems to stand still for a moment as YouTube links are thrown around.
For many, it is the first time they are made aware that a pageant actually took place.
It makes me wonder, what would happen if a contestant flubbed a different part of the competition? What if she wore a hideous evening gown or, heaven forbid, revealed some cellulite during the swimsuit competition? What if she was an articulate Rhodes scholar who cured AIDS and Alzheimer’s in a single stroke but was short and had a few bulges even Photoshop couldn’t fix?
Well, the answer of course is she wouldn’t be in the pageant.
Apparently, Americans used to be a little more straightforward as to how they judged beauty contestants. Watch this old video for an idea:
NPR’s Linda Holmes was critical of the question Miss Utah USA Marissa Powell had to answer. Fair point, but I’m more concerned with what the pageant is about in the first place, and whether it’s entertainment worth two hours of our lives.
Back in the late ‘60s, feminists used to picket pageants as if it was 1854 and P.T. Barnum was around. As in the photo at the top of this post, they held signs saying all women are beautiful.
That’s a nice sentiment. Whatever happened to those people?
Meanwhile, if Barnum were around today, he would admire Marissa Powell. After all, everyone knows her name now. That wouldn’t be true if she had mouthed some articulate inanity in response to the question.