They Said You’ll Never Be Miss America

Sixty years ago, the Miss America Pageant was broadcast on television for the first time. I was seven years old, it was a Saturday night, and my siblings and I were going to be allowed to stay up to see the whole show. It was Miss America, for goodness sake, and no one wanted to miss that.

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Truth be told, I did not have a clue who or what Miss America was, but the chance to stay up late, and watch something that seemed like a big event was intriguing and exciting. By the time the show came on the air, we were in our PJs, had blankets, pillows, popcorn, and hot chocolate at the ready. I could tell this was going to be very special.

And then it started. Music and lights. A man introducing ladies who were everywhere. Ladies parading around the stage in long dresses. Ladies parading around the stage in bathing suits. Ladies singing, playing musical instruments, reciting dramatic readings. Lots of commercials. People jabbering about the parading ladies. I was mesmerized.

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After each part of the show, it seemed there were fewer ladies participating in the next event. This went on and on, and I became more and more interested. It was obvious the show was a competition, and it was leading up to something important. The prettiest, most talented, and best of all. There were judges who watched and took notes, deciding who would be declared the finest representation of the American female.

The show finally concluded when Lee Meriwether was announced the winner. She received a beautiful crown, cape and huge bouquet of roses. After her crowning, she walked and waved and cried; and the audience went wild. I was hooked. Miss America was a modern day, real life princess, and the announcers said anyone could be the winner of the contest.

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Then I asked the question any little girl would ask at such a crossroads moment in her young and eager life. “Could I be Miss America some day?” Oh no. The long, pregnant pause. The furtive, nervous looks exchanged between parents. This was not what I expected, and it was not looking good. After a few moments, I was given the answer that is not an answer, but lets every kid know the answer, “We’ll see.”

Of course they meant, “No, that’s never going to happen; you’ll never be Miss America“, but did not want to put it on the plate of, what they perceived as, a not very pretty seven year old; at least not that night. I went to bed wondering why my parents had hesitated, and what I was lacking which could prevent me from becoming Miss America, because I had not yet learned the idealized version of beauty, and up to that point in life, never considered I was not absolutely fine just being me.

It did not take too many years or experiences before the accepted standard of beauty became clear to me and to my friends. We saw it everywhere. From print to electronic media, we were confronted with examples of how we should look, how we could look; if only. And over the years, the standard has not changed too much. We all recognize pretty when we see it, and we all know if someone is not, because that standard has been so deeply ingrained into us.

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I have been trying to figure out what happened along the way that gave some of us the good sense to become comfortable in who we are, the totality of ourselves, and not feel compelled to devote excessive time attempting to create an illusion, a washable, disposable version of how we should look versus how we do look. Speculating has been just that. Speculation. I do not know the answer, but I do know there is peace in acceptance. Accepting who we are, how we look, and especially as we age, how we face that future person looking back at us from the mirror.

Miss Americas come and go, their standard of beauty established long ago. They reign for a year, and then most slip into obscurity for the duration of their lives. For the rest of us, the standard of beauty is a daily renewing, refreshing of ourselves, inside and out. We live and grow, with our journeys imprinting experiences on us and about us every single day. We have our crowns, capes, and bouquets; they just are a bit disguised. Husbands, wives, partners, singles, children, grandchildren, friends, homes, activities, and more. Yes, I do believe as we love those things in our lives, and receive love in return, we are taking that walk down the runway; waving, laughing, crying, and thanking everyone who was instrumental in our arriving at that moment in time.

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So, rather than Bert Parks singing a song praising a fleeting beauty as we take our turn on the runway, I choose Josh Groban to sing a deeper tribute to all who know what it takes to get from here to there. Our runway is life’s journey, and not having to make it alone looks, to me, a lot like a crown.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up to more than I can be. 

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About Valleygrail

Native Californian by birth, Pacific Northwesterner by choice. Jack of all trades, master of none; always wishing I could stick with just one thing long enough to become expert. But then what about all those things left unattended? See? Not possible. I love life, my family, friends, a good book, Irish music, rain, fog, and a pint of Guinness. It's a good journey, and sharing with companions makes it even better. Thanks for being with me as I embrace it and you!
This entry was posted in 1950's, 1950's TV, Aging, Baby Boomers, Family, Friendship, Life Journey, Television History, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to They Said You’ll Never Be Miss America

  1. btg5885 says:

    Great song and more real. Maybe we should add an essay component and a community outreach component to reward a good mind and good heart. In terms of real attractiveness to a man, there is nothing more attractive than a woman’s interest in a man , i. e., the woman picks the man.

  2. nrhatch says:

    Wonderful post. I am happy not to be one of those pretty faces staring from the cover of tabloids ~ people who look “perfect” must wonder whether people like them for HOW they look or WHO they are.

    You might like Eric’s post today:

    http://ericjohnbaker.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/gender-rules-why-does-breaking-them-freak-us-out-so-much/

  3. Wonderful piece of writing, VG. You take me back to those Saturday nights in September when the whole family would gather around the TV and watch as you said “mesmerized”, savoring every moment to find out who the lucky winner would be. Funny, as my daughters grew up we missed quite a few televised pageants. They weren’t as entranced with watching it as I thought they might be. I like btg’s comment suggesting an essay and a community outreach component. I will have to google the pageant to see if it’s coming up or perhaps I missed it again.

  4. I love what you said about how for most women, there is a daily renewing and reaffirming of our beauty and importance.

  5. lauramacky says:

    Thank you for saying this! Women have been objectified for so long, even my statement would make some people roll their eyes. We are airbrushed on magazines, cellulite exposed and made fun of, and some are pushed to the point of plastic surgery to keep up some sort of crazy standard. Focusing on the outer beauty is nice…I mean who doesn’t want to look nice, but there are all kinds of beauty and the best is from within. 🙂

    • valleygrail says:

      Amen to that my friend! And I would like to know who the person was who first said, “Oh that’s beautiful, and that is not.” At the risk of sounding like Mr Rogers again, we all are beautiful just the way we are!

      • lauramacky says:

        Seems whoever wanted to make money or get power said it first unfortunately. Isn’t that always the way? *sighs* But you are right….we are beautiful just the way we are!

  6. Barneysday says:

    I never came close in the much lesser known Mr America, but thats ok, too. Thanks for sharing a great post, and also for regularly reading mine. I do appreciate it.

  7. btg5885 says:

    VG, I saw the new Miss America on Kelly/ Michael this am. Triple major at Hofstra and using winnings to go to law school at Notre Dame. Plus, she got down on the floor and played a cup and sang. I am sure there were prettier women, although she is very pretty, but she has more than looks which is good. Have a great rest of your week, BTG

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  9. sf says:

    I never seem to catch the Miss American pageants on TV. But once in awhile can catch the Miss Universe pageants. My favorite part are when the ladies first appear with their traditional outfits and holler out which country they’re from. Just love to hear their accents as they say their country.

  10. As kids our parents allowed us to stay up late and watch 2 TV shows: Miss America and yearly broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.

  11. btg5885 says:

    VG, I caught a replay of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight Show” the other day and it has a terrific bit on Miss America. They tout over $40 million in scholarships, yet when Oliver’s group did much research, Oliver’s team could validate only about $4 million. Turns out, Miss America sponsors were counting the scholarship opportunity x the number of contestants. He did note that are providing more scholarships to women than other sources, but the fact this number is used over and over again by news sources as gospel, shows the lack of veracity of both the sponsor and the news source. BTG

  12. I had an instant flashback reading your blog. When I first saw Miss America I was so confused that women were actually competing to see who was the most beautiful. Even as a child I thought it was preposterous. We are all God’s creations – how can someone presume to judge who is the prettiest? And why would you want to?
    Then us Boomer gals were the first who had to deal with the Playboy centerfolds. I vividly remember walking into a party when I was about 12 & a bunch of the guys were passing around the latest Playboy & I got my first look. Yes, they were beautiful and their nudity didn’t offend me, but the photos were all touched up, making the bar of “beautiful” impossible to reach. I thought at the time, can these boys not see these images aren’t real?
    I think us Boomer gals have been amazing in dealing with the changes within the media in our lifetimes. We have learned how to embrace our own beauty regardless of what the advertising world has tried to tell us. And we were really the first ones who had to deal with that sort of bombardment. I hope what we’ve learned will help the young gals coming behind us.
    In the meantime, thanks so much for your thoughtful post. As you can see, it hit a strong and familiar chord for me. God bless.

  13. A BEAUTYful, thoughtful piece. =) “the standard of beauty is a daily renewing, refreshing of ourselves, inside and out.” Wonderful. Yeah, that pageant is so screwy LOL. We all loved it, growing up. And I’m sure many men still do, as men. But it really flaunts what’s hollow. I never did get the bathing suit competition. What exactly were they comparing? The women up there all had it more than sufficiently. Btw, I love your gravatar. Truly beautiful.

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