Last weekend 20/20 featured a special behind the scenes look at the Miss America Pageant. It's been many years since I've seen a beauty pageant, and this sneak preview seemed more like a reality TV show.
One of the highlights was when Miss New Mexico cited a favorite quote, " If it bags, sags or drags, it has to be nipped, tucked and sucked." She said it with a huge smile proudly showing off her self proclaimed "fake teeth."
I could understand straightening, whitening, and even having tooth implants, but something tells me that's not all many of the contestants have had surgically implanted. Sam Haskell, Chairman of the Board of Miss America said, "Our young women can do anything that they want to enhance their appearance.... I believe it is their choice to make themselves look as good as they want to look however they do it."
The contestants are required to sign a contract stating that they were never pregnant, had a criminal record, or been married. They want to stress the importance of having high morals; yet they are sending mixed messages.
One article cited that many states even offered to pay for their plastic surgery though it was never validated. This raises the question if beauty contestants are allowed to up their game by unnaturally enhancing their appearance, how is that different from pro athletes taking steroids?
The 20/20 special showed glimpses of contestants training for the pageant. One young woman was literally working her hiney off, trying to shape up her flat backside. She took her mission very seriously as she exercised with her trainer. This woman was sweating through beauty boot camp, though she wouldn't have been penalized if she had taken an easier route with plastic surgery. On the other hand, athletes have been suspended for taking steroids to enhance their performance on the playing field. Shouldn't the same rules apply to every competitor?
Not all of the contestants fit the traditional Miss America mold. In addition to having a contestant with Tourette's syndrome, this is the first year that a woman with autism participated. Miss Montana is also the youngest contestant at eighteen.
When the Miss America pageants first began in 1921 in Atlantic City, the contestants strutted down the boardwalk in swimsuits for all to see. The sixteen year old winner wore no make-up and her measurements were 30- 25-32. According to PBS, "From the very beginning, the pageant was confronted with a conflict between the effort to present an image of innocence and virtue while, at the same time, promoting a spectacle where women paraded in public in bathing suits."
Not much has changed in ninety-two years, other than the contestants are taller, their swimsuits are smaller, and it's anyone's guess how they're filling them out. Some may use gel padding, while all partake in spray on "butt glue" to keep their bikini bottoms from creeping up.
In the advent of so many young women having severe self -esteem issues watching their eighteen to twenty- four year old peers go under the knife to achieve perfection is sending the wrong message. Besides, if they start having plastic surgery in their twenties, they'll be so tightly wound when they're older that they won't have any extra flesh to fall on to prevent them from breaking a hip.