The 100th Miss America competition aired on the streaming platform Peacock Thursday night, and it was a disaster. The production quality was abysmal, there were numerous snafus, including teleprompters not working, hosts not being able to read their lines, no clear direction, sound feedback, and Miss Alabama’s sound not working.
Plus the pageant partnered with TikTok, a company with known connections to the Chinese Communist Party. That’s not anywhere near American in nature. Also, let’s not forget the sponsorships with teen cheerleading athletic wear and underwear meant for menstruation.
None of this should take away from the fact that Miss Alaska was an excellent choice for Miss America, and the young women who competed are incredibly accomplished. But the production was a disservice to every woman on that stage. It was an embarrassment, and a slap in the face to the 100-year legacy of the program.
How did we get here? How did a once venerable institution, an annual family experience that aired on network television for millions to see, end up looking like a botched rehearsal for a local pageant airing only on a streaming service? It’s simple: Miss America got woke and went broke.
In 2017, leaked emails showed that members of the organization’s leadership were catty and rude. This led to faux outrage strong enough to replace the CEO with Gretchen Carlson. Carlson’s first order of business was to end the swimsuit competition. This was a colossal (and expensive) error. She apparently believed the swimsuit competition sexualized women instead of empowering them, but she was wrong.
There is nothing more intimidating and powerful than a woman who looks beautiful in a bikini and possesses razor-sharp intelligence. Go ask any man who has encountered one. And go ask any woman who has competed in the system, from the local to the national level.
Nothing is more exhilarating or freeing than the feeling of getting off stage after showing off your hard work. The competition allows women to show off the hard work they put in to living a healthy lifestyle in preparation for the event. It is inspiring, not discriminatory.
The current leadership of Miss America should pay attention to the competition. Miss USA and Miss Universe are doing really well embracing talented, beautiful women while continuing to position themselves as beauty pageants.
Miss America’s poor choices did not end with eliminating the swimsuit competition. Even though Carlson is no longer its CEO, the organization has gone even further in the wrong direction. They are now relentlessly focused on diversity and inclusion, which is code for leftist identity politics.
I watched Miss New York’s talent Thursday night. She recited a poem about women doing jobs that men have historically done, such as being the president and sitting on corporate boards. Now, there’s nothing wrong with women achieving these milestones, of course, but it is insulting to think that it is still countercultural or revolutionary.
Additionally, in her delivery, she was adhering to a toxic dogma pushed by many feminists that in order to achieve equality, women should be more like men. Then, at one point, she flashed the famous red soles of a pair of Louboutins as if to show that she is powerful because she wears $700 shoes. The whole spectacle was patronizing and phony.
This is only an example. Based on not only the format of the competition, but the comments of so many of the contestants about the importance of “diversity and inclusion,” it was clear that the pageant is force-feeding wokeism to the contestants and audience.
If feminists and others concerned with inclusion truly support women and value them for being women, then they would support women making decisions for themselves to participate in pageants that allow skin to be shown, a talent to be performed, different opinions to be shared, and a beautiful gown displayed for scholarship money. That’s what made Miss America different. Encouraging women to do bizarre TED Talks instead of embracing the fact that women are different and beautiful is counterproductive.
The formula is simply not working. There are solutions that will keep Miss America alive for the next 100 years. It starts with booking the show on an actual television network.
Many women who competed in the Miss America system did so because they grew up watching the pageant on TV. If future contestants do not have access to a streaming platform, or have to sit through another egregious hour of bad production, then they will likely not have any interest in competing.
Next, they should return to the format that made the event interesting to watch. Potential contestants and audiences are drawn to the allure of gorgeous gowns, high-energy swimsuit portions, exhilarating on-stage questions, and authentic interactions that are not forcing political ideology down our throats.
If Miss America continues down its current path, it will cease to exist. It will continue to lose sponsorships, monetary donations, potential non-profit partnerships, celebrity appearances, and airtime.
Instead, Miss America should embrace the qualities that made it an American institution. If women who talk about sex on a podcast can get millions of subscribers, then it should be okay for Miss America to embrace her body in a swimsuit too.
So bring back the swimsuit competition. Invite commentary on subjects other than discrimination. Value women for being women, not just people striving to be like men. In short, Miss America should go back to being Miss America.
Teresa Davis is a principal of Win the Future Strategies, LLC, a boutique public affairs and government relations firm serving clients across the United States. She is a former senior communications advisor at the White House, deputy press secretary at the Pentagon, and was Miss District of Columbia in the 2014 Miss America competition.