Soon after the 2014 Miss America Organization coronation last Sunday night, critics took to social media to share their opinions, somewhat rudely, about the judges' choice. In addition, TV and radio stations have recently questioned the relevancy of "beauty pageants" in general asking, "Why do we have pageants?" or "Should we ban pageants?"
In the fourpoints office, we are saddened by the fact that there will always be people out there who take a negative view no matter the situation or cause. Those involved with the Miss America Organization and with Miss America's Outstanding Teen understand that as long as education and community service are relevant, so shall be MAO and MAOTeen.
But what do we understand about diversity? Luckily for us, Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri will spend the next year working to promote her platform cultivating cultural competency throughout the United States.
Following her crowning, Nina told members of a press conference, "I'm so proud to be the first Miss America of Indian descent. She isn't the Miss America of ten years ago and she's not going to be the same ten years down the road. I'm so thankful that children watching at home can relate to a new Miss America. They can look at me and see that they can break barriers, be who they are, and be successful despite their race or socio-economic status. I want to use this opportunity to encourage positive dialogue among all Americans about the ways in which we are all unique and how that makes us stronger as a country."
Would you like to get involved in this dialogue? MAO has the place for you! Send information using the hashtag #CirclesOfUnity on Twitter to @MissAmerica, Instagram to @missamericaorg, and to Facebook.com/MissAmericaOrganization.
Written by: Erika Rose is fourpoints magazine's staff writer.
Former national titleholders and forever Miss Americas gathered together Thursday to reminisce and pass on the wisdom they learned during their year of service. “They represent through the decades all that is wonderful about our ninety-three-year-old program,” said Miss America Organization CEO and Chairman of the Board Sam Haskell. Here is a brief look at the lives these women lead now, thanks to the doors that were opened for them through MAO.
Heather French Henry continues to work with her platform through the Heather French Foundation as well as her own line of eveningwear. She will be starting a new job working with corporate software in the coming weeks.
Ericka Dunlap promoted diversity with her platform and does so still today as a public relations consultant. “I’m still doing the work I love and I thank the Miss America Organization for allowing me to have that platform,” she said.
Caressa Cameron said her career was “birthed” during her reign as Miss America. Her jewelry line sold for HIV Aids awareness is still sold today through Aids United. “I turned my platform into my life’s work,” she said.
Teresa Scanlan was just seventeen when she was crowned Miss America. Now in her second year of college, she is pursuing her degree in government and plans to continue on to law school after that.
Bebe Shopp was Miss America 1948, and although there was no platform requirement during her time, she said she was have made her focus the promotion of public speaking education. “Wherever we are in life, we always have to get on our feet and present ourselves,” she said.
Lee Meriwether was Miss America in 1955, the first competition of the organization to be televised. Unfortunately, the television production crew wanted to shoot the crowning back stage, so only at-home viewers got to see Lee crowned, “and I’ve been apologizing ever since,” she said.
Phyllis George was crowned with robe and scepter, and in a time before Crown Clips, her crown fell off onto the floor, and she had to pick it up and carry it down the runway. But she took from the experience a life lesson: “Life is real, don’t take yourself so seriously,” she said.
Becky King is the only forever Miss America to have had her daughter also compete in the Miss America Organization. She was Miss America the year Atlantic City decided to allow gambling in the city. After a recent bought with stage four melanoma, she is healthy and happy to be back in Atlantic City.
Dorothy Benham was crowned right before the casinos came to the boardwalk. “I remember pigeons and t-shirt shops,” she said. “Those were grand, wonderful days.” Dorothy has six children, the youngest of whom just graduated from high school.
Vonda Van Dyke says she is the only Miss America to have shared the stage with someone else—her puppet. Vonda performed ventriloquism for her talent, and was the first to do so. Now her puppet is retired, just like Vonda.
Jacquelyn Mayer celebrated her fiftieth year since being crowned in 2012. After a devastating stroke, Jacquelyn learned to talk again and is delighted to be a part of the Miss America sisterhood.
Maria Fletcher sees a deeper meaning in numbers than most. The year of the first Miss America pageant, 1921, was special because it was the year of genius, she said. The date of the final night of competition, September 15, 2013, is a group of special numbers as well, the number of the artist, Maria said. “What is the pageant about if not about developing one’s God-given talent,” she said.
Donna Axum is the first vice chairman of the MAO board. She was the first Miss America to be elected to the Miss America board. “The Miss America Organization is so close to me. It’s been one of the driving forces,” in life, she said.
Read more stories about forever titleholders in every issue of fourpoints magazine!
Written by: Erika Rose is fourpoints magazine’s staff writer.
Renowned in their fields, the seven Miss America Organization preliminary competition judges bring diversity and a varied skill set to the panel this year. These judges are charged with narrowing down fifty-three Miss America contestants to the top fifteen—the group from which final night judges will crown the next Miss America. What criteria are they using to score contestants? Find out here!
During the judges' interview, how do you determine what you want to find out about each contestant, and what questions do you ask to find those things out?
Stephanie George: They have to have a deep understanding of current events. That’s number one. They are all very passionate about their platforms, but we want to know why. If they are Miss America, what will they do to extend their platforms? That’s number two. Number three, we let them talk about why they are here. What did they do to get here? [The fourth thing I look for is] why they have a passion for the organization and appreciate scholarship funding that is awarded to them.
When judging talent, do you base your scores on contestants’ technical skills or their ability to engage the audience?
Richard Dyer: If you start looking for something, it’s all you’re ever going to find. The talent part is important, but not decisive. By the end, we’re looking for a combination of qualities. The main thing is what is the talent telling you about her.
Why is Miss America relevant to media and business?
Nina Whitaker LaFontaine: Miss America raises the social consciousness of young women today. It is important in a nation where there is apathy. These ladies are a gleaming example of what it is to be beautiful, smart, and still be in service.
All of the contestants are fit. How do you judges the lifestyle and fitness in swimwear competiton?
Oscar James: I look for proportion and if the woman is comfortable in her body. I’m seeing if she can own the stage, feel good about herself.
Other preliminary competition judges include Shirley Cothran Barret, Karl Jurman, and Cori Wellins Lagao. Check back with us tonight to see who judges award two more scholarships after the second night of preliminary competitions!
Written by: Erika Rose is fourpoints magazine’s staff writer. Her favorite phase of competition is evening wear.
I'm officially a Rose, after so much paperwork …
To change my last name after getting married, I had to visit the Secretary of State's office, the Social Security office, the Secretary of State's office again, the credit union, and the library. I filled out more forms for work and car insurance, my Verizon Wireless account, mPerks, yes Rewards, other various store accounts, and the list goes on.
Call it old fashioned, but to me, all of this paperwork was worth it to have my new name. After all, I feel like a new person. Although I still have the same physical appearance, there is something inside of me that changed when I became a wife; something that merits, in my opinion, a new identity.
When Abram was charged with fathering the nations in Genesis, he got a new name—Abraham. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was appointed to the papacy this year, he got a new name—Pope Francis. When Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. hit the stage, he got a new name—Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion.
While my vocation as a wife may not be as biblically historical, as internationally renowned, or as musically inclined, I'm still called to carry out a new mission, to fulfill a new role. And I'm not just talking laundry and vacuuming (although I do love those things). Even though I can't really put into words how I am different, I'm striving each day to be an outward sign of my inward change, and I'm praying that I can be the kind of wife that is deserved of a new title.
Written by: Erika Rose is Serendipity Media LLC's staff writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Erika was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it.