Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Normal Girl on Miss America

Today, in response to Normal Guy’s comments on the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas, Normal Girl gives her own perspective on the pageant, her personal connection to it, and some thoughts on the 2007 outcome…

“There she is…. Miss America…” These were words I heard for the first time in 1987 (I was 10 at the time), when Kaye Lani Rae Rafko was crowned Miss America by outgoing queen Kellye Cash. I watched Miss USA the year before, but I fell in love with the queens walking and waving down the long runway of Atlantic City’s Convention Hall. The beautiful crown and scepter given to the new Miss America were the clinchers.

What a thrill it was to attend Miss America while Normal Guy and I were in Las Vegas! But I’ll get back to that shortly…

I competed in my first pageant at 7, after my dance teacher encouraged my mom to sign me up. I finished as first runner-up…and quickly became hooked on performing and being in the limelight. Nearly twenty years later, I retired from pageants when I discovered that I had developed stage fright! It sounds ridiculous…but it is definitely accurate. My own stage fright gives me an even greater appreciation for the young women who are brave enough to continue to compete, despite the scrutiny and disapproval that sometimes surrounds pageantry.

I have videos of Miss America dating back to the late 1950’s and I am mesmerized by the grandeur of each year’s pageant. My mother was 7 years old when Marilyn Van Derbur was crowned Miss America 1958 and I am amazed that nearly 50 years later, the ideals have remained even though there have been many changes to the system. Miss America remains a class act.

I could write for days about all the memories that are attached to watching the pageant through the years, but I will share only two before commenting on this year’s event.

  • I watched Miss America live and in-person in Atlantic City in September 2000. I knew Miss Maine and Miss Mississippi personally and had even competed with both of them! Watching the pageant unfold before my eyes was a memory that I will never forget. My mom and I secured “backstage passes” to attend the after-pageant party to greet the state queens. I have pictures from those parties and loved every minute. I did not know whether I would ever attend Miss America again, and I am so thankful that I went that last year before it moved from Atlantic City to Las Vegas.
  • My mom and I have always “judged” the pageant, even down to creating sheets with the queens’ information and a rating system to determine our winners. I sometimes chose my favorite just by looking at their profiles on the Miss America website. In 2001, I saw Katie Harman’s preliminary talent picture: she had it, and I knew she was going to win. Throughout the telecast, every time I saw her on screen, I said, “Oregon’s got it. There’s the winner.” Sure enough, she won! (Years later, I purchased a book autographed by the one and only Katie Harman).

Back to Miss America 2007--As Normal Guy and I entered the Aladdin, the energy was contagious. Families had big banners naming their “favorite” queen; others waved small fans with their queens’ pictures. As we sat waiting for the pageant to begin, I couldn’t believe we were there!

Overall, the pageant was great. Mario Lopez, aka A.C. Slater, did an impressive job hosting the pageant. I really felt like this year marked the return to the classic feel that had been evident in the 50’s and 60’s era of the pageant (as opposed to the over-processed productions of the 80s and 90s).

I was surprised that Miss Oklahoma produced a winner for its second year, but Lauren Nelson was deserving of the title. My only issue was that I had chosen my “favorite” just like I did in 2001. Shilah Phillips was the first African-American to win Miss Texas, and her talent gave me goose bumps. I really believed the crowd was rooting for her when it got down to the final two. I feel that she represented all the girls who entered the pageant truly desiring scholarship money to pursue their education. Hearing her name as first runner-up was a let down for me, but that quickly changed when I realized that her dream had come true—she will be able to finish her college education. In my mind, that is what Miss America is all about.

Normal Guy did a great job of describing the pageant details. For me, it is all about choosing my favorite and rooting her on. Okay, it might also be about the judging and the exciting atmosphere, too! Miss Texas, my favorite queen and first runner-up, called Miss America the “Super Bowl of Pageants” and I couldn’t agree more.

-- Normal Girl (a.k.a. Keryn)

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