Miss America 2018 Cara Mund and her campaign manager. Photo: Cara Mund Facebook
The hit movie “Miss Congeniality” is a favorite among pageant girls. It’s probably so popular because even though it is a comedy and has a lot of over-the-top lunacy and quirky characters, it is one of the only movies about beauty pageants that show them in a positive light by the end of the film. The title character, played by Sandra Bullock, is an FBI Agent who goes undercover as a pageant contestant to catch a domestic terrorist. At the beginning of the film, she has the point of view that most people have who are unfamiliar with pageants. She believes the stereotypes that girls who participate in pageants are dumb, silly and incapable of contributing anything worthwhile and that pageants, in general, are outdated and anti-feminist. (Read: How Pageantry Has Changed to be More Than Just Outer Beauty)
By the end of the movie, however, she says, “…then I came here and I realized that these women are smart, terrific people who are just trying to make a difference in the world. And we've become really good friends. And for me, this experience has been one of the most rewarding and liberating experiences of my life." Her character also realizes that “smart” looks different on different women, and intelligence is about more than academic accolades. Unfortunately, the general news media continue to relentlessly bash pageants and the women who participate in them, bombarding the public with clips of onstage mistakes made by contestants that are meant to amuse, but in reality, only amount to public bullying. (Read: Social Media Etiquette Guide For Titleholders)
This vicious and negative portrayal of pageantry is never going to stop until we step up and state the truth about why modern, educated, intelligent women participate in pageants. “Pageants support and promote education by providing scholarship assistance”
The Miss America Organization states that it is, “the nation’s leading advocate for women’s education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States, awarding millions of dollars annually in cash awards and in-kind tuition waivers.” The organization goes on to say that, “Miss America is more than a title, it’s a movement of empowering young women everywhere to achieve their dreams by providing quality scholarship assistance and honoring their commitment to helping others.” (Read: You've Signed Up for a Miss America Local, Now What?)
The Miss America Organization is just one of many systems that offer scholarships for young ladies. There are actually quite a few pageants that offer academic assistance to contestants. It’s really an exciting time to get involved in pageants if you’re seeking a unique way to fund your educational plans and goals.
Miss America 2018, Cara Mund and U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Gloria Berlanga, who also happens to be Miss Rhode Island 1989. Photo: Miss America Facebook
“Pageants open doors to future achievements and successes”
After the spotlight has dimmed following the pageant competition, and once they have achieved their educational objectives, many titleholders, including former Miss Americas, continue to contribute to their communities in creative ways. Many queens often go on to forge impressive careers, like Miss Rhode Island 1989, Gloria Berlanga. Berlanga is now a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel! Miss America 1991 Marjorie Judith Vincent addressed the plight of victims of domestic violence, and she currently serves as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida. (Read: How To Turn Your Passion Into A Successful Pageant Platform)
Miss America 2000 Heather French Henry highlighted the needs of our nation’s homeless veterans during her reign, and she now serves as the Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. The current Miss America 2018 is Cara Mund, who received a degree in Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations from Brown University. Mund is not only the first winner from North Dakota but also the only Miss America to have graduated from an Ivy League school. After her reign, Mund plans to pursue a law degree at the University Of Notre Dame Law School. She states that The Miss America Organization has supported her academic endeavors by giving her nearly $100,000 in scholarship money. (Read: 5 Best Pageant Scholarship Programs)
Her ultimate career goal is to become the first elected female governor of North Dakota. She also happens to be related to Victoria Claflin Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, the first woman to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and one of the first females to found a newspaper. All and all, this pretty pageant girl has one impressive pedigree!
Titleholders like 2017 International Junior Miss Jr. Princess Khloe Noelke set themselves up early for future achievements. Photo: Kathy Whittaker Photography
“Pageants help women to define their own unique career paths”
The Miss America Organization is not the only pageant system that promotes education for women, and it’s not the only place you will find intelligent women contributing in substantial ways through the vehicle of pageantry. The Miss Universe Organization boasts a bevy of super smarty-pants among its titleholders. Miss USA 2016 Deshauna Barber graduated from Virginia State University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. She later attended the University of Maryland University College, where she earned a master’s degree in management information systems. (Read: How to Balance Pageants and School for College Students)
When she was crowned, she was a logistics commander for the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit of the United States Army in Fort Meade, Maryland. She was also employed as an IT analyst for the United States Department of Commerce and used her reign as Miss USA to focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment for soldiers returning from the war. Barber’s successor, and the second Miss District of Columbia USA to win the national title, is Miss USA 2017 Kára McCullough. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a concentration in radiochemistry from South Carolina State University and is a physical scientist at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. These are only a couple of examples of the incredible and accomplished women achieving notable and groundbreaking things all over the globe in countless pageant systems.
Miss USA 2017 Kára McCullough visits the students of Thomas A. Edison CTE High School to teach them about STEM programs. Photo: The Miss Universe Organization
“Pageants offer endless opportunities for every woman”
Many women who are over the age of 30, who only know about the traditional Miss Pageants that they see broadcasted on television, often can never imagine themselves being involved in a pageant. They do not feel that they are young enough, thin enough, tall enough, extroverted enough and, essentially, not enough in general. Or they think that they are not the pageant type, and that is a tragedy. (Read: 10 First Pageant Tips You Need To Know (+ Free Prep Course))
When the general public thinks of “pageant girls,” they most often think of ladies in the Miss category of competition who are in their 20s and still pursuing their education or who are in the beginning stages of their careers. But, there is an entire world of pageantry that exists that includes women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s and beyond, who are either married or unmarried and with or without children. In fact, this segment of females is the fastest growing area in pageantry, and they are women to be contended with. (6 Things to do When You Age Out of Pageants)
These remarkable ladies are often balancing the immense responsibilities of marriage, children, careers and pageantry while volunteering hundreds of hours of their time supporting important causes, all while wearing sky-high heels and looking fabulous! But, don’t think for a moment that these women are just bored housewives living out some kind of unrequited pageant fairy tale fantasy that they didn’t get to achieve in their single days because they “aged out” of their previous system. These women are smart, strong and relevant, and they have something to say and a whole lot to do!
“Pageants surround you with like-minded motivated women”
Mrs. Arlington America 2018 Anna Hiatt says that if someone didn’t know her, she’s not certain if their first impression of her would be specifically of a “pageant person.” Hiatt is currently a Hospice nurse, who works directly with people who are terminally ill, and she has also worked in Oncology, Emergency Departments, and Orthopedic units. She is also into competitive archery and enjoys spending her weekends competing in intense physical fitness competitions like Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder. In other words, she is a very well-educated, very accomplished lady who does some very serious life-saving work. She been involved in pageantry for the past seven years and has been a state titleholder in the Mrs. United States Pageant system, a charity pageant director, and a sponsor and mentor for younger pageant girls. She originally got involved in pageantry because she had just had a baby and a friend at work who competed in pageants suggested to her that she try pageants as it was a great place for women to feel beautiful and confident. At the time, she believed all of the stereotypes about pageant girls. She also believed some of the stereotypes about “smart girls” that they were typically plain and practical, and she seriously wondered if she would even fit in. (Read: Do You Differ From the Pageant Girl Stereotypes)
It turns out that she fit in just fine. Not only is Hiatt an intelligent, personable and eloquent individual, she is also a tall, slender striking brunette who looks more like someone who should be strutting down a catwalk rather than a medical professional treating a trauma victim in an emergency room. She found out that pageantry was actually a great place for smart women who enjoy achieving goals and experiencing healthy competition. She loved how she was able to make friends and network with other ambitious women who were doing incredible things in their lives and making contributions to the world around them. Hiatt has a Bachelor's of Arts and a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and is currently finishing up her Master’s degree in Nursing. The unexpected journey from scrubs to stilettos has been such a remarkably fulfilling experience, that she is going to take her nursing background and combine it with her pageant knowledge and run an esthetics clinic. She will be offering all the modern medical treatments and procedures to help keep women looking and feeling their best. (Read: Why Self-Love is Important in Pageantry)
She is dedicated to using her vast knowledge and diverse skill set to make a difference in women’s lives, so it’s no surprise that she is nominated for the Academic Achievement award at the upcoming 2018 Global Beauty Awards in Bellevue, Washington, on March 10. She is also looking forward to donning her Tippy Tops once again and competing in the Mrs. Washington Pageant this coming June.
Mrs. Arlington America 2018, Anna Hiatt. Photo: Laura Hunter
Phenomenal Woman W
riter, teacher and activist Dr. Maya Angelou was unable to speak for almost five years as a result of traumatic abuse. Ironically, it was during that time that she developed her love for books and literature, and ultimately found the power of her voice. She went on to use her personal experience and intelligence to motivate and inspire women of all ages. (Read: How Pageantry Can Help You Develop as a Woman)
Women are phenomenal forces of change in the world when they feel empowered. And, pageantry is one of the most powerful ways for a woman to get her voice heard. This is why intelligent women participate in pageants, and why pageants really are for every woman.
Tip: "Focus on your inner beauty and never give up!"Learn More