Miss America? No, Thanks. I’d rather watch Sunday night football.
They’re just a bunch of blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pretty faces that walk around in a bikini on stage.
Ya know, just a bunch of women trying to get their 15 minutes of fame.
That’s exactly what I thought 5 years ago – then I met my wife, Courtney. She’s been a part of the Miss America Organization for the past 10 years. She’s gone from competing in and winning Miss Pennsylvania, which took her to the 2011 Miss America pageant, to now being a board member and executive producer of the Miss Pennsylvania Organization. She’s a lifer.
So naturally I got dragged into the mix… She needed help backstage during the production so I obliged. Whelp, turns out I’m the best stagehand in the history of pageants. The best microphone setter upper ever. So they keep asking me back.
In between setting up those microphones and moving pianos, I’ve befriended some pretty awesome people. Whether they’re volunteers, board members, judges, or production staff, they’ve welcomed me with open arms. I’ve witnessed the weeks of time and effort all of these people put into the pageant. I’ve also come to realize Courtney is who she is in large part because of this whole world I knew nothing about.
She and so many others develop the professionalism needed to impress a panel of judges. They are able to speak articulately with poise on stage in front of hundreds of people and the whole country if they make it to Miss America. Public speaking is a terrifying thing for most, but these women have it down pat. I’ve sat backstage for the past 4 years now and the nervousness that radiates off the contestants is palpable. But without fail they flip like a switch the moment their name is called and confidently nail their question as the spotlight beams down on them.
I’ve seen my daughters watch these women in that very spotlight. They look up in awe -with inspiration coming to life in their eyes – as contestants speak about raising awareness for their platforms. Children need role models when they’re young, and these women exemplify everything I would want my daughters to become – selfless, confident, and intelligent.
In fact, they’re incredibly intelligent. Every former title holder I’ve met is hands down smarter than I am. Not sure that’s saying much, but they go on to be doctors, lawyers, executives, you name it. And a good portion of the money to pay for all that education to become doctors and lawyers comes from these pageants. I had no idea Miss America was a non-profit and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the country. They’ve also raised millions of dollars for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The new Miss America, Cara Mund, has raised over $78,000 for the Make-a-wish Foundation, she’s an Ivy-league graduate and an aspiring law student. If that’s not someone you want your daughter to emulate I don’t know who is.
My daughters have watched pageants we have on DVD on repeat, time and time again. I even walked into Ry’s room the other day and she was dancing around her room, violin in hand, in preparation for when she can compete. I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to know that she has a role model like Miss America. Or like the current Miss Pennsylvania, Katie Schreckengast, who crushed her saxophone talent and made top 10 this past Sunday at Miss America. Who wouldn’t want their daughter to have those intangible qualities that she’ll carry for her lifetime? To have confidence and grace when she walks into a room. To have a platform that she is dedicated to and that serves people in need. To be able to ace her first interview after she graduates from college. And then paying for it by herself from scholarship money to boot!
I’ve experienced quite a bit in the pageant world the last five years. Miss PA week has become like a reunion that I actually enjoy going to. I even proposed to Courtney on stage at the Miss Pennsylvania pageant. My experiences have undoubtedly changed my opinion of these pageants and what they represent – women who are beautiful AND intelligent. I know that most people will never get the exposure I have, but if you’re reading this you know a little bit more now. Hopefully that can be shared with your daughters and sons – they should know that these women are smart, talented, and kindhearted. And that all women, including pageant contestants, have admirable qualities beyond that same first glance I gave years ago.
The women who take that stage have an undeniable presence and one day my daughters will too.