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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Resignations and Circumnavigations: Miss Maine USA and Abby Sunderland

As I read The Boston Globe this morning I came across this story at the back of the Metro Section: "Missing Out, Happily." The story is about Emily Johnson, Miss Maine USA 2011 (not to be confused with Miss Maine, who represents the state in the Miss America system). Johnson was crowned Miss Maine USA 2011 on November 27, 2010.  Two months into her reign, on January 25, 2011, the Miss Maine USA organization announced that Johnson had resigned due to a "personal family matter." The news was reported in some pageant publications, like Beauty Pageant News, on January 29, 2011.  The new Miss Maine USA 2011 is Ashley Lynn Marble (who was also Miss Maine Teen USA in 2000).

Over the past two days this story seems to have exploded. This is the most detailed article I found, out of Maine.  The Portland Press Herald reporter wrote a great first line, "For Emily Johnson, family trumped Trump." Why did this story break now? Did the Miss USA organization wait to release the story to drum up more publicity (in downtime from the other pageant crowning scandal of the year-- the dethroned Miss San Antonio legally fighting to keep her crown after being told she had eaten too many tacos to represent the system)? With The Donald at the helm, the organization is pretty savvy when it comes to working the media.  Yes, I guess I do believe in pageant conspiracies.Otherwise, I can't think of another reason why the story would break in the mainstream media almost three months later.

Second question, does anyone buy Johnson's reason for relinquishing her crown? The stated reason is that the pageant date of June 19, 2011 conflicts with her sister's wedding. The Miss USA Pageant, traditionally held in April, has been moved to June in Las Vegas to accommodate the television broadcast. Given the change, Johnson felt she couldn't miss her sister's wedding (and I guess it couldn't be changed so late in the planning stages). Some are praising Johnson for having her priorities straight, while others are criticizing her for not fulfilling the terms of the contract she signed when she won and representing her state.  Methinks there is more to this story... Feel free to suggest your own interpretation below!

Because I love random pageant facts, here are a few out of this story:
* The new Miss Maine USA 2011, Ashley Lynn Marble, now holds the record for length of time between holding Teen and Miss titles at eleven years apart.
* According to The Portland Press Herald, the past three Miss Maine USAs have all been college basketball players. I found that very interesting, but it makes sense given the focus on athleticism/fitness, which means the women likely look to be in great shape for the swimsuit competition, not to mention I assume they are all pretty tall, which helps carry an evening gown well. And, of course, having a lot of competitive drive and knowing how to work hard, two things collegiate sports emphasize, does not hurt at all!
* The third to last basketball-playing Miss Maine USA, Ashley Underwood (Miss Maine USA 2009), is currently a cast member on Survivor: Redemption Island. (PS. If you watch this, go Boston Rob!)

Speaking of television pop culture, as I was reading the paper and found the Miss Maine USA story this morning I was actually watching last night's House episode on my DVR. House has been a favorite of mine for a few years; not only is it smart but it is set in the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro hospital (when I was a Princeton grad student I lived in Plainsboro, so it's always given me a special thrill). The patient in this past episode, "The Last Temptation," was based on a story ripped from last summer's headlines.  Kendall Roberts is a fictional sixteen-year-old girl who collapses a few days before setting off to try to break the record as the youngest person to sail around the world.

This plot line was based on the story of Abby Sunderland, who had to be rescued last summer from her own solo circumnavigation after her boat was severely damaged in a storm. I wrote about Sunderland in a USA Today op-ed on kids and reality tv after it was widely speculated that the incident may have been a set-up for a family show (after this summer's rescue Abby's father canceled their contract with a production company and no show is currently in the works).

Sunderland is back in the news for another reason-- this time with her autobiography entitled Unsinkable, which was released last week. My copy is in that mile-high pile of books to be read that I have mentioned before.

Which would you prefer: winning a pageant beauty or sailing solo around the globe? My vote is that both sound great, as long as I'm not the one doing either activity...


  1. Is it natural for a reporter to think that there's always a back-story to the story? I think it's admirable that she believed her sister's wedding important enough that she gave up all of her potential scholarship money (which I'm sure was a solid amount) to celebrate with her family. But, I also hope that Emily's family does not take lightly the sacrifice that she has made to share that day with them.

  2. Phe- I guess that's true! ha ha She did give back her prizes (no scholarship money in Miss USA, but great gifts and appearance fees). I just find the April timing of the story very strange. Those sisters must be very close!

  3. Hilary, I have to agree that the timing of all this press is interesting and that surely there must be more to the story. One of my pageant clients, who shall remain nameless, was contacted by a very prominent news-based show (which shall also remain nameless) just a few weeks ago seeking to build a story about why pageant contestants are so embroiled in scandal now, as opposed to the pageant queens of the 50's/60's. One has to wonder what they knew before we were privy to this (partial) story.

    Also, I too caught that episode of House last night and wondered to myself, "I wonder why they have yet to do a mysterious flesh eating bacteria that vexes a child pageant contestant" ... then I looked up the casting director for House ... LOL!

  4. I think House did do a child beauty pageant contestant once, didn't it? That is very funny though.

    The reporter asking that question is very interesting. My pageant antennae are tingling!

  5. Oh, I'm going to have to check to see if indeed House has already done a pageant-related case! I will be very disappointed if I missed that one! There was a SVU several years ago with a pretty outrageous pageant-child story (the child had actually had a "nose job" in order to be competitive - as if that is the norm in the world of kiddie pageants ... Grrrrr at the misinformation ... but I digress).

    The news story regarding scandals in pageantry ended up being shelved so perhaps there is more to come from this story about Miss Maine - or maybe they found that it really was a snoozefest and there was no "scandal" involved? I guess time shall reveal the truth?

  6. Oh, and just as an interesting side note; June 18th is not JUST the Miss USA Pageant, it is also the beginning of The Glamour Girls Tour starring Eden Wood which will take place throughout America's Midwest. COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT!

    So if you just can't get enough of pageantry, the tour kicks off in Little Rock and proceeds through Springfield, MO; Kansas City, KS; Omaha, NE; Des Moines, IA; Chicago, IL; Fairfield, IL and Hopkinsville, KY. Eight days, eight cities, three mini-pageant-divas - what could be more fun?

  7. I remember the House scenario now-- it was a clinic patient and she had stuck something up her nose.

    Trump should book Eden Wood for Miss USA talent. That would be a story, right?!

  8. Holy Cow! I'm so disappointed that I didn't think to solicit that gig myself! You know, Eden's song, "Cutie Patootie" does have the lyrics, "Donald Trump, keep it real" ... in reference to the Miss USA pageant system. Not to mention that the Donald will need all the press possible for his Presidential Bid (a little vomit is rising in the back of my throat, but, whatever)! Fantastic Idea! LOL! ;)

  9. I giggled at your mention of the "special thrill" you receive when you watch House. Nerd.