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Thursday, June 23, 2011

From Eden vs. MaKenzie to Miss USA

It's been a big week in beauty pageants, especially with the Miss USA Pageant and the return of Toddlers & Tiaras.  Last week's TLC hit featured a "showdown" between two of the most well-known queens featured on the show-- Eden Wood and MaKenzie-- and this week's featured a Pentecostal, praying pageant mom and a pushy, pugnacious pageant mom/entrepreneur.

I've written about little MaKenzie before; while I am sure she is a difficult child to raise at times, she is an absolute character to watch. She is a refreshingly smart, and filterless, child.  The latest episode had her declaring that with her flipper in (a "must" for many glitz pageants), she looked like a bunny.  After a successful acting lesson (which likely went well precisely because MaKenzie isn't overly practiced/rehearsed), she exclaimed, "I don't know how to act. I just know how to be MaKenzie!"

Her rival-- who bested her yet again-- Eden Wood, is a bit more polished than MaKenzie, to say the least. We got a slightly different view of Eden this episode, as she had a minor meltdown while getting ready. In general though, Eden is a little pageant pro who clearly practices hard, and who has a team behind her helping her succeed. Despite her pageant successes, it was announced after this episode aired that Eden is "retiring" from pageants to pursue other career opportunities (though if you've seen Cutie Patootie, which I've linked to before, you might wonder if a singing career is premature-- then again, Eden is currently on a mall tour of the Midwest, so she has fans in place already).

Not to worry though, as they are lots of other pageant divas out there. Chloe, from last week's episode, is one. She is on a "winning streak," as her mom says. Her mother makes her living off of pageants, so doing well is Chloe's "job." Chloe's mom declared that Chloe is not traditionally "facially" beautiful, as she doesn't have blue eyes and blonde hair; we're treated to nine-year-old Chloe getting her hair highlighted and eyebrows waxed (always painful to watch).  The worst moment though was when her mom kept referring to Chloe's teeth as "jack-o-lantern," and then Chloe said she doesn't want to be a jack-o-lantern because they are "fat."  It's very possible Chloe is gong to grow up to hate her mother, and pageants.

So do MaKenzie, Eden, or Chloe stand a chance to become Miss USA like Alyssa Campanella (the gorgeous Miss California)? My guess is no, for a few reasons. First of all, it's unclear that any of them want to become Miss USA, or even Miss America. Eden clearly has grander ambitions and I'm guessing MaKenzie won't stick with pageants for many more years. Chloe, well, I've already shared my views there. On top of that, pageants really don't reward those who have been doing pageants since childhood. They are seen as too programmed and too "pageant patty." (One exception is Miss America 2004, Erika Dunlap, who did pageants as a child.) Note that, refreshingly, Alyssa Campanella was one of only two contestants last week at Miss USA who said she believed in evolution (one theory is that contestants didn't want to be controversial, the other is-- yikes!).  Like many things, including sports, making it to the "big leagues" is a long haul that involves luck, patience, and persistence. Many girls who start in childhood drop out along the way.

I definitely don't expect to see many of these girls competing in the Miss America system either-- and almost certainly not in Massachusetts. To hear some of the reasons why, listen to my appearance on NHPR's Word of Mouth from this past Tuesday (click HERE and then click "Listen" under "Article Tools").


  1. do you feel that the image of a miss usa or america is not as important to young women today who have gained so much in the business world where they occupy so many significant positions not just in business but in politics???

  2. I'm not quite sure I understand your question correctly, but let me take a stab at it.

    I think Miss USA/America can be a source of role models for young girls. However, today, most of that role modeling would be around having careers in the entertainment industry (for example, Gretchen Carlson, Vanessa Williams, Vanessa Minillo, Susie Castillo, Mary Hart, etc.). Yes, other pageant queens and contestants go on to be very successful professionally, but that is less in the spotlight. I think if a young girl really wanted to be a doctor, or an attorney, etc., she could look to other groups of women for clearer role models (one exception, Debbye Turner, a former Miss America who is a vet-- though note that she is known by being a vet for a major network's morning show).