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Since my first days in the pageant world, I've often been asked by several people, "What is the difference between Miss USA and Miss America?" In the modern world, the two tend to run together more than ever before. Having competed in both systems, the major differences became very clear to me this past week.
In interviews, I've been asked several times about what it's like to compete in Miss America's Outstanding Teen (which is the system that is like the little sister to Miss America) and I've always made some comment about the comradery between the contestants. Up to that point, I had NEVER met a group of young ladies as kind, selfless, inspiring, driven, and confident as I did at MAOTeen. Forgot your earrings to your gown? Here take a pair of mine. Don't know how to curl your hair right? Let me help you. Countless acts like these took place throughout the week of competition and left me feeling like I really did have 49 new sisters by the end.
Usually, in pageantry, it's the stereotypical cut-throat competitive atmosphere. As if it were do or die, and life really would end if you didn't win. But a Miss America or a Miss USA isn't a competitive, intimidated girl. She's a confident woman.
We hear all the time about how the difference between a girl and a woman is that girls will try to tear each other down, while women build each other up. Pageant contestants aren't competing for the sole purpose to walk around with a crown for a year and take pictures in pretty dresses. Or at least they shouldn’t be. They compete to win scholarship money and to give back. It's about being selfless, while at the same time being confident with who you are and passionate about what you stand for. Their careers aren't riding on a title, as they're already built to succeed. They don't have a life that will be determined by whether they win or not, it usually won't be much different after their reign is over. They're not worried about being the most beautiful, having the best body, or being the favorite. They're comfortable with who they are, as they've worked to make themselves that person. And they wouldn't change it for a thing.
Miss America is critiqued quite often for not being the "modern woman." But it is that one concept that keeps her so timeless. In a world full of Kim Kardashians, women like Princess Diane and Marilyn Monroe are scarce, and when they are found, they stand out. Class and conservatism never go out of style.
On the other hand, Miss USA is critiqued for being “braindead.” Because she is a tall, skinny, beautiful woman she is assumed by society to be nothing more than a pretty face; and is inherently taken much less serious. Yet the crowning of Kara McCullough, Miss USA 2017, shattered that assumption. Kara is a nuclear scientist at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Miss USA and Miss America aren’t dumb blondes, and they’re not the modern woman. They’re the most lethal combination of beauty and brains you will ever find.
So although the two systems have their differences, one thing makes them the same. They are trying to teach young women nationwide the importance of being confidently beautiful, by becoming an ambassador for style, success, scholarship, and service. The sad thing is, most women fail to realize the empowerment that being selfless can create.
When I’m asked about what makes a pageant girl so different, the answer has become really quite simple. She's the kind of woman that has a passion and a mission so fierce, nothing could stop her. She's intelligent, she's beautiful, she's selfless, and she's fearless. She is the woman that grabs your attention through what she says and does and keeps it forever with her thriving success. She's not perfect, she's not a size zero, and she's not a celebrity that others feel inferior to. She is uniquely her, and that is what makes her the role model that she is.
Here's to you Miss America and Miss USA, and your mission to define what it really means to be a Beauty Queen!!