Once again, scandal strikes in the pageant world.
Last week, Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012 Sheena Monnin turned in her crown after claiming the Miss USA competition was fixed.
In a post on her Facebook page declaring her resignation, Monnin claims she heard a fellow contestant found a sheet of paper with the Top 5 ladies listed before they pageant began. The contestants listed on the paper ended up winning those spots in the actual pageant.
In response to the allegations, Donald Trump, owner of the Miss Universe Organization, threatened to sue Monnin if she did not apologize for her statements.
Ironically, it’s not uncommon for things to get ugly in beauty pageants. Title winners are more likely to be in the headlines because of risqué photos or run-ins with the law, than making positive contributions to the regions they represent.
Under the shine of the media spotlight, it seems like pageants are nothing more than aesthetically pleasing women clawing for a sparkly crown.
However, students who compete in less publicized pageants find the competition means so much more.
Syracuse University junior Carrie Sunde, considers herself a late bloomer when it comes to pageants. She began competing right before she entered college — the age most pageant girls are seasoned competitors.
She was looking for a competition that didn’t fall into the stereotypical image of pageants. When she heard about Miss Teen Petite America, she entered and won the title in 2011.
“Pageants like Miss USA are designed for girls who are 5’7” and over who want to model, act or become a spokesperson for different hair products or clothing lines,” said the 19-year-old Massachusetts native. “Miss Teen Petite is for girls 5’6” and shorter. How involved you are in the community is what they focus on.”
Standing at 5 feet, the competition was perfect for her.
“There’s way more to it than looks,” she said. “You can find pageants for anybody. Not all pageant systems are the same.”
She believes competing in pageants is a great way to network as well as earn scholarship money. Above all, pageants are preparing her for her future career in public relations.
“When I’m onstage and they’re throwing questions at me, I have to think on my feet,” Sunde said. “It’s helping me learn how to promote myself in a positive way when I talk to people I’m working to erase misconceptions and shape myself as a woman.”
Jazmin Moses, a 2012 Howard University alumna also feels pageants are empowering.
“It builds your confidence, eloquence and personality,” Moses said.
She won three different titles on campus while attending Howard.
Moses, 22, sees pageants as a platform to make her voice heard by her peers and says “having a crowd listen to what you have to say is powerful.”
Moses entered her first pageant at her high school in South Carolina after the she learned Miss USA 1994 was a graduate of her school. Miss Residence Life 2011-2012, her most recent title on campus, has afforded her the opportunity to represent all the students living residence halls on Howard’s campus.
Regarding the recent Miss USA scandal, Alexandra Curtis, a junior at Syracuse who won the title of National American Miss in 2010, does not believe that the contest was rigged. She says Miss Pennsylvania was too quick to give up her crown.
“So many girls strive to earn a title and she gave it up for something trivial,” Curtis, 20, said. “The bottom line is the winner and the runners-up were definitely qualified and many people who watched expected them to do well. It wasn’t a big surprise.”
Just as college basketball fans fill out brackets when March rolls around, many pageant watchers make lists of their top 5 predictions. Curtis claims her Top 15 and Top 5 choices were not too far from reality.
Win or lose, Curtis says pageants have helped her personal growth.
“I’ve learned not to take anything too personally,” she said. “A lot of people who compete give up because they feel entitled. I was runner up many times before I ever won a title.”
Maybe Miss Pennsylvania could take a lesson from Curtis.
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