Alrighty. Most of you crazy people reading this are pageant aficionados who already know the ins and outs of the latest Miss America controversy (same!), but for those of you who’ve never been a girl, had a daughter, or coached someone who knows how to apply butt glue while simultaneously reviewing facts about the economy, let me catch you up real quick.
The current Miss America, Betty Cantrell, participated in an interview with Broadly, a channel of Vice “Magazine,” which calls itself a website “devoted to representing the multiplicity of women’s experiences.” If you skim through their anthology of articles, you’ll find that they specialize in feeding stereotypes. Overt femininity, reality television, or anything that doesn’t revolve around liberal feminism=easy target. And what’s easier to spin than an interview with a beauty queen? Unfortunately, Betty didn’t do herself or the Miss America Organization any favors, so the pageant world is pretty disenchanted with her at the moment.
In this “interview,” which is a word that gives more professional credit to this writeup than it deserves, the “journalist” closely examines Betty’s “richly pigmented makeup” and the pickiness of her diet.
“Someone suggests the chicken paillard, but Miss America is unmoved by this dish’s description and ends up settling on the rotisserie chicken sandwich, which will be dismantled by the end of our meal.”
With quotes like that, it was extremely hard for me to take this “profile piece” seriously. Obviously, the whole thing was spun to fit the “spoiled, bratty pageant girl” narrative, which, to me, is a painfully unoriginal cliché at this point in the entertainment world. But what can I expect from a 20-something author whose “rich” history of writing for Playboy and The Daily Beast revolves around attention-hungry journalism, instead of smart, compelling writing?
And if you think the author didn’t mean any harm, I hardly think someone would fact check the ingredients of a sandwich without deliberate intention to use said sandwich as a key component to the tone and spin of her article:
You may think I’m being harsh, but so is choosing to use your talent in such a selfish and unimaginative way. This chick is a strong writer– the kind of talent that shouldn’t be wasted on projecting her own, uninformed issues with pageantry onto a story that could hold so many other possibilities.
However, there is a flip side. And that is what came out of Betty’s mouth to aggravate the author’s already-critical eye.
“And I’m not having anyone do my hair and makeup all week? That is so irritating.”
“Parades are the worst. You just stand there and wave.”
“[During the July 4th parade] I just wanted to die. It was really, really hot, and I was so tired… and I was not having a good hair day, and I didn’t like the dress I had to wear.”
“There was no water for me, and the float I was on was, like, a bunch of random people that wanted to talk the whole time…It was a nightmare.”I don’t care how picky she is about her chicken. I don’t care that she wants to become a country singer instead of finishing her education. I don’t care that she wishes she could post pictures of her boyfriend on social media.
What I do care about is that she’s not mature enough to represent the Miss America Organization with class and respect. Or, you know…gratitude. I have heard rumors of her attitude throughout this year of service, so I can’t say I was entirely surprised by what I read in this article. Heck, from her onstage question down to her personal style, you can tell she’s rather sheltered, which often coincides with a spoiled nature. Not always, but often.
Now, I don’t know Betty personally, so I can’t say with certainty that she is bratty, diva-esque (not in a good way), and completely ineloquent, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. We don’t know the ins and outs of why she publicly let her guard down to the point of completely throwing a clothing sponsor under the bus and complaining about something as shallow as hair and makeup, but I honestly don’t think anything going on behind the scenes is an excuse for such careless and downright ugly comments. I have quite a few friends who are former Miss Americas, and while they’ve certainly revealed to me some of the frustrating, tiresome aspects of the job, they knew to respect their role as the face of the organization during their year. Goodness knows they would never have been so haughty as to lament over doing their own makeup.
Even if this “journalist” asked leading questions like, “What’s the worst part of the job?” or “Parades must be awful…tell me what you think,” Betty should have had the wherewithal to respond with grace. I tried to put myself in her shoes, but even with some soul searching of my own issues, I can assuredly say I never would have even thought to complain about an actual aspect of the job. I think I would have said something like, “I will say it’s tough to be away from my family for an entire year.” Or perhaps, “Parades are part of the job, and even though they can be long, I’m happy to be part of such exciting events.”
As a public figure, YOU need to be in charge of developing your public persona– don’t let journalists do that on your behalf. This isn’t to say pageant girls always need to have boring, PC answers, but they can’t say whatever they want. They’re not typical celebrities who work solely for themselves. They’re paid by an organization, so their demeanor needs to reflect such obligation. When you’re no longer getting a paycheck from the MAO office, be as candid as you please.
I doubt that Betty is a completely ungracious, immature woman at heart. But the stressful year as Miss America seems to have certainly stirred those qualities within her. My hope is that this VICE article– and the backlash in response– is enough for her to re-check her attitude. At the moment, I’m sure she’s feeling defensive, horrified, and angry. But once those feelings subside, it’s her responsibility to use this article as a tool for self-awareness, self-improvement, and practice for future run-ins with cut throat media sources. After all, if she plans on pursuing a career in entertainment, she better get used to spinning her image the way she wants it. Otherwise, plenty of people will happily take the reins.
When it comes to this specific article, both the interviewer and interviewee are at fault for such a negative depiction of Miss America. As a woman who continuously fights the stereotypes placed upon me whenever someone finds out I was Miss New York, I am disappointed in both women involved.
To the angry feminist journalist, I’m disheartened that a woman of your intelligence and drive would choose to tear down another woman. Don’t be a living contradiction.
To Betty Cantrell, you messed up, but it’s not the end. It is your choice to decide if this will define your legacy, so have a glass of wine, take a a deep breath, and reconsider the way in which you present yourself. Miss America may be a tough, sometimes maddening job, but it comes with responsibility to represent the organization that pays you– and other women in pageantry– well. At least during your year of service, present yourself to the public with dignity, as so many exhausted, frustrated, and talented formers have done before you.
[snapchat, insta, twitter: @shannythegranny]