“Nudity” Gets Lost in Translation
At the 2011 Miss Universe pageant in São Paulo, Brazil, six-foot Chinese contestant Luo Zilin towered over the competition. But when judge and Brazilian model Isabeli Fontana asked Miss China if public nudity is appropriate or “inappropriated” and why, there was certainly some discomfort amongst all parties involved. Miss China and her translator were both visibly flustered, but the best was Bravo exec Andy Cohen. Watch him watch the translator stumble through the question—his eyebrows were raised so high, it appears they may recede into his salt-and-pepper hairline. But in true pageant fashion, the smiles do not leave the contestant, co-host, or translator’s faces as Miss China gave her diplomatic answer about “respecting cultures.”
Miss Arkansas: Yodeling Ventriloquist
While Miss Nebraska, 17-year-old Teresa Scanlan, was crowned 2011's Miss America, Alyse Eady was the real star of the pageant. The Arkansas contestant had the most memorable talent by far: she voiced two puppets and yodeled her way through the song "I Want to Be a Cowboy Sweetheart." Yee-haw!
Carrie Prejean Favors “Opposite Marriage”
America, Miss California 2009 informs us, is a land of choice. We can choose “same-sex marriage or opposite marriage.” That’s right: opposite marriage. When celebrity blogger Perez Hilton asked the pageant queen her feelings on Proposition 8, Prejean went on to say that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman because “that’s how I was raised.” Hilton skewered Prejean over her response and Prejean’s self-defense was that she did not win the pageant because she didn’t give the politically correct answer. And thus a media firestorm was created.
Miss Michigan Takes a Trip
In 2010’s Miss USA pageant, many took a shine to winner Miss Michigan—half-Christian/half-Muslim Lebanese immigrant Rima Fakih—early on. She struggled just getting to the pageant, with financial troubles forcing her to sell her Ford. (“We still buy American,” she assured the crowd.) Then, during the evening gown competition, she tripped on her dress. It’s hard not to see Miss Michigan’s troubles as a metaphor for her home state, hit hard by the recession. Nevertheless, the raven-haired beauty managed to keep her chin up and win one for Detroit.
Miss Teen USA South Carolina: A Proud “U.S. American… Like, Such As”
Caitlin Upton, Miss Teen USA South Carolina 2007, is pretty, blond, and has a smile that could light up a room. Unfortunately, she was unable to break the stereotype of beauty pageant stock answers. She gave one of the most awkward, inarticulate responses to ever grace the pageant microphone, as the evening’s emcee Mario Lopez stood by. When asked why she thought many Americans can’t point out the United States on a map, Upton gave a convoluted answer that touched on “South Africa,” “the Iraq,” and titled her fellow countrymen “U.S. Americans.” But in the end, after the timer buzzed, she assured us it was all “for our children.”
Miss USA Falls at Miss Universe: Take One
Miss Tennessee-turned-Miss USA Rachel Smith has one bad-ass walk. The 2007 Miss Universe contestant walked so well that she came in fifth out of 10 in the competition, which is impressive on a global scale normally, but especially after a hugely embarrassing fall. We can’t really blame her though. Her skin tight black, sparkly dress did not look too easy to strut down the catwalk in. Although she didn’t take home the crown, she gets major points for her graceful rebound and tearless finish.
Miss USA Falls at Miss Universe: Take Two
For the second straight year, Miss USA slipped during the evening gown competition at the Miss Universe pageant. In 2008, the curse fell upon former Miss Texas Crystle Stewart. Stewart hit the deck, only to pop back up and seamlessly transition into a clap. Her beaming smile was a testament to the greater political story that though the United States may occasionally stumble, it will dust itself off and carry on with grace. Sadly for this beauty queen, Stewart did not advance in the competition.
The Voice of Pageant Busts a Move
Bert Parks hosted the Miss America pageant from 1955 through 1979 and to this day remains the voice behind the iconic song "There She Is, Miss America." But it was the 1976 pageant that’s memorable for featuring Parks singing Paul McCartney’s song “Let ‘Em In.” And oh yes, Parks gets his groove on. But what really makes this moment are his three male backup dancers. If anyone could steal the spotlight from 50 beauty queens, it’s Parks.
Mama Grizzly Struts in Swimwear
Little did anyone know that at the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant, contestant No. 8 would come close to being a heartbeat away from the White House. Sarah Palin—or at the time Sarah Heath—donned a red bathing suit and strutted her stuff on the catwalk during the swimwear competition. Not only did Palin show off her skills as a flautist as well, but she was awarded the title of Miss Congeniality. But as she did with her campaign with John McCain in 2008, this mama grizzly fell short of taking home the prize.
Vanessa Williams Makes Miss America History
Vanessa Williams may be one of the most fabulous ladies on television today, but once upon a time, she was just an anxious pageant contestant. That was until Miss New York 1983 got her crown. And thus, a Miss America star was born. Williams became the first woman of African-American descent to take the top title and she would not let anyone steal her moment. Watch the singer-turned-actress confidently shake off a fellow contestant who tries to get into her winning spotlight. The beauty queen never looked back once she took that congratulatory stroll down on the stage—though she notoriously was forced to relinquish the crown after a pre-pageant nude photo scandal gave her even more attention.
America’s First Deaf Beauty Queen
Heather Whitestone, Miss Alabama, was the first deaf contestant to win the Miss America title, in 1995. She lost her hearing at 18 months after contracting meningitis, and Whitestone used her year with the crown to increase deaf awareness. In 2002, she came under fire by the deaf community over her decision to get a cochlear implant in order to hear out of her right ear. Whitestone has since written two books and keeps busy with nonprofit work and her children and has given a voice to the deaf community.
Miss Philippines’ Question-Round Fumble: Take 1
Pageant contestants are never, never supposed to let on how much they value appearances. But in 2001, at the Miss Philippines competition, Jeanie Anderson put all other vain contestants to shame. She was asked what she would rather be: beautiful and not so smart or brilliant and not so beautiful. The judge even had to repeat the question so Anderson could think, while the crowd jeered. Eventually, Anderson ever so eloquently stated: “I’d rather choose to be, umm, beautiful. Umm, because to be beautiful, like, umm, it’s natural.” Unfortunately for Anderson, honestly was not the best policy. She did not win the title and rumor has it she did not qualify the following year.
Miss Philippines’ Question-Round Fumble: Take 2
Janina San Miguel’s answer to how her family has contributed to her placement at the Miss Philippines 2008 competition is like watching a car crash. We just can’t turn away. Crash, burn, repeat. San Miguel was handed the golden platter of questions. Instead of saying anything flattering about her family, the youngin’ spit out a jumbled response about how she was only 17 and did not expect to make the top 10. We’re not buying it, but the judges did. The Filipino beauty queen went on to win the title, but resigned when her grandfather fell ill six months later. Whether she can verbalize it or not, family does seemingly come first.
Miss Hawaii Is Proud of Hawaii, Hawaii, and Hawaii
Forget fireworks on the Fourth of July. If you want patriotism, Miss Hawaii had more than enough to go around … once you get past her intense shoulder pads, of course. At the Miss World pageant in 1992, Nadine Tanega’s pride over being a first-generation American shined from sea to shining sea as she discussed the country’s splendor “from the rocky shores of Hawaii to the beautiful sandy beaches of Hawaii.” If only she could have passed some of her enthusiasm on to host Alan Thicke who could only stammer: “It’s a wonderfully versatile state you have there.”