Misguided Standards

06.27.14

24 Is Not Too “Old” to Compete for Miss America

Miss Delaware was stripped of her crown after officials realized she would be 25 soon (gasp!). How did a pageant seeking a “role model to young and old alike” allow in such an old hag?!

Amanda Longacre thought she had it made when she landed the title of Miss Delaware (and was voted Miss Congeniality by her peers) on June 14—setting her sights on competing in the upcoming Miss America pageant, slated for September 14 in Atlantic City.

She had only been competing in the pageant circuit since November 2013—so her quickly won crown was a major feat for the University of Pennsylvania graduate student.

But less than two weeks into her tenure as Miss Delaware, Longacre was stripped of her crown—and the accompanying $11,000 scholarship—not for disorderly conduct or sexually explicit behavior. Instead, the 24-year-old was deemed too old.

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“Following the Miss Delaware Pageant, it was determined that Amanda Longacre exceeded the age requirement in order to be eligible to compete therefore, the Miss Delaware 2014 title is awarded to [first runner-up] Brittany Lewis,” the Miss America organization stated in a press release. “The Miss Delaware Pageant is proud to congratulate Brittany and wishes Amanda the very best on her future endeavors.”

Longacre, who was born on October 22, 1989, provided her birth certificate, driver’s license, and social security card upon registration for the pageant, and then received clearance to participate. According to the organization’s official website, “contestants in the Miss America system are between the ages of 17 and 24,” and no other age requirements are detailed. Longacre, who will turn 25 in October following the 2014 Miss America pageant, claims she was assured by state pageant directors that she “would be fine.”

Although board member and legal counsel for the Miss Delaware pageant, Elizabeth Soucek, was unable to reveal details of the situation due to pending litigation, she did explain to The News Journal that, according to “a Miss America rule,” contestants could not turn 25 before the end of the calendar year. Longacre’s replacement is also 24-years-old, but doesn’t turn 25 until next July.

Regardless of the technicalities, it’s interesting to consider that a contestant may be considered too old for a pageant at the young age of 24, almost as crazy as calling a woman who wears a size four “thick.” According to the company’s website, the Miss America pageant “exists to provide personal and professional opportunities for young women to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community.” The judging panel claims they’re looking for a “role model to young and old alike, and a spokesperson, using her title to educate millions of Americans on an issue of importance to herself and society at large.” But when age becomes this big of an issue, can the beauty pageant really claim that they’re looking for qualities beyond just looks?

“But when age becomes this big of an issue, can the beauty pageant really claim that they’re looking for qualities beyond just looks?”

It’s no secret that American society has an obsession with youth and beauty. Since the 1920s, beauty pageants have been centered on these superficial qualities. Competitions and TV shows like ‘Most Beautiful Child’ contests and competitions for kids between the ages 2-18 have become incredibly popular. According to a study conducted by Occupy Theory in 2013, over 5,000 child beauty pageants occur in the United States each year, with around 250,000 participants total. This fascination with youth and beauty is only growing given the success of television shows like Toddlers in Tiaras and the Shari Cookson’s Emmy-winning documentary, Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen. Sure, this is not a new issue; but with increased activism and awareness surrounding gender equality and women’s issues, it’s hard to stomach the hypocrisy of an organization that continues to say they’re promoting well-rounded individuals but consistently award youth and beauty.

There may not be a good outcome for Longacre now that a replacement winner has been named, but that doesn’t mean she should settle for the ageist injustice inflicted by the Miss America organization. While a spokesperson for the pageant admitted that Longacre’s participation was an internal “mistake,” it doesn’t solve the emotional distress she was caused (she has said that she is currently speaking with an attorney and “discussing options”), nor excuse the explicitly discriminatory nature inherent in these competitions.  

And really, how can anybody claim that a 25-year-old is unfit to become Miss America?