Okay, I totally stole that title from Elton John, but I doubt if he cares.  Because, you know, he’s Elton John.  And I’m not.  Besides, it’s the perfect title for a blog about beauty pageants.  Er, I mean “scholarship” pageants.  Which brings us to the subject of today’s blog: “Beauty” pageants vs. “Scholarship” pageants–What’s the difference?  Or, alternatively–Miss America vs. Miss USA–which is better?  

The short answer is–well, it depends on who you ask.  The long answer, like Robert Pattinson’s (aka my new boyfriend) hair, is much more complicated. 


First off, the average person (i.e. non-pageant person) doesn’t even know there’s a difference between Miss America and Miss USA.  They think she’s the same person.  Girls in sparkly tiaras pretty much all look alike to Joe Blow on the street.  But as any pageant girl who has competed for longer than two seconds will tell you, there is a HUGE difference between the America/USA systems.  And a huge rivalry.  America thinks USA is just a bunch of dumb bimbos being pimped out by Donald Trump and USA thinks America is just a bunch of condescending, plain-Janes who can’t stand it because their prestigous “talent” component got them kicked off TV.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I haven’t explained how the two systems are different.  Basically, Miss America is a non-profit organization that offers academic scholarships as prizes.  In fact, Miss America is the largest provider of college scholarships to women in the United States.  To this end, talent and interview make up more than half of a contestant’s score with swimsuit and evening gown only accounting for about 35 percent.  Hence why America prefers to be called a “scholarship” pageant rather than a “beauty” pageant.  Additionally, each contestant in the America system is expected to have a “platform–” a declared commitment to a social problem as demonstrated by community service related to that problem.  Girls pick all sorts of platforms–organ donation, cancer prevention, AIDs, seat-belt safety, eating disorders, volunteerism, gun safety, keeping art programs in schools.  The possibilities are virtually endless.  Then, if a girl wins her title, she promotes that platform during the year of her reign.

*A note on titles (local, state, and national) Getting to Miss America, or its little sister, Miss America Outstanding Teen isn’t easy.  First, you have to win a preliminary (local) pageant that will enable you to go on and compete in your state pageant.  Which, if you live in a super-competitive state like Oklahoma/Arkansas/Texas, etc. will be chock-full of girls with amazing talents, amazing wardrobes, and community service records that make Mother Teresa look like Paris Hilton. (Okay, so MT/PH is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.)  If you manage to score higher than these 30 to 40 other girls and win the state title, you go on to compete for Miss America.  Or Miss America Outstanding Teen, depending on your age group. **

Miss USA, on the other hand, is a business, which–unless you’ve been living on a deserted island–you probably already know is owned by Donald Trump (50/50 with NBC, if I understand correctly). Like America, USA contestants compete in swimsuit, evening gown, and interview, but there is no talent component and girls do not have to have a social platform.  The Miss USA organization does do charitable work, but the causes they support are selected by the organization itself, not titleholders.  Susan G. Kormen, USO, Habitat for Humanity–things like that.  In addition to getting major loot, the winners of Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe (also owned by The Donald) get to live together in an apartment in New York.  Sound familiar?  That’s because last year, the three title-holders had their very own show, Pageant Place, on MTV.

SO funny.  And disturbing.  If you haven’t seen it, you should totally click on the link and watch a few episodes.  After you read Crowned, of course. 🙂

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as the saying goes, but generally the girls in USA are more model-esque than the girls in America.  USA girls are more like what you’d see in a magazine, whereas America girls are more the girl-next-door type. 

So there you have it.  A very simplistic and superficial overview of the differences between the two systems.  Now that’s out of the way, next time we can get down to the good stuff.  Can you say cocaine, nude pictures, and blackmail?