The 2010 Miss America has been crowned. Saturday night, 22-year-old Miss Virginia, Caressa Cameron, walked the Planet Hollywood stage in Las Vegas wearing a canary yellow evening gown, sporting the traditional Miss America tiara and, of course, giving the traditional Miss America wave.
In 1920, the Business men’s League of Atlantic City was looking for a way to keep sunbathers on the boardwalk past Labor Day. They held a Fall Frolic including tennis tournaments, parades and concerts. But one Boardwalk publicity event, where young men pushed decorated rolling wicker chairs through the streets, truly captured the public eye. It wasn’t the spectacle of the young men or chairs that caught the public interest – it was the young women in the chairs and in particular, Ernestine Cremona, wearing a delicate white robe. The event was a huge success and was repeated in 1921. Only now, there was the addition of a “bathing revue” and it came to pass the crowning of the first Miss America, 16 year old Margaret Gorman.
From the start, the Miss America pageant has struggled with the paradox of presenting a conservative image of women as virtuous and innocent while parading them around in swimsuits and skin tight evening wear. But, as the years went by, the pageant had it’s highs and lows, eventually struggling to survive as society evolved while Miss America clung to it’s original conservative roots.
But even though growth came slowly to Miss America, it did come, most notably in the 40’s. In 1945 Miss America Bess Myerson received the first scholarship awarded as one of the pageant prizes. But 1945 also signaled a turning of ethnic tide at the pageant, as Myerson was the first Jewish American to win the title. Just a few years later the “color” barrier was broken when Irma Nydia Vasquez from Puerto Rico, and Yun Tau Zane from Hawaii, the first Asian contestant, walked the pageant stage.
In 2004, after several years of declining ratings, the pageant’s Aqua Net hairstyles and glitterati gowns were no longer welcomed on network television. And then in 2006, the pageant turned to the city of reinvention – Las Vegas, Nevada – to begin to, well, stage a comeback.
And now it’s in Las Vegas, under the gaudy neon lights, playing to a crowd of 7,000 at Planet Hollywood that Fredericksburg, Virginia, native Caressa Cameron received her crown.
During her on-stage interview – the segment of all pageants that has drawn the most criticism and interest during recent years – Miss Cameron was asked about how to deal with the epidemic of childhood obesity. Her reply: “We need to get our kids back outside, playing with sticks in the street like I did when I was little. Expand your mind, go outside and get to see what this world is like.”
Good advice for anyone…