Beauty Pageants date back to 1921. This year saw the grand introductions of beauty pageants as we know today. The first pageant was held in Atlantic City, called the National Beauty Tournament. However, 1921 also saw the very first Miss America Pageant. This pageant was nothing like today’s pageant, with representatives from every state. In fact, the first Miss America Pageant only had eight contestants and was won by a 16 year old, Washington, D.C. resident named Margaret Gorman.
In 1922 and 1923, a first and last occurred in Miss America history, the same girl, Mary Campbell won the title twice, in two years. This prompted organizers to create a rule that said that any winner can only hold one title and never qualify for the title again.
The late twenties and early thirties were without Miss America Pageants, thanks to the press and the Depression. When it did come back, they included evening gowns in the competitions. Then in later years of the thirties, a talent competition was added as an optional event for the women in the beauty pageant. In 1938, it then becomes a category that was required.
In the world of beauty pageants, it was soon clear that Miss America was very popular and then the birth of Miss Universe, Miss World, Junior Miss, and Miss USA Beauty Pageants occurred in the 50’s. The 50’s also saw the first live televised Miss America Beauty Pageant
The sixties were filled with first as well, in the start of the decade, Miss USA crowned the first black woman in history, Corrine Huff. The sixties also gave birth to Little Miss Universe, Little Miss America, and Miss Teenage America pageants. What the world didn’t know then, was that in 1962 the newly crowned America’s Junior Miss, Diane Sawyer, would one day become one of the most influential journalists in the world.
Throughout the years, beauty pageants continue to be a scene of immediate success in every generation, young and old, and they seem to be the one goal that every little girl dreams of. They all dream of hearing the ever popular There She Is song, while she is being crowned one of the new pageant winners.
The Tarnished Crown
However, beauty pageants have not been with incidents, deceit, and tarnished reputations. For example, in 1937, just after being crowned, Bette Cooper decided she just wanted to go home and left, which caused an extensive search and struggle for pageant officials. In 1957, Leona Gage, Miss USA was ripped of her crown after her husbands mother disclosed that she was the mother of two children and married.
In 1973, Miss World and the first American to hold the crown, lost her crown and title, thanks to rumors floating around about numerous affairs. In 1984, Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to win the title of Miss America, resigned from her title and crown because she had posed for nude photographs in the popular adult magazine Penthouse. On about the same note in 2006, Miss Great Britain, loses her title and crown after she was found to have relations with member of the judging panel, as well as posing in nude photographs for the adult magazine Playboy.
The Miss America Beauty Pageant has had 87 winners from a variety of states, Miss USA has had 10 winners, one of which went on to win Miss Universe, and 23 Miss Teen USA winners, since the beauty pageants began. A fascinating Miss Teen USA fact is that eight states have yet to have any girls place as a finalist in the beauty pageant.
As long as women have a fascination with beauty, beauty pageants will continue to be as popular as they have always been. Married or unmarried women, teens, pre-teens, and even toddlers enter beauty pageants today, all over the world. There is always a pageant. In the south, there are schools that hold their own beauty pageants such as Little Miss Fourth District for a elementary school in Georgia, or Little Miss Tree Festival, there is no age limit in beauty pageants today.