Miss America is the beauty pageant that every young woman aspires to be apart of, however, the privilege to wear the crown also comes with the responsibility to represent the royal headdress with dignity and honor. To win the title of Miss America, takes a life-long commitment and years of preparation that few get the opportunity to both enjoy and appreciate. Among the festivities and excitement, no other event brings together such a diverse group of women from all over the country, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, than this annual event. To become Miss America means a year-long title for a lifetime of preparation.
The night of the final events are full of entertainment, a few laughs and a constant display of exceptional beauty, both inside and out. This year was no exception, from Miss California to Miss New York, contenders for the coveted crown were all filled with passion and purpose. Although each had a significant platform, only one walks away with the opportunity to use the Miss America platform to further their cause. By the end of the evening, Miss Georgia was crowned Miss America 2016 by her predecessor, Kira Kazantsev who won the crown last year. The win by Miss Georgia ends three years of consecutive wins by contestants from New York. However, the focus of the night was on the well overdue apology by pageant CEO Sam Haskell for how Vanessa Williams was treated as Miss America 1984 by the pageant officials of that era.
Vanessa Williams became the first black female to win the Miss America competition in 1984, her reign was cut short, however, because of nude photos of her appearing in Penthouse Magazine. Sources close to the film, movie and TV star said she was forced to resign by pageant officials within 72 hours of being notified of the scandalous photos. Although Williams maintains that she never consented to have the photos published, Penthouse believed they owed it to their readers to publish the pictures since they became highly regarded and valuable.
In the case of Vanessa Williams, her reign lasted less than a year, however, what is unique about Williams is the fact that she had not entered a beauty contest prior to that year. Perhaps she inherited her gifts and talents from her parents who were both music teachers. Williams grew up displaying talents of singing and dancing, enabling her to receive a performance scholarship to Syracuse University. However, after losing those funds, she decided to begin entering beauty contests in 1984, and of course, winning the Miss America title is not the end of the story.
One may question how something once considered a taboo way to enter the entertainment industry, can become what is now an almost expected route of entry. Williams made the decision to relinquish her title based on the current situation, causing a state of confusion and embarrassment; yet it may have been the catalyst needed to propel her to a highly successful career in the entertainment industry. In fact, Williams is the most successful Miss America in the history of the pageant as shown by having received several Grammy nominations, sold millions of albums worldwide and having appeared in films and on television with such notables as Samuel Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Laurence Fishburne just to name a few. She was awarded the highest contract for an infomercial spokesperson when she signed a $20 million deal with ProActive Solution in 2007, which led to the development of her own skin care line.
The Miss America pageant has a long history originating as the Fall Frolic; the first event was held on Sept. 25, 1920, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Designed to bring more business to the Boardwalk, a parade in which young maidens were seated in 350 gaily decorated rolling chairs pushed by men, this was the main attraction. The pageant has since attracted beautiful women from all walks of life, races, and ethnic origins making it possible for many to share the stage with other contestants. However, only a select few have earned the right to win the illustrious crown and wear the title bearing the name of the event.
Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell can expect an eventful year-long experience while she adorns her new title Miss America 2016. Earning the esteemed title is the result of a lifetime of preparation with many special moments to come in the year ahead.
Opinion by Jireh Gibson
Yahoo! News: Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell Wins Miss America Pageant
Top Image Courtesy of Disney|ABC Television Group’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image By ABC/Ida Mae Astute Courtesy of Disney|ABC Television Group Flickr Page – Creative Commons License