2018 Year in Review
8 Amazing & Shocking Moments in Pageantry
1. Miss America 2.0 – The Miss America Organization was plagued with controversy all year long and there was nothing they could do to avoid it. The trouble started at the end of 2017 when then CEO Sam Haskell’s offensive emails about former titleholders were made public. This event lead to three members of the organization resigning immediately.
On January 1, 2018 Miss America 1989 Gretchen Carlson was named Chairwoman of the Board of Directors. Carlson has recently left her position as Fox News anchor a short time earlier. The selection of Carlson marks the first time a former pageant winner has served as the leader of the nearly 100-year-old organization. Also announced were the appointments of three other past Miss Americas: 2012 winner Laura Kaeppeler-Fleiss, 2000 winner Heather French Henry and Kate Shindle, who won in 1998 and now serves as president of the Actors’ Equity Association. Carlson’s first act was to eliminate the swimsuit competition and rename the pageant “Miss America 2.0”.
In the wake of the “MeToo” movement and taking into consideration that Carlson sued her former employer Fox News for alleged sexual harassment claims Carlson along with a unanimous decision from the board of directors decided to eliminate the swimsuit competition and focus on each contestants talents, intelligence and ideas. The change received mixed reviews from pageant fans and critics across the country some even wondered what other drastic changes would be made to America’s favorite pageant that started back as a swimwear competition back in 1921. The organization also received a total makeover complete with a new format, website, logo, color scheme and a sash.
Just when you thought the dust was settling Miss America 2018 Cara Mund decided to share a letter with her fellow Miss America sisters.In a missive that ran over 3,000 words long, Ms. Mund said that the pageant’s leadership had “reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a daily basis.”
She went on to say that members of the organization had prevented her from posting in her official capacity on social media and had criticized her appearance on multiple occasions. She added that she had researched New Jersey state laws and that the mistreatment amounted to “workplace bullying.”
She said that she had been condescended to in a manner that suggested “I don’t understand this ‘big girl job’ or how and why Miss America is relevant,” and that she had often been reminded that she was dispensable.
In particular, Ms. Mund’s letter singled out the organization’s chief executive, Regina Hopper, for disparaging her. It also took issue with Gretchen Carlson, the chair of the organization’s board of directors, who Ms. Mund said had supplanted her as the organization’s ambassador.
In a statement, the Miss America Organization responded to Ms. Mund’s letter by saying that it supported her and that “it is disappointing that she chose to air her grievances publicly not privately.”
“Her letter contains mischaracterizations and many unfounded accusations,” the statement said. “We are reaching out to her privately to address her concerns.”
Mund’s letter caused a huge riff in the already bruised organization. Once again the pageant community was torn with many contestants and state directors taking Mund’s side in the matter. Sad to say Mund’s heartfelt complaint was brushed away and the drama continued.
On August 20, 2018 former Miss Americas Suzette Charles and Heather Whitestone visited Megyn Kelly Today on Monday to discuss the allegations of bullying by Miss America chairwoman Gretchen Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper.
Charles said she was not surprised by Mund’s letter. “I’ve had some background on Gretchen. Gretchen has been bullying for a long time. Actually she’s bullied my sister here, Heather Whitestone. There were some incidents in the past that she’s bullied,” said Charles. She added that many employees have resigned due to the bullying. “This person has taken no responsibility for the way she’s treated our current Miss America.” 20,000 signatures on a petition to have Carlson and Hopper resign, as well as 27 state organizations and 19 former Miss Americas calling for them to step down.
Charles added that Carlson reached out to 63 former Miss Americas to have a conference call discussing the allegations, though she refused to participate. “There are no words in the English language that would suffice her justifying how this young lady’s been treated,” she said.
Finally, Miss America 2.0 was not an upgrade for the 98-year-old pageant’s television ratings. According to TVbytheNumbers.com, Sunday night’s broadcast of the 2019 Miss America Competition on ABC reached 4.3 million viewers, a 23 percent drop in viewership from last year’s show. Despite efforts to rebrand Miss America’s image this year by eliminating the swimsuit category, the competition has continued a trend of losing viewers.
2. Angela Ponce – Simply by representing her country this year, Ponce became the first transgender woman to compete in Miss Universe. After the preliminary rounds, the 27-year-old model said it was “an honor and pride” to be part of the history of the pageant. The 27 year old Flamenco dancer and model did not win the coveted title and did not even make the Top 20 instead she walked away with her head held high and full of joy. “This is for you, for those who have no visibility, no voice, because we all deserve a world of respect, inclusion and freedom,” Ponce wrote on Instagram on Friday. “And today I am here, proudly representing my nation, all women and human rights.” “None of us are obligated to be here. And for me, it’s a platform to share my voice,” she told Today Style. “To me, feminism is freedom to do what you want, when you want to. We cannot put brakes on the freedom of women, on one platform or another.” The pageant seemed to embrace her, too, tweeting video of Ponce entering the stage with the caption: “A walk to remember. A historic night for #MissUniverse. Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/12/17/miss-spain-becomes-first-transgender-woman-compete-miss-universe-pageant/
3. Miss Texas Teen USA – Howard University freshman Kennedy Edwards became the first ever African – American Miss Texas Teen USA since the inaugural pageant in 1983. Edwards, a political science student from Houston, Texas began her pageant career in January, as she trained for the Miss Houston Teen pageant. Following her victory of Miss Houston Teen, she was crowned Miss Texas Teen USA on Nov. 26. As the first African American to hold the title in the pageants 35 year history, Edwards is aware of the responsibility her position holds. “Once I figured out that if I were to win that I would be the first African American to be Miss Texas Teen USA, I went in wanting to make history. I realized my purpose was larger than just being a role model. Now I am a role model but I get to be role model for all types of people, and not just one standard of beauty,” Edwards explained in an Instagram post. Edwards intends to continue her pageant journey, as her historic win commits her to compete in the Miss Teen USA competition. Source: https://cw39.com/2018/11/26/miss-texas-teen-usa-crowns-first-ever-african-american-in-pageants-35-year-history/
4. Miss Grand International – Miss Grand Paraguay Clara Sosa won the international event held at ONE Entertainment Park in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar (formerly Burma). The pageant was being televised on Facebook Live and was watched by over a million people. Prior to crowning Sosa was asked a question by the host and joked that she was “about to have a heart attack.” The host teased the crowd and said: “You guys have got to make some noise.” “The winner of Miss Grand International 2018 is…” After a brief pause, he announced: “Miss Grand Paraguay!” The stunning brunette looks pained by the announcement and as the first runner-up steps forward to embrace her, Sosa buckles at the knee and collapses to the floor in a heap. The cameras pan away as several people are seen rushing to the stage. However, all is well and the stunning 24-year-old is helped to her feet ready to be crowned. Source: https://news.abs-cbn.com/life/10/26/18/winner-collapses-after-being-named-miss-grand-international-2018
5. Contestants accuse Mrs. America pageant president of racist remarks – Three African-American state pageant winners said they were expecting to have the time of their lives at the 2018 Mrs. America competition in Las Vegas in August. Instead, they say the pageant’s white CEO and president insulted them in a conversation in which he used the N-word and invoked racist stereotypes that demeaned the African-American community. The women shared their accusations against David Marmel in a news conference Monday with their lawyer, Gloria Allred. A white contestant who said she overheard the conversation also shared her account. The contestants have no plans to file a lawsuit against Marmel or the pageant or seek damages, Allred said. They just want an apology and assurances that one else will experience similar treatment. Source: https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/10/16/mrs-america-contestants-ceo-racism-sot-es-vpx.cnn
6. Former Miss Kentucky charged with sending nude photos of herself to 15-year-old student – A middle school teacher and former Miss Kentucky pageant winner has been arrested and charged with sending nude photographs of herself to a 15-year-old boy, authorities said. Ramsey Bearse, a 28-year-old teacher at Andrew Jackson Middle School outside Charleston, West Virginia, allegedly sent the photos to a former student, according to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office. The boy’s parents found the photos on his phone and told police about them last week. They said their son was a student at Andrew Jackson from 6th to 8th grade and that Bearse was a teacher there during some of that time, according to a criminal complaint. In an interview with police, Bearse admitted to sending at least four photos of her topless via Snapchat from about August to October, the complaint states. She is charged with four counts of distributing obscene materials to a minor, a felony. The former beauty queen has been suspended from her teaching position and was released on a $10,000 property bond after her arraignment, the sheriff’s office said. Bearse, who competed in pageants under the name Ramsey Carpenter, was named Miss Kentucky in 2014. Source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/09/us/miss-kentucky-teacher-nude-photos/index.html
7. Beauty queen disqualified for arriving late – Miss Universe Sierra Leone 2018 Marie Esther Bangura was disqualified from the Miss Universe pageant held in Thailand, as she failed to reach within the stipulated deadline. She reached six days after the given date wherein she missed many promotional activities. Thai fans of the pageant felt sympathetic for her and decided to give her a tour of ‘The land of Smiles’. It took Bangura two weeks to travel from her war-torn country to Thailand, which was brought to light via social media. It was revealed that she had to travel from Sierra Leone, via Ghana, to Nigeria, where she had to apply for a visa in the Thai embassy. She then had to take a flight from Ethiopia to Bangkok, and she finally arrived almost six days later with all her luggage. Thai fans of the beauty queen showed her around Thailand and even though she missed the glam and glitz of the Miss Universe stage, she spent her time getting to know the locals and sightseeing around the beautiful country. In her interview with the media she said, “I always wanted to represent my country and that’s why I tried so hard to be here. Since I’m not competing, I still feel good because I got to meet people and learn new things. I know everything you go through you learn a lesson, and I’ve learned a lesson. I’ve met different people. I feel so much loved and excited.” However, Bangura along with her national director attended the event as a spectator and cheered the girls as well. The national director did mention that Marie will be participating in the Miss Universe pageant in 2019. Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/sierra-leone-beauty-queen-disqualified-by-miss-universe-but-received-lots-of-love-in
8. Miss USA apologizes to fellow contestants after barrage of criticism -Miss USA has apologized after comments she made about two fellow Miss Universe contestants’ English-language abilities sparked backlash online. In a live Instagram video posted on Wednesday, 24-year-old contestant Sarah Rose Summers said that Miss Vietnam H’Hen Nie is “so cute and she pretends to know so much English and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she (nods and smiles).” Summers, who was joined in the video by Miss Colombia, Valeria Morales and Miss Australia, Francesca Hung, was attending the Miss Universe pageant in Thailand, which is scheduled to begin on Sunday in Bangkok. Later on in the video Summers appeared to express sympathy for Miss Cambodia, Rern Sinat, who she said, “doesn’t speak any English and not a single other person speaks her language.” “Can you imagine? Francesca (Miss Australia) said that would be so isolating and I said yes and just confusing all the time,” Summers said. “Poor Cambodia.” The comments have sparked criticism online, with some calling Summers’ words “xenophobic” and “condescending.” Responding to the backlash in an Instagram post on Friday, Summers said that Miss Universe was “an opportunity for women from around the world to learn about each other’s cultures, life experiences, and views.” “In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize,” Summers said, alongside a photo of her embracing her fellow contestants. “My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another,” she added. “I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H’Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me.” Speaking to CNN on Friday, Miss Vietnam H’Hen Nie said Summers “didn’t mean anything” by it. “Everyone in this competition, myself included, loves and respects one another,” she said, adding that Summers had been particularly supportive and helpful to her. “When she knew about my difficulties with (the English) language, she took an interest and showed me love. That’s why she knows about that. Thank you Miss USA for taking care of me, showing me love and helping me recently,” H’Hen Nie said. In another sign that all was well between the contestants, Miss Cambodia posted the same Instagram photo as Summers with the caption, “I speak the language of love, respect and understanding.” “My friendship and sisterhood in Miss Universe will forever be kept in my heart,” she said. “Our experience have given us the opportunity to show and learn different cultures.” Source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/13/asia/miss-usa-comments-summers-intl/index.html
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