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Uncharacteristically, this year’s Miss America pageant has sparked debates over racial equality, rather than female equality in the US. The Washington Post questions whether this race row and its tattooed cover girl, Miss Kansas, is the pageant’s attempt at staying relevant.
The winner of Miss America 2014, Nina Devuluri is the scholarship programme’s first winner from Indian origin. However, when the Indian beauty (representing New York) was crowned, the social media sphere burst into a frenzy of racial attacks upon the newly crowned Miss America. Many were appalled at the decision, suggesting that crowning an “Arab” did not represent America. This huge response caused Miss America to hit headlines this week bringing with a new race row in the US.
The pageant also made headlines with cover girl and competition favourite Theresa Vail, aka Miss Kansas. Despite appearing to be a model contestant, Miss Vail serves in the US armed forces and was popular with the general public for proudly displaying her tattoos during the controversial swimsuit contest. Even though Miss Vail donned full army fatigues in the Show Us Your Shoes Parade, some say that it was her tattoos that kept her in the spotlight.
Critics have suggested that the focus on racial diversity and tattoos was part of a strategic marketing plan to raise the profile of Miss America and a way for the century-old-programme to appear in vogue. However, insiders to the pageant industry say the programme has a history of diversity and that the contestants have a lot more to offer than ink and skin colour. Upon The Washington Post questioning why the public seem to have such a disconnected view of the insider understanding of the pageant, Pageant Coach Valerie Hayes retorted “Toddlers and Tiaras”.