Edited By William M. Reynolds
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Pageant Culture, Media, Social Class, and Power
Pageant Culture, Media, Social Class and Power
ELISABETH BLUMER HARDY
At 19, I entered a local Southern Sweetheart pageant preliminary in my hometown of Louisville, Georgia. As I was the only entrant in the Miss division, I “won” the title by default and was the delegate to the state contest. There, I learned that the media stereotypes of pageants I had seen were true. The other contestants had been groomed far beyond my wildest imagination. It was then that I acknowledged the reality of the industry and the culture surrounding pageantry, including the codes, signs and behaviors that dictated and determined success and mobility in the pageant world.
From there, I competed in two Miss Georgia America preliminaries and went on to work in various capacities in the Miss America and local pageant systems. As a coach and pageant coordinator, I have seen the positives and negatives of beauty pageant involvement and the ways that power operates within this culture, and I became interested in the phenomenon of identity development in the pageant subculture. For many girls and young women, who they are, how they view their bodies and their self-worth, and how they view the world is shaped largely by their participation in beauty pageants. And I noticed that in rural Georgia the pageant titles that a woman has won do not fall by the wayside as she ages; instead, they are continually used to define who she...
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