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Miss America logo
|Headquarters||Linwood, New Jersey|
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Miss America logo
|Headquarters||Linwood, New Jersey|
The Miss America Pageant is a competition which awards scholarships to young women from the 50 United States, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Miss America travels about 20,000 miles a month, changing her location every 24 to 48 hours. She tours the nation, speaking about topics significant to her and those affecting the United States and the world.
The Miss America pageant was first held in September 1921 in Atlantic City. It continued until 1927, when it was suspended until 1933. It began as part of a marketing plan by the Businessmen's League of Atlantic City to keep tourists on the boardwalk after Labor Day. It organized a Fall Frolic, which was held on September 25, 1920. The most popular event that day (overseen by Ernestine Cremona, in a flowing white robe) was a parade of young women pushed along the boardwalk in rolling chairs, and its success inspired a similar event the following year. At the same time, to increase circulation East Coast newspapers had begun sponsoring beauty pageants in which submitted photographs were judged. The Businessmen's League decided to capitalize on the idea, inviting winners of local newspaper beauty contests to the next Fall Frolic for an inter-city beauty contest. The contest would be judged on two levels: popularity and beauty. The winner of the beauty contest, the Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America, would be awarded the title of Golden Mermaid. On September 8, 1921, 100,000 people came to the boardwalk to watch the contestants, a turnout much greater than expected. A panel of artists serving as judges named 16-year-old Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C. the winner of both contests, awarding her $100. When Gorman returned in 1922 to defend her title, she was draped in the American flag and called Miss America.
During the 1930s, under the directorship of Lenora Slaughter, the pageant became segregated as rule number seven stated: "contestants must be of good health and of the white race." Rule seven was abolished in 1950. While there were Native American, Latina, and Asian American contestants, there were no African American contestants until 1970 when Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa, competed (although African Americans appeared in musical numbers as far back as 1923 when they were cast as slaves). Miss New York Vanessa Williams was crowned the first African American Miss America in 1984.
When Mary Katherine Campbell (Miss Ohio) won the Miss America contest in both 1922 and 1923, and finished a close second in 1924, a rule prohibiting a winning contestant from competing again was instituted. Eventually contestants would be allowed to compete only once.
Miss New York Bess Myerson (Miss America 1945), the first and only Jewish Miss America to date, was selected despite official antisemitism; pageant director Lenora Slaughter requested that she change her name to one less Jewish-sounding.
Miss America 1949 Jacque Mercer was married and divorced during her reign; after this, a rule was enacted requiring Miss America contestants to sign a certification that they have never been married or pregnant.
In 1951, winner Yolande Betbeze refused to pose for publicity pictures in a swimsuit, saying that she wanted to be recognized as a serious opera singer. As a result, sponsor Catalina Swimwear severed its relationship with Miss America and created the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants.
The pageant has been nationally televised since 1954. Lee Meriwether, Miss America 1955, was the first winner of a televised pageant. Television viewership peaked during the early 1960s, when it was the highest-rated program on American television.
With the rise of feminism and the civil rights movement the pageant was targeted by protesters, and its audience began to shrink. In 1968 about 400 members of New York Radical Women protested the event on the Atlantic City boardwalk by crowning a sheep Miss America and symbolically destroying a number of feminine products, including false eyelashes, high-heeled shoes, curlers, hairspray, makeup, girdles, corsets and bras. Burning the contents of a trash can was suggested, but a permit was unobtainable; news media seized on the similarity between draft resisters burning draft cards and women burning their bras. In fact there was no bra burning, nor did anyone remove her bra.:4 A pamphlet by Robin Morgan which was distributed at the Miss America protest, No More Miss America!, became a source for feminist scholarship.
In 1970 Cheryl Brown, Miss Iowa, was the first African American contestant. During the 1970s, the pageant encouraged professional women to compete. Miss America 1974, Rebecca Ann King, was a law student who supported the legalization of abortion.
However, television ratings still sagged; Bert Parks, the pageant's master of ceremonies from 1955 to 1979, was dismissed in an attempt to attract a younger audience. The firing of Parks, who had sung "There She Is, Miss America" as the winner walked down the ramp at the end of each year's pageant, prompted much criticism, and Johnny Carson organized an unsuccessful letter-writing campaign to reinstate him.
Since the 1980s, seven African-American women have been crowned Miss America. In 1984 Vanessa L. Williams, the first African-American Miss America, resigned after the publication of nude photos in Penthouse; first runner-up Suzette Charles finished the remaining seven weeks as Miss America 1984. Both women are included on the Miss America list; Williams is Miss America 1984a and Charles is Miss America 1984b.
In 1991, for the pageant's 70th anniversary, host Gary Collins introduced Bert Parks to sing "There She Is"; it was Parks' last live performance of the song live before his death the following year. Heather Whitestone won the 1995 pageant as the first Deaf Miss America; she lost most of her hearing at the age of 18 months.
In 1999, Miss America officials announced they had lifted the ban on contestants who were divorced or had had an abortion. This rule change, however, was rescinded and Miss America CEO Robert L. Beck, who had suggested it, was fired.
During the period of 2004-2013, The Miss America Pageant changed networks and venues. Miss America 2005 was held in Atlantic City on September 18, 2004. The pageant was broadcast live on ABC from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Although it was not known at the time, this pageant would be the last held in Atlantic City until 2013. It was also the last one to be televised by an over-the-air network until 2011, as ABC dropped the pageant when its audience fell under 10 million viewers, from 33 million six years earlier.
The winner for Miss America 2005 Deidre Downs, held the position four months longer than usual as the Miss America 2006 was moved from September to January 21, 2006. This pageant also marked a move to Las Vegas Strip's Theatre for the Performing Arts at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. It was broadcast live on MTV Networks' Country Music Television. In 2009, Discovery Networks picked up the pageant on TLC, with Countdown to the Crown airing on Friday nights before the pageant. In 2011, ABC resumed broadcasting the pageant .
Claire Buffie became the first contestant to campaign for the Miss America title on a gay-rights platform in the 2011 pageant. Miss Montana Alexis Wineman, the first autistic contestant, appeared in the 2013 pageant.
Miss America 2014 was held at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 15, 2013, returning to its traditional location and season after nine years. Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, was the first contestant to display tattoos in the swimsuit competition (the United States Army Dental Command insignia on her left shoulder and the Serenity Prayer along her right side) . The winner of the 2014 pageant, Nina Davuluri (Miss New York 2013) is the first Indian American and second Asian American to be chosen as Miss America. Davuluri is also the first to perform a Bollywood dance on the Miss America stage. After she was crowned Miss America, there was a backlash of xenophobic and racist comments in social media.
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The pageant can also be seen in other countries. In 2013, ESPN Radio provided the pageant's first radio broadcast.
|Year||Miss America||State Represented|
|Miss America 2015||TBA||TBA|
|Miss America 2014||Nina Davuluri||New York|
|Miss America 2013||Mallory Hagan||New York|
|Miss America 2012||Laura Kaeppeler||Wisconsin|
|Miss America 2011||Teresa Scanlan||Nebraska|
|Miss America 2010||Caressa Cameron||Virginia|
|Miss America 2009||Katie Stam||Indiana|
|Miss America 2008||Kirsten Haglund||Michigan|
|Miss America 2007||Lauren Nelson||Oklahoma|
|Miss America 2006||Jennifer Berry||Oklahoma|
|Miss America 2005||Deidre Downs||Alabama|
Rule seven in the Miss America rule book, implemented during the 1930s under Lenora Slaughter, stated that "contestants must be of good health and of the white race." As late as 1940, all contestants were required to list on a biological data sheet how far back they could trace their ancestry. Rule seven was abolished in 1950. Despite restrictions and barriers, women from minority groups have competed in (and won) Miss America. Contestants are listed in the year they competed; winners are listed in the year they wore the title:
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