AS SOMEONE who was “Miss Congeniality” (known as “Miss Friendship”) in the Miss Teenage America Pageant decades ago, which is now defunct, there is obviously something very different about the Miss Teen USA Pageant.
I had a chaperone at the Miss Teenage America Pageant who watched my every move. There were guards for the girls when we had events. To get into the pageant I had to take a test and send it in.
The same difference appears between the Miss America Pageant, which I was in and includes talent, interview and a lot of hurdles before you’re chosen. Compare it to the Miss USA Pageant, which isn’t worried about talent and doesn’t award scholarships or any other awards that have to do with using your brain.
We are talking about beauty pageants, however, so the news that Donald Trump walked through a dressing room where the contestants were undressed blows my mind.
“I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here,’” said Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA.
Trump, she recalled, said something like, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”
This may seem like no big deal to non-pageant critics but I can assure you it’s unheard of in the propriety that is Pageant World.
Trump, who owned the Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA pageants from 1996 until last year, has publicly bragged about invading beauty queen dressing rooms, calling it one of his prerogatives of ownership.
“I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed,” Trump told Howard Stern in recordings released Saturday by CNN. “No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it. … ‘Is everyone OK?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”
— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) October 12, 2016
Over the years I’ve done theater, off-Broadway, and landed on the Great White Way. I’ve experienced every advance known to be given by a man, been sexually harassed to the point where I filed an EEOC complaint, and dealt with harrowing sexual assault.
I’ve researched these subjects until I’ve become an expert on it. I’ve also delved into the world of men, traversing the online sex, dating and relationship worlds.
But in Pageant World, the only way a peeping Tom like Trump would have had access to the girls or young women in pageant scene dressing rooms is if he controlled it himself. It’s likely why he owned it in the first place.
Trump did and the women have stories to tell that are something rarely seen in the world of pageants where women are put on a pedestal by winning the privilege to be ogled for cash.
What isn’t supposed to be part of this strange bargain is stripping the contestants’ free will away to cater to the man at the top.