Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.

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True Talent

Q: Last week, Caressa Cameron, a 22-year-old student from Virginia, was crowned Miss America, a pageant that once epitomized a certain kind of beauty, talent and promise. Is this kind of contest completely outdated, or does it offer a legitimate path to success for the young women who compete?

Pageants do measure a certain kind of success. We have discussed all kinds of success in this column, and a beauty pageant is certainly a vehicle towards publicity, notoriety, and influence in certain circles.

And though some of us may dislike the entire concept of "beauty pageant" (fodder for an entirely different column), the hype and visibility definitely can lead to a full range of success opportunities -- as it did for Bess Myerson, Lee Meriwether, Phyllis George, etc.

The winner has to demonstrate skill in a particular area (other than filling out a swimsuit), utilize a college scholarship, speak in front of groups, travel around the world, work on value-added projects, and "be the face of America" at multiple events.

The winner has to demonstrate skill in a particular area (other than filling out a swimsuit), utilize a college scholarship, speak in front of groups, travel around the world, work on value-added projects, and "be the face of America" at multiple events.

The winner also has to be savvy enough to work within the parameters and structure of the conservative, "not too controversial" mindset of what Miss America and Miss USA represents. As we saw with Vanessa Williams and Carrie Prejean, voicing an opinion or posing for pictures outside those parameters can wreak havoc (which can still lead to other kinds of success!).

Consequently, winning the Miss America pageant is a legitimate win with no less pageantry than that associated with American Idol, the election of a political candidate, or the selection of an Oscar winning movie. And if the pageant is outdated, someone better tell the media and newspapers. As was stated in an early Miss America newsreel, "You can have wars and atom bombs, but so it seems there must always be a Miss America" (Miss America web site).

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  February 8, 2010; 12:01 AM ET  | Category:  Pageants' relevance Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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