Unpacking this comment — from the Atlantic Wire piece about the first Indian-American Miss America — would take all afternoon. It is one of about 15,000 comments from citizens of our great nation reacting to the results of a televised beauty pageant that raised the thrilling question, Which is more detrimental to a typical contestant’s chances, ink or skin color? (Or, for that matter, having only one arm?)
Here’s another of my favorites, also from the Atlantic Wire piece, which sums up a lot of the reactions I’ve seen: “I’m not racist AT ALL, but I do believe Miss AMERICA should be AMERICAN and AMERICAN only.” Can’t argue with that logic, especially when delivered in caps.
Winner Nina Davuluri wasn’t even the only Indian-American competing last night. She was joined in representing the subcontinent by Miss DC, who introduced herself by saying, “Listening to your phone calls from the nation’s capital — just kidding! I’m Miss District of Columbia Bindhu Parmathi!” I am all for beauty pageants if they can bring the funny.
Miss “Katniss” Kansas, a bow-hunter, was the favorite choice of Field and Stream, which didn’t mind the tats:
“Vail’s non-beauty queen qualities extend beyond the deer woods. She’s an Army sergeant (only the second active-duty contestant in pageant history), an M16 marksman, and a mechanic. And don’t mistake Vail for one of those pageant brats who make vying for tiaras their life’s pursuit. She hopped in her first pageant less than a year ago, and only because her commanding officer advised her to.”
The gorgeous, well-educated Miss Texas, representative of a state that only crowned a black Miss Texas for the first time in 2006, seemed pretty boss, but apparently she picked the wrong talent. According to the Washington Post:
Miss Texas Ivana Hall, a charismatic presence with bold ambitions (within five years, “I see myself finishing law school and hopefully running my first national campaign”) looked to be a serious contender – until she opened her mouth to sing (the jazz standard “Fever”) and it turned out she couldn’t.
Maybe she wanted to shoot arrows too and was told that she wasn’t allowed. If the range of what we consider female beauty is expanding, couldn’t our understanding of what “talent” is follow suit? Singing, dancing—pff. How about a stand up routine, or anagrams? (“Wanna play anagrams, Ralph? We take the name of a famous person and rearrange the letters to form a description of that person.” “My kitty’s breath smells like cat food.”) Or a martial arts take down? I don’t want to see violin; I want tae kwon do.
Not that our understanding of female beauty has ever really expanded. One-armed or two-armed, with or without tats, and of whatever ethnicity, every woman on that stage last night was gorgeous in the same leggy, lanky, big-haired, bleached-smile non-threatening way we have come to expect from a beauty pageant.
Still, (limited) progress is progress. Congrats to our newest non-Barbie looking Barbie!