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Our Pageant System Embodies Ideal That Beauty Is Only Skin Deep
By Tyler Butler
Pageants have long been stereotyped as lavish ceremonies featuring brainless beauty queens who vainly seek attention for their external attributes.
This reputation is amplified in pop culture by way of shows such as “Toddlers and Tiaras” and memes, which show daft yet beautiful girls who seemingly aren’t well spoken or well versed on world affairs or current issues. The Miss America pageant system is working against these misplaced perceptions while educating the public about the true lineage that showcases this organization’s mission.
Miss Arizona is a part of the larger Miss America pageant system and has been in existence since 1921. It has evolved from a boardwalk beauty pageant to the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women, awarding more than $45 million each year. It has served as a voice for women’s empowerment. It promoted equality and education at a time when women were discouraged from joining the workforce and has served as a beacon for positive societal change. And while history clearly shows the story of a dignified organization with a purpose and mission that people can support, the confusion endures about the opportunities provided by the Miss America organization.
The Miss Arizona Scholarship Organization started in 1938 and as a 501c3 non-profit foundation it has devoted itself to empowering the women of Arizona to achieve their personal and professional goals. Over just the past five years, the Miss Arizona Organization has awarded over $130,000 in cash scholarships at the state and local level and has offered more than $500,000 in-kind college scholarships each year. The Miss Arizona pageant prides itself on its principles as described through the four points of the crown: service, style, scholarship and success — all of which are evident in the process and approach this organization takes when awarding titles to contestants.
Intelligence, grace, personality and talent take center stage at the Miss Arizona pageant. The focus is firmly set on service as a catalyst for young women to grow, learn and improve themselves, while giving back to the community and earning valuable scholarship money. The most vital component that differentiates this organization is its emphasis of placing service above self through a personal platform or community work. The Miss Arizona program offers a chance for young women to pursue higher education and professional opportunities while supporting social causes. Local and state titleholders become recognized spokeswomen on issues ranging from literacy to human trafficking.
The spotlight on a platform issue helps shape the image, mission and brand of Miss America and Miss Arizona. Titleholders must be dynamic, articulate speakers and champions of a cause. They also must be approachable and real. The speaking engagements and appearances range from addressing Congress to speaking at women’s conferences to visiting local schools. And given the climate of volatile politics in the country at this time, Miss America and Miss Arizona serve as a welcome unifying force for good.
Stories abound of the causes and people who have been moved by this mission. Take the newly crowned Miss Arizona 2017, MaddieRose Holler. Her dedication to our armed forces comes from an authentic place and has also guided her to actively seek out ways to aid those who make America the home of the brave. MaddieRose hails from a military family and this has guided her involvement with the Military Family Support Group, an Arizona 501c3 dedicated to assisting our troops by providing them with care packages as a symbol of the community’s gratitude, love, pride and patriotism. Her service has enabled the creation of over 10,000 care packages in her five years serving them. Equally crucial: Her dedication to the pageant has also paid for her education in large part. MaddieRose is an aspiring journalist.
MaddieRose has combined her representation of Arizona with her love for fashion. She partnered with State Forty Eight, an Arizona-based clothing line, to create a collaboration R.E.D (Remember Everyone Deployed) t-shirt. Through this effort, funds were raised to donate back to the Military Family Support Group. And thanks to the valuable scholarship dollars MaddieRose has earned, she has opportunities to continue making a difference and sharing stories like hers because of the education she’s received.
Miss Arizona Outstanding Teen 2017 is also a product and champion of her upbringing. She’s using her visibility to create awareness for foster kids. Dimon Sanders spent years in the foster care system. She has used those difficult times to elevate the conversation about Arizona’s foster child system. Her platform, Hope for Children in Foster Care, has helped her find her voice and given her the courage to tell her story. Dimon has leveraged her experience in the foster care system to help countless others.
Her volunteerism with Together We Rise, a non-profit that provides duffel bags instead of trash bags to kids in the foster care system is making an impact. Dimon has gone so far as to add her own personal “Dimon Sweet Case” items that she believes are important to have while in foster care like nightlights and personal hygiene items. Fashion is a component of Dimon’s philanthropy. Through her involvement with GoodThreads, a clothing bank that helps foster kids pick out gently used clothes as well as holds clothing drives for donations, Dimon has had a chance to influence the next generation’s viewpoint on style. Dimon cautions against the allure of designer brands and instead puts the focus firmly on personal style for kids in need so they can have the resources they desperately require.
As Miss Arizona continues to grow in popularity through a resurgence of women seeking better opportunities and hoping to help the world (while banding together as sisters), it’s key to note that their history shows an organization that has and will always be focused on positive societal change and equal opportunities for all.
The role models this organization helps mold will continue to serve as leaders and advocates. The four points of the crown will be paramount and the young women who clamor toward this encouraging message will serve Arizona and America well.
(Programming note: Miss Arizona 2017, MaddieRose Holler, competes for Miss America September 10, 2017, at 9 pm ET, broadcast live on ABC.)