Question: Will you read this blog post with no pictures?

Q: What is the purpose of the Question and Answer?   I used to think that the Q&A was the most distinguishing part of the pageant, when you can really weed out the idiots because it’s when all the ridiculous things start flying out of the contestant’s mouths.  “Can you believe she said that?” “Typical dumb blonde” “Wow. Just wow.”  But let’s think about this for a moment.  Is it the answer that’s bad? Or the question?
Perhaps the best way to dissect the intricacies of the Q&A is to revisit the famous A’s of the past.  Let’s all take a moment to remember the instant classic that is Miss Teen South Carolina, Lauren “Everywhere else like such as” Upton:

The key to deciphering questions is to read between the lines.  I think this is where most of the brain power goes in answering a pageant question.  “One-fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map.  Why do you think this is?”  Obviously, this isn’t a question about maps.  This was not obvious to Lauren at first…but then she gets it, sort of (she did mumble something about education for US Americans, right?).  The second thing to note, and the reason this A is so famous, is word choice.  I know I’m not the only one who has a feeling that contestants are instructed to memorize a list of buzzwords to toss around in their answer.  I’m sure this list is chock full of synonyms for world peace, our children’s future, third-world countries, and America.  The problem occurs when your brain short-circuits and starts using these phrases back-to-back, creating nonsensical redundancies.  I will attribute the short-circuiting to being befuddled by the question with a hint of "I don’t know how to answer that question and am therefore nervous about it".  To recap this Q&A: decent question (How do we fix education in America?), bad answer (“Some people in our nation don’t have maps”). 

Not all questions are decent though.  And if the questions are terrible, aren't we setting these women up for failure?  The recent Miss America pageant provides a stellar example:

The Q’s of pageants are supposed to bring the controversial issues plaguing America to the stage.  In general, the most ridiculous thing about many controversial issues plaguing America is that they are treated and hyped like...controversial issues…plaguing America.  You don’t need to be a media studies major to observe that news outlets sensationalize everything.  For viewer ratings. For profit (please don't tell me you're surprised...).  Many “issues” are “non-issues”, while the actual issues are too boring for anyone to watch (meaning less $$).  My point in this being that the evolution debate is not a debate.  Why are we asking people if evolution should be taught in public school?  As this video points out, that’s like asking if math should be taught in public school.  The other side to look at is the Answer.  Sadly, like a lot of women and men in America, some of these women were also under the impression that evolution is controversial ("teaching both sides"???), and it’s kind of hard to label these as bad answers when the question (as an extension of America’s sensationalized approach to news) is just as bad.

And then there are the questions that are meant to draw the best middle-of-the-fence responses.  I am not sure if these can be qualified as good or bad questions, because let’s be honest, what exactly are they training you to do?  Stating your personal beliefs?  The more controversial the question is, the more people will pay attention to your answer, and the more you will shrink away from saying how you really feel.  Who gets rewarded in these situations?  Certainly not the woman who speaks her mind (whether you’re right or wrong).  I am of course, referring to the infamous Miss California, Carrie “No offense to anybody out there” Prejean and her opinion on gay marriage:

This question is a mess of all sorts.  It combines key factors from the first and second Q, and adds in its own fun.  First, let’s read between the lines on this one.  Is this question solely about gay marriage?  I would argue that the best way to answer this question is to focus on human rights...because in essence, it is about human rights.  Second step: since this question is about human rights, why is this even an issue [plaguing America]?  Thirdly, anyone, not just Prejean would have been expected to answer this question with the buzzwords “equality” and “rights”, both used positively, without ever agreeing or disagreeing with anything.

 These sorts of questions seem to prepare you for a life of politics and diplomacy.  By politics, I mean it in every sense: politics of the household, the workplace, the social sphere, and the government.  It is the politics of compromise, where you say something to please everybody, and not because it’s the right thing to do.  I wouldn’t say this is a terrible skill.  In fact, it is probably a very useful skill.  But, as I bring up in a previous post, do these skills ever serve the purpose beyond being someone’s puppet?  Since when do women (or anyone) who stay centrist ever become a catalyst for change or activism?  Is it the duty of a pageant queen to be a neutral ambassador who follows the script in order to make everyone happy?  Or a woman who can lead others with her independent thinking style? Are these two things even mutually exclusive?  What exactly are the duties and expectations of a pageant queen besides attending spectacles and making speeches about achieving goals?  Maybe I am posing some difficult Q’s myself.  But I am interested in hearing your A’s.


  1. LOL it's the north vs the south for evolution/creationism. Big not surprise. But still funny.

  2. I like you're dissection of the the Q&A's and I believe, such that, you as an American, will do well, such that, you will astound the judges with your knowledge of maps. lol
    thanks for posting that video, it has been a long time and I only now noticed how obvious it is that Mario Lopez is trying not to laugh.

  3. It is refreshing to see the evolution video montage in a context that isn't "wow those pageant girls are just so stupid."

    For instance one of my friends posted this video on Facebook. His sister wrote "Wow, these girls are idiots!" and his other sister "liked" the comment.

    These women have all already won at least one state-wide pageant to have made it to the Miss USA pageant. This isn't amateur hour. And this isn't just one random flustered fluke answer. This is what a "winner" looks like to beauty pageant judges.

    So really this montage says more about the pageant institution than it does about the relative intellect of "pageant" girls vs everyone else. I'm glad you pointed that out.

    About "middle of the road" training, it got me wondering whether this only occurs in female beauty pageants. So I poked around on the internet for male beauty pageants and couldn't find any specific answers to interview questions for male contestants.

    What I did read about the goals of the male beauty pageants. The three pageants I looked at were Mister International, Mister World, and Manhunt International. Mister International wants men who are "savvy, goal-oriented and self-aware." Arguably similar wishy-washy goals as female pageants. Manhunt international, however, specifically states that they are trying to promote faces of up and coming models (also contestants must have interesting personalities as they will be role models). The pageant states the specific way in which it serves the future of the male contestants. Are there any female beauty pageants that promote modeling careers? I never even thought about that before.

    Sorry, total tangent. Maybe beauty pageants should have debates rather than interviews! Then people have to argue one side AND stay likable. That's a skill that a leader actually needs too. I have new-found respect for my high school teachers who used to force that on me.