Words

Here She Is!

Behind the scenes with Miss America

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Elbow, elbow, wrist-wrist-wrist.

It’s like icing a cake with your hand, they say, and you practiced that wave aplenty when you were young. You never knew when you might find yourself walking down a long stage with roses in your arms and a crown on your head.

Millions of young women try. Only one per year becomes Miss America—most of the time.

In Being Miss America by Kate Shindle, you’ll peek behind the brocade curtains to learn more.

Growing up in New Jersey, in a family that often volunteered for the Miss America Organization,  Shindle had a firsthand, on-the-ground look at making a pageant. That knowledge obviously didn’t scare her: she later entered a local Illinois pageant, won, and won again to eventually become Miss America 1998.

Pageant fans know that the first Miss America was crowned in 1921 in an effort to keep tourists on the Boardwalk a little longer. Only one woman won the title twice (1922 and 1923). There’s been one Jewish winner (1945) and one Native American title-holder (1927), but no Muslims or lesbians (yet) to wear the crown.

Scholarships weren’t given until Miss America 1943 suggested them. The pageant schedule, originally set for mid-September-ish, has often been in flux; in fact, it was completely cancelled during a few Depression-Era years.

In the beginning, there was no “platform” (it seems to have “become a thing of the past” today). Swimsuit parades clashed with feminism, racism quietly lingered as “an ugly underbelly,” countdowns were tweaked and the pageant once endured an attempt at reality TV. Political maneuvers and corporate rules now determine things.

Today, Shindle still gets the “What was it like?” question, and it’s complicated.

At first, traveling was fun and receiving gifts was interesting. Both became tedious pretty quickly. Shindle was happy to have a chance to work with HIV awareness, but was often instructed as to what she couldn’t say.

Winning the pageant was empowering, but with the growing popularity of the internet then, it was too easy to find forums filled with vitriol and even easier to fall into an eating disorder.

It’s very safe to say the majority of us never were Miss America material. That never stopped us from dreaming, though, which is why a behind-the-scenes book like Being Miss America is so much fun to read.

Shindle takes the (elbow-length) gloves off in this book, and tells the truth as she knows it—the good and bad of wearing the crown, the humor and difficulty of being an “ideal” woman, changes that title-holders have made within pageant workings, and the struggles some have endured. She does this with wit and passion, as well as with sadness; Miss America’s future, as Shindle sees it, isn’t quite so rosy but, with work, “she can become something greater than ever.”

I liked this book for its lightly scandalous humor and its tarnished-crown honesty, and if you’re a pageant watcher, I think you’ll like it, too. Grab Being Miss America, and you can wave the hours goodbye.

Get in on the action by watching the 2015 Miss America Pageant on ABC on Sun., Sept. 14. More details can be had at http://www.missamerica.org

BTown
More Words...
House Arrest
A Gentleman in Moscow

Living one’s entire life in a posh hotel sounds like the ultimate dream—think of the precocious children’s book character, Eloise, who ran rampant at the Plaza in New York, or Coco Chanel at Hôtel Ritz Paris in the 1930s. 

But what if you weren’t there by choice, rather as an…

more »
Vanishing Things
In search of the sacred

What if rather than proclaiming “I have a dream,” Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a scientific study?”

What if rather than invoking a “table of brotherhood,” he invoked sociological statistics?

What if rather than calling out for all people to join hands and sing to be “free at…

more »
What Happened
Behind the scenes with Hillary Clinton

Your vote counts.

That’s what you head to the polls hoping: That your single vote matters out of millions, and that you’ll have a hand in history.

On that note, about last fall, Hillary Rodham Clinton has a few things to say, and in her new book, What Happened, you’ll notice first…

more »
Events
Today
Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Bringing history into sharp focus

10:00am

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

U.S. Citizenship Class

6:00pm|Lynden Library

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

3MB

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Summer Bike Stories

7:00pm|Cafe Velo

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble
Tomorrow
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

3MB

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Grand Opening and Open House

11:00am|Social Fabric

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Clean Eating

2:00pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|downtown Bellingham

Art Night

5:00pm|SpringHill Suites by Marriott

12 Minutes Max Auditions

5:00pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Amber Sky CD Release Party

6:00pm|Presence Studio

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Poetry Party

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Upstream

7:00pm|Village Books

USA Dance

7:00pm|Majestic

Thriller Dance Class

7:00pm|Moles Farewell Tributes

Halloween Movie Night

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

Friday Night Flicks

7:30pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Holding the Light

8:00pm|Honey Moon

CWWarrenMiller Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble
Saturday
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

3MB

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

Lynden Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Terrell Creek

Scarecrow Stuffing Contest

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Landscape stewards work party

9:00am|Chuckanut Center

Pumpkins 4 Pajamas

9:00am|Lakeway Fred Meyer

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Pumpkin Patch on Rails

9:00am|Wickersham Station

Port race ponders a wasted waterfront

9:30am

Everyday Superheroes 5K

10:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Blaine Oktoberfest

10:00am|Blaine

Community Cider Pressing

10:00am|Chuckanut Center

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Enlightened Caterpillar

10:30am|Village Books

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Crown Jewel Wilderness

11:00am|Western Washington University Bookstore

Mushrooms gone wild

12:00pm

Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Conquering Writer's BLock

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Winter Birds of Whatcom County

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Undersea Bubble Fantasia

2:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Brew on the Slough

5:00pm|Maple Hall

Community Library Celebration

5:00pm|North Fork Library

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Bellingham Sportsplex

Seeds of Change

6:30pm|Edison Granary

The Great Unconformity

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Symphony's Gala Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Whose Live Anyway?

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Original Comedy Night

8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Trove Village Books CWWarrenMiller Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble