Life’s Twists, Turns Because Of A Crown

Susan Page
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Wednesday - July 14, 2010
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In my last column, I wrote of the trepidation I felt about returning to Texas for the 75th anniversary of the Miss Texas Pageant and a reunion of “formers,” as we’re called, expressly because I had unconsciously volunteered to be in the production dance numbers. Disregarding age and talent, the show’s director put me in the Beyonce Single Ladies dance number alongside Miss Teen Texas 2009, a powerful dancer with abundant youth on her side. The other “Single Ladies” were the outgoing Miss Texas 2009 and formers 2008, 2007, a 1988 former and another “oldie” like me from 1967. My year was 1966. Do the math.

How did it go? After weeks of rehearsals - in the mandatory stilettos - on show night my husband, Jerry, who was in the fifth row, says I got through it “admirably.” (When he mentioned that my “head swing” was comparatively conservative, I offered to loan him the stilettos.)

Judging by the number of contestants, there are still lots of young women who dream of representing Texas in the Miss America Pageant and various events across the Lone Star State. Most now enter different local pageants several times in their quest for the coveted crown and valuable scholarship money.

Same is true here in Hawaii for the title of Miss Hawaii. That was not the case for me and most of the ‘60s “formers.” I was entered by my Tri Delta sorority into the Miss Lubbock pageant while studying at Texas Tech University and wasn’t a pageant repeat. Won one, lost one (Miss America) and that was that.

I’d forgotten that the nonprofit, all-volunteer Miss America Pageant Organization (as compared to the Miss USA/Universe System run by Donald Trump) is the largest scholarship foundation for women in the world. Close to $40 million in scholarships have been awarded.

Despite how media and feminists portray them, it’s simply a myth that Miss America pageant women are airheads. Miss Texas 1988 earned a Bachelor of Science and a master’s in advanced literacy instruction; 1979 was Houston’s first female stockbroker; 1974’s Shirley Cothran turned Miss America earned a doctorate in family counseling; and Jamie Story, Miss Texas 2004, has a degree in mathematical economic analysis and is president of Hawaii’s conservative think tank Grass Roots Institute. Educators, Realtors, journalists, entrepreneurs, artists, lawyers, business administrators, authors and public servants once wore the crown.

Perhaps because Texas is large in both size and attitude, many think it has produced the most pageant winners, but actually only three Miss Americas were from Texas. Tiny Hawaii has crowned two: Carolyn Sapp and Angela Baraquio. California, Ohio and Oklahoma lead with six each, and 22 states have never had one.

My time at the reunion rehearsing and hanging with my far younger counterparts (whom I lovingly refer to as the “toddlers”) acquainted me with a new generation that sees this pageant program as a means to an end: education, career and ultimate fulfillment as wife and mother. We forged bonds that transcended age, and though each is very different, we all seem to love shoes.

I pondered how different my life would’ve been without the Miss Texas experience. I met my first husband (deceased since ‘81) and father of my two children on my first Miss Texas appearance. As I pen this column at my daughter’s Virginia home and baby-sit granddaughter Emma, 2, I see that the rewards are far bigger than I could’ve ever dreamed in 1966.

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