The origins of the Miss America pageant lie in a 1920 event entitled The Fall Frolic. Held on September 25 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the event was designed to bring business to the Boardwalk: “three hundred and fifty gaily decorated rolling wicker chairs were pushed along the parade route. Three hundred and fifty men pushed the chairs. However, the main attractions were the young ‘maidens’ who sat in the rolling chairs, headed by a Miss Ernestine Cremona, who was dressed in a flowing white robe and represented ‘Peace.
The pageant continued consistently over the next eight decades except for the years 1928–1932, when it was temporarily shut down due to financial problems associated with the Great Depression and suggestions that it promoted “loose morals.”
With its revival in 1933, 15-year-old Marian Bergeron won, prompting future contestants to be between the ages of 18 and 26.
In 1935, Lenora Slaughter was hired to “re-invent” the pageant and served for 32 years as its Director. By 1938, a talent section was added to the competition, and contestants were required to have a chaperone.
In 1940, the title officially became “The Miss America Pageant” and the pageant was held in Atlantic City’s Convention Hall.
In 1944, compensation for “Miss America” switched from “furs and movie contracts” to college scholarships, an idea generally credited to Jean Bartel, Miss America 1943.
During the early years of the pageant, under the directorship of Lenora Slaughter, it became segregated via rule number seven that stated: “contestants must be of good health and of the white race.” Rule number seven was abolished in 1950.
Miss New York 1945, Bess Myerson, the only Jewish American winner to date, became Miss America 1945 and faced antisemitism during her time as Miss America, leading to a cutback in her official duties.
Although there were Native American, Latina, and Asian-American contestants, there were no African-American contestants for fifty years (African-Americans appeared in musical numbers as far back as 1923, however, when they were cast as slaves).
In 1970, however, Cheryl Browne, Miss Iowa 1970, competed as the first African-American contestant in the Miss America 1971 pageant. She also participated in one of the last USO-Miss America tours in Vietnam. A decade later in 1983, Miss New York (and Miss Syracuse) 1983, Vanessa Williams (the first African-American woman to win the competition as Miss America 1984), faced discrimination in response to her win and later resigned under pressure due to a scandal involving nude photographs.Three decades after these events, Miss New York (and Miss Syracuse) 2013, Nina Davuluri, the first Indian-American woman to win the crown as Miss America 2014, faced xenophobic and racist comments in social media when she won. Two years later at the Miss America 2016 pageant, Miss America CEO Sam Haskell apologized to Vanessa Williams (who was serving as
Three decades after these events, Miss New York (and Miss Syracuse) 2013, Nina Davuluri, the first Indian-American woman to win the crown as Miss America 2014, faced xenophobic and racist comments in social media when she won. Two years later at the Miss America 2016 pageant, Miss America CEO Sam Haskell apologized to Vanessa Williams (who was serving as head judge) for what was said to her during the events of 1984.
The next Miss America will soon be crowned, just as a deadly hurricane slams into Florida and not long after another one inundated Texas.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have been a backdrop to the Miss America preliminary competition this week, with contestants from storm-tossed or threatened states sending messages of support and promises of prayers to those in harm’s way.
Contestants from Texas and Florida have each won a preliminary competition leading into Sunday’s nationally televised finale.
Miss Texas Margana Wood gave a shout-out to her flooded hometown, Houston; she won Wednesday night’s swimsuit preliminary.
Miss Florida Sara Zeng won Friday’s swimsuit prelim, and promised she’ll be part of the post-Irma cleanup and recovery effort, whether as Miss America or not.
It’s an open question how many people in pageant-obsessed parts of the country will even be able to watch the finale on TV, with thousands displaced in Texas and nearby, and a massive evacuation having been ordered for Florida; power outages already had begun by Saturday night.
The 97th Miss America competition will take place at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, where it originated as a way to extend summer tourism to the weekend after Labor Day.
The 51 contestants – one from each state plus the District of Columbia – will be vying to succeed the outgoing Miss America Savvy Shields, who won the title last September as Miss Arkansas.
Miss Louisiana Laryssa Bonacquisti was off to a good start heading into the home stretch: She won swimsuit and talent preliminaries on successive nights Thursday and Friday.
There’s one big change to this year’s finale. Contestants nearing the finish line will face a second round of onstage questioning as judges narrow the field. Sam Haskell, executive chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization, said the second round of onstage interviews is designed to bring out more about the contestants.
The finale will be broadcast live on ABC beginning at 9 p.m. EDT.
Before that, in a ceremony that TV viewers will not see, 12 Gold Star mothers will be honored onstage as honorary Miss Americas for life, and will talk about their sons who were killed while serving in.
All week, the 51 contestants in the Miss America 2018 pageant have been vying for the crown in preliminary competition at Boardwalk Hall. Now it’s time for the main event: the pageant final.
Here’s the viewing information for this year’s pageant: The 2018 Miss America pageant airs live from Atlantic City at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10 on ABC.