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Miss America Overcomes Enormous Obstacles

Why the contest still matters – a lot.

You had to be a die-hard fan to watch the Miss America pageant on Jan. 14. For the third year in a row, there wasn’t a single US broadcast outlet willing to televise the event. The famed lyrics, “There she is … Miss America,” could easily have been exchanged for “Where is she?” because the final competition could only be found streaming on WatchMissAmerica.com.

Only those with the ability to view their smartphones on their televisions at home could see the iconic American event on a bigger screen. Otherwise they were relegated to watching on a six-by-three-inch phone – which is not optimal. And so it seemed that “overcoming obstacles” could have been the catchphrase for Miss America this year – literally and figuratively.

Miss America – The Contestants Impress

Winners of 50 statewide competitions and the District of Columbia competed for the honor of becoming the standard-bearer of the historic and coveted crown. Ultimately Miss Colorado, Airman 2nd Lt. Madison Marsh, won. And a winner she is.

A US Air Force Academy graduate and the first-ever active-duty military service member to become Miss America, Marsh is working toward a master’s degree in public policy at Harvard.

Miss Colorado inspired viewers – and apparently the judges as well – with a dramatized version of what earning her wings at age 16 in her first-ever solo flight was like. She dazzled in a flowing but not overly fussy red satin dress for the evening gown portion of the competition. She spoke eloquently of the Whitney Marsh Foundation, named in honor of her late mother, who passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 41.

In a way, Marsh is an ideal spokesperson for the Miss America of today, which has grown from a beauty pageant to a rigorous competition focusing on physical fitness, intelligence, and public service. Winners receive a $50,000 scholarship and a mammoth platform to advance their social causes.

Liberty Nation spoke exclusively with Tricia Lloyd, former Miss District of Columbia 1988, who now serves as a board member of the Miss District of Columbia Scholarship Program, about the priorities of today’s Miss America contest. “Every contestant has their own projects and programs that they work on to help for the betterment of the community. It can range from anything from music education to the American Heart Association,” she explained.

Jude Mabone

Courtesy of Jude Maboné, Miss District of Columbia 2023

As an example, Lloyd spoke about Jude Maboné, Miss District of Columbia 2023, who is a 28-year-old heart attack survivor. “She is a dynamo,” Lloyd said, adding, “She has a degree from American University in International Studies, is fluent in American Sign Language, and since a young age, she has been promoting heart health.”

Hits and Misses for Miss America TV

In a presentation that didn’t deliver, one has to wonder if those contestants who poured their heart and soul into the event were well served. The hosts of the program, Terrence J and Nikki Novak, were staggeringly trite and predictable in their comments. This viewer noted 26 “amazings” before losing count.

Bert Parks, who hosted the event from 1955 to 1979, they were not. As such, Miss America fans roasted them on social media for their lack of originality. One critic aired her thoughts on X, positing, “Here’s a round of applause to all [of] us! You’ve got to be DEDICATED to #MissAmerica to sit through this and the bad production to see who wins the crown!”

Sadly, the presentation, held at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, FL, was riddled with trouble spots: microphones not turned on, stagehands visibly removing props, dead air — all anathema for a production worthy of televising.

While acknowledging the change in generational viewership, Lloyd made a compelling point: “There are many volunteers that would love to see it back on national network television. And we just appeal to the networks. My goodness, take advantage of this wonderful opportunity for America and put it back on network television. It’d be great to see it there, and I think whatever network does would benefit from it.”

Amen and amen.

Despite the production errors, contestants rose above it all, performing seamlessly from beginning to end. In its current form, the Miss America pageant has left behind the superficial notions of beauty, you know, those on display in a bathing suit – tiny waist, legs up to there, swaying hips. Today the women are celebrated for their talent, intellect, and accomplishments. What could be more inspirational than championing the pursuit of personal and professional goals?

Read More From Leesa K. Donner

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