Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Miss America Meets Little Miss Mini Maid

Gianna cozying up with the judge
Miss Elizabeth from Romper Room
People often say that I have a former beauty queen vibe, that I am a picture of pure feminity.  The truth is, they’re right; I was born to ride the pageant train. I knew at the tender age of four as my tiny fingers wrapped around that bouquet of runner up flowers (rot in hell adorable winner #10!) the pageant loss would haunt me forever (and by haunt I mean scar).

Kate Shindle
I tell you this as an introduction to a book that I should have written but, unfortunately, Kate Shindle beat me to the punch. When I look at Kate it’s like looking in a mirror.  A couple of old pageant broads! Me, fresh from (in some circles forty years is still mighty fresh) the world famous Little Miss Mini Maid Contest (sponsored by Carson Pirie Scott – talk about fresh) and Kate, the 1998 Miss America Pageant winner. Like looking in a mirror…

Kate’s book, Being Miss America: Behind the Rhinestone Curtain, is part pageant history and part memoir. For example you’d be surprised to know that the pageant was started pretty much for the same reason Facebook was started: to ogle women and advertise stuff.  In the book, Kate insinuates that the pageant is a bit antiquated. As an example she tells the story of traveling to communities all over the country to talk about HIV and AIDS prevention (her platform in 1998 and still her passion today). The Pageant thought that was great but they asked her to not use the word "condom." I know, what’s so antiquated about that?  She also thinks having women parade around in bikinis in order to receive a college scholarship is…. I want to say antiquated again, but let’s just say, icky. Like we say in the Little Miss Mini Maid circles, "why in the world is someone over the age of seven even in a bikini?"  Weird.
I was robbed! (of a childhood)

I like to call Being Miss America a thinking woman’s history of the pageant. It’s not dismissive of pageant history, nor the platform and opportunities it afforded Kate, including helping pay her way through Northwestern University (yea, Shindle’s no dummy).  Her relationship with winning Miss America is complicated to say the least. She is thoughtful, fair, and honest in this really well written memoir. Oh, and now that the book is out in the world, she is totally on the Miss America Pageant’s shit list…which I sort of love her for.

Kate created a stir by not wearing
the crown in this official photo
Speaking of loving her, Kate came to Austin to meet with the publicity and marketing departments at the press. I am in the sales department but you can bet I hightailed my lesbian ass right on into that meeting.  I sat close enough to her to hold hands…which in hindsight I can see  that it made her uncomfortable every time I stretched my hand out and tried to touch hers.  Anyway, I would say we were about seven minutes into the meeting when Kate dropped the F-bomb. I couldn’t help but think…put a Johnny Walker in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and man o man, I could absolutely fall in love. Now that’s a Miss America I can get behind (but have been asked to stay at least 500 yards from. And by "asked" I mean ordered by a court).

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