Snubbed! Miss New York loses again

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There she isn’t, Miss New York.

The pride of Bay Ridge, Miss New York Bethlene Pancoast, was little more than runway roadkill for the so-called beauty queens at the Miss America pageant from such glamorous places as Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

I don’t know why I got my hopes up on Monday night, don’t know why I bothered believing for one second that Miss New York would get the tiara, the sash, the crown, the bouquet of bright red roses signifying a well-deserved promotion to Miss America.

I don’t know why I care. And then I remembered: It’s because they don’t like us. They really don’t like us.

The Miss America contest dates back to 1921 — when there were only 48 states, mind you! — and the winner has come from New York only three times.

Furthermore, a New Yorker hasn’t won the crown since Vanessa Williams did in 1984 — and then was promptly stripped because of some stripping she did a few years earlier.

Over the next 22 New York–free years, Miss Oklahoma has won the crown three times! Worse, Lauren Nelson’s win this year means that the Sooner state has now won twice in a row.

Look, I’m not going to pick a fight with my friends in Oklahoma. It’s not Miss Oklahoma’s fault that she’s the latest in a long line of airy blondes with middle-aged-lady hairstyles, a talent for baton-twirling and vaguely Southern accents who have hijacked the notion of American beauty.

This year, it was supposed to be different. By sending the raven-haired, tap-dancing, no-nonsense Pancoast to the contest, New York was saying “no” to the beauty queen-industrial complex that drives this, our nation’s most illustrious pageant.

Unfortunately, the pageant said “no” right back.

Pancoast, of course, is far too gracious to accept my premise that the Miss America Organization is not only biased against beauty, but also against the northeast (which hasn’t won since 1984).

“I really don’t think there’s a bias against us,” she told me. “The thing is, pageants are a much bigger deal in the South. They train for them. A lot of girls down there do it from a young age.”

I know that one from experience. When I was a younger scribe, I covered the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. And what a spectacle it was! All up and down the Boardwalk were the 50 state representatives — plus hundreds of hangers-on, including Junior Miss Talladega County, Miss Teen Cimarron and Miss Mariposa Butterfly Festival.

I couldn’t tell what was worse: the kids all trying to look like JonBenet Ramsey (herself a Little Miss Charlevoix Michigan) or the mothers pushing them to look like JonBenet Ramsey.

But Bethlene Pancoast never played pageant roulette. Her first competition was in high school. By then, most of her Miss America rivals had been doing beauty contests so long that their facial muscles were locked in a smile and their upper arms were grotesquely developed from all the royal waving.

It’s an unfair world. Pancoast’s killer tap-dance routine got her some points, and no one pulls off a bikini like she does (figuratively, alas), but the judges picked banality over Bay Ridge.

And for another year, the Miss America pageant is America’s shame.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at
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Reader Feedback

Dennis from Virginia says:
Well first of all I don't belive that the pagent has anything against new york oblivously it comes down to more than just looks and talent and while I agree that new york could pull off the swim suit her face is no were near as pretty as okalahoma. I personally think that Oklahoma is a much prettier girl however new york is pretty also maybe new york needs to re invent itself and see what happens
May 7, 2008, 1:43 am
Will from Staten Island says:
Great article, Gersh K.! An excellent deconstruction of the pageant industrial complex, as you put it. The USA has always been diverse -- and not just the Northeast. Problem is, the great Anglo-American expanses of this nation are filled with folks who worship a certain "type", both in looks and accent. Even if that's changing, the pageant people evidently haven't noticed. That's their loss.
Sept. 5, 2011, 5:17 pm

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