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Miss America

The Miss America pageant is a long-standing pageant competition which awards prizes to young women contestants from the states of the United States of America. The first prize winner of the national pageant is awarded the title of "Miss America" for one year.

It originated on September 7, 1921 as a beauty contest in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Miss America Pageant now prefers to avoid terms like "beauty contest" since beauty is no longer the only criterion used to judge contestants. Some involved with the organization say that "other pageants are looking for a model, but Miss America is looking for a role model".

Miss America is connected to various subsidiary programs throughout the U.S.A. Local contests select local representatives (e.g., "Miss Mobile, Alabama") who go on to participate in state pageants (e.g., for "Miss Alabama"). The winners of the various state pageants (plus a pageant for "Miss District of Columbia") go on to compete for the title of "Miss America" at an annual competition held in Atlantic City.

In the early years of the pageant, a beauty competition of the women wearing bathing suits was the main event of the competition. When the Miss America organization decided to make this a less important part of the competition, swimsuit-making sponsors started their own separate pageant, "Miss USA".

Contestants for Miss America and the various state and local pageants are selected by panels of judges based on a set of four competitions:

1)Interview Each contestant converses with the judges on a variety of topics, from frivolous trivia to serious political and social issues. The contestant is awarded points for being well spoken, polite, articulate, and confident. This competition is less known by the general public than other aspects of the pageant, since unlike the other three does not take place on a theater stage nor is it usually televised.
2)Talent The contestant performs on stage before the judges and an audience. The most common "talents" are singing or dancing, but a variety of other "talents" may be exibited at the contestant's choosing; some have demonstrated juggling or playing musical instruments; one even chose to demonstrate the proper way to pack a suitcase.
3)Swimsuit In the famous swimsuit competition constestants walk rapidly on and off stage in swimsuits and high-heeled shoes. The Miss America pageant regulates certain minimum standards of modesty the swimwear must comply with.
4)Evening gown Similar to the swimsuit competiton, but the contestants walk slowly in formal evening gowns.

Prizes are given at local, state, and national level, consisting most commonly of scholarships for use in higher education, sometimes suplimented with money and merchandise donated by sponsors.

The Miss America Pageant has been nationally televised since 1954. From 1955 through 1979 the long-term emcee of the Miss America Pageant was Bert Parks.

In the 1990s the pageant was reformed into The Miss America Organization, a not-for-profit corporation with three divisions: the Miss America Pageant, a scholarship fund, and a Miss America foundation.


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