• $23.99

Publisher Description

<p>For nearly a hundred years, young women have competed for the title of Miss America&mdash;although what it means to wear the crown and be our &ldquo;ideal&rdquo; has changed dramatically over time. The Miss America Pageant began as a bathing beauty contest in 1920s Atlantic City, New Jersey, sponsored by businessmen trying to extend the tourist season beyond Labor Day. In the post&ndash;World War II years, the pageant evolved into a national coronation of an idealized &ldquo;girl next door,&rdquo; as pretty and decorous as she was rarely likely to speak her mind on issues of substance. Since the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, the pageant has struggled to find a balance between beauty and brains as it tries to remain relevant to women who aspire to become leaders in the community, not hot babes in swimsuits.</p><p>In <cite>Being Miss America</cite>, Kate Shindle interweaves an engrossing, witty memoir of her year as Miss America 1998 with a fascinating and insightful history of the pageant. She explores what it means to take on the mantle of America&rsquo;s &ldquo;ideal,&rdquo; especially considering the evolution of the American female identity since the pageant&rsquo;s inception. Shindle profiles winners and organization leaders and recounts important moments in the pageant&rsquo;s story, with a special focus on Miss America&rsquo;s iconoclasts, including Bess Myerson (1945), the only Jewish Miss America; Yolande Betbeze (1951), who crusaded against the pageant&rsquo;s pinup image; and Kaye Lani Rae Rafko (1987), a working-class woman from Michigan who wanted to merge her famous title with her work as an oncology nurse. Shindle&rsquo;s own account of her work as an AIDS activist&mdash;and finding ways to circumvent the &ldquo;gown and crown&rdquo; stereotypes of Miss America in order to talk honestly with high school students about safer sex&mdash;illuminates both the challenges and the opportunities that keep young women competing to become Miss America.</p>

September 1
University of Texas Press
University of Texas at Austin