Why do people watch Miss USA?

Another year, another Miss USA crowned. You likely won’t remember,  or ever know, but Miss USA 2014’s name is Nia Sanchez and she represented Nevada. Her crowning has made a few headlines, like this article about her final answer on sexual assault on campus (though George Will is the one really making headlines about this these days), but in general the winner was tame. No big viral YouTube moments. No “firsts.” Just a very pretty, thin girl winning a crown and a year working for Donald Trump (although the “normal” weight of one contestant generated conversation, which if you look at her pic you will realize is exceptional given how thin even she is!.

450312696-miss-nevada-nia-sanchez-is-crowned-miss-usa-during-the.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlarge by Stacy Revere for Gerry Images

What was different this year was that the pageant was THREE HOURS LONG. Judging by my Twitter feed most people like me (loyal pageant watchers) were bored. It took over an hour to even announce a Top TWENTY. While it was great to get that much time for a pageant on a Sunday night, I would have far, far preferred to see that time go to Miss America.

Yes, I am a bit biased toward Miss America in general, but this is also because Miss America has an extra component to the competition– talent. All Top 10 Miss America finalists used to have their talents televised live. I feel strongly this should return (and not in the reality format elimination way they do it now). Sometimes those talents are laughably terrible, sometimes just cringe-worthy, more often average, and occasionally really good. But at least there we see more than tan bodies, stick thin legs, and too much hair and make-up. Truly, some of the contestants (especially Miss TN with her Tammy Faye eyes and whose look made her look like an aging politician’s wife!) look like parodies of women. Talent remains one of the biggest differences between the two systems, as I mention in this news article out last week.

I was reminded of this talent issue because I DVRed both Miss USA and the Tonys. Thank goodness; see that loooong factor. I was surprised that the two were up against one another given that there is a substantial overlap in their target audiences. That said, it was so obvious that one three-hour broadcast sent a very different message and showcased a lot more talent than the other. You figure out which one is which. There may have been some over the top moments in both, but the one I mean had more authenticity than is showcased in this clip of what contestants would do if they won:

(Note that Nevada did NOT do this when she actually won!)

Despite all this, apparently I am wrong because ratings for Miss USA were UP this year and the total number of viewers increased over the three hours! So what do I know, right?! So I am honestly curious: why do 5 million+ people watch Miss USA? Obviously it’s for the beautiful, scantily clad women, but isn’t the Victoria’s Secret fashion better (apparently, yes, as they get almost twice as many viewers)? Miss America has more history and gravitas, even if most people can’t distinguish between the two. Is it for the judges (like Lance Bass who has recently judged both!)? Or is it timing and there is more on TV in September? Or something else entirely?

In any case, the winner was an early favorite of mine, so at least I was right there. And I have to say that I feel for the first runner-up, Audra Mari from North Dakota. She was also first runner-up to Miss Teen USA in 2011! Perhaps she can try to win Miss America, which has never had a Miss North Dakota win, next? So long as she has a talent!

Update: I LOVE some of these answers I am getting, especially since they suggest that competition is innately interesting and there is nothing wrong with pretty things and sequins. Great reminder! I guess you could ask why some people watch hockey or soccer or football as well…

Pageants are the ORIGINAL reality tv. I like to watch because 9 times out of 10, my “faves” are the winners. I actually take the time to read profiles, particularly for Miss America.

Because they’re fun. And because I like sparkles and drama and dresses that twirl. And I missed the point at which it became taboo to like these things, or to require a “larger meaning” behind every choice I make. The scholarship money was nice. The skills I developed were great. But would have I participated if I earned no money, and just got the crown? Yep.

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