What Can't a Beauty Queen Do?

Answers to your questions about the news.
May 27 1999 6:24 PM

What Can't a Beauty Queen Do?

The final question in Wednesday's Miss Universe pageant was surprisingly self-referential: What if Miss Universe breaks the rule against getting pregnant during her reign? (Most beauty pageants disqualify pregnant contestants.)

All three top finishers--Misses Botswana, Spain, and Philippines--said an exception should be made. Miss Guam probably agrees, though ruefully. She was thrown out of a preliminary round on Tuesday for being pregnant. In a mystifying twist, Miss Guam now claims she is not pregnant, but only ill.

All this naturally raises the question: What else are beauty queens prohibited from doing?

Having Children: The Miss America, Miss USA/Miss Universe, and Miss World USA/ Miss World pageants prohibit women with children, as well as pregnant women, from competing. Women who have ever been married are also prohibited. The rules don't explicitly require virginity, but that's clearly what they're hinting at. Rules against children and pregnancy could be justified by a beauty queen's rigorous travel schedule. But why else forbid previous marriage?

Posing Nude: Vanessa Williams won in 1984 but was asked to resign 10 months into her Miss America reign when Penthouse published nude pictures of Williams with another woman. Penthouse immediately started its own pageant. The Penthouse pageant involved no nude posing, but past nude posing was not a disqualification.

Dating: The New York Times reported in 1984 that Miss Americas signed contracts promising not to date during their one year reign and to travel with two chaperones. Pageant officials told Explainer that Miss America does not sign such a contract today, though she does travel with two female "assistants."

Cosmetic Surgery? Though it's a divisive issue, cosmetic surgery is currently allowed. The issue made headlines in 1983, when a cosmetically enhanced Miss California became Miss America. (She competed and lost in previous pageants as Miss Texas before the surgery.) Many fans thought this violated the spirit of "wholesomeness" that beauty pageants are occasionally thought to embody.

The official policy for the Miss Universe/Miss USA pageant is: "Although Pageant contestants are discouraged from altering their own natural beauty, no restrictions are placed on cosmetic surgery; it would be impossible to enforce such a rule. In fact, since 1990 the Pageant has allowed the use of padding in an effort to discourage participants from permanently altering their bodies for the competition."

In 1988, the Miss San Diego pageant (a feeder for the Miss California and Miss America pageants) appointed an "official facial plastic surgery consultant," who would advise women on ways to improve themselves. The unpaid position was done away with after its existence was reported in the newspapers.


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