The Real Miss USA Scandal

Can we talk about Carrie Prejean?

Over the past several weeks, it has been perfectly impossible to avoid hearing the latest news about Miss California. I know because I have tried.
First, there was the media coverage of her “controversial” statement that marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. I bumped into those headlines on the Google News homepage for days on end.
Then came the inevitable ugly responses in the blogosphere, followed by a leaking of racy photos, a breathless wait for Donald Trump’s final decision on whether Prejean would keep her crown, and finally — predictably — a potential Fox News gig for the controversial young lady.
In the end, Prejean’s agreement with President Barack Obama’s position on same-sex marriage might have cost her the title of Miss USA, but her ill-advised previous photo shoots did not cost her the title of Miss California. Not that she needs the title for any kind of publicity at this point anyway.
Through all of the news coverage of the Prejean “controversy” and “scandal,” I felt there was one real scandal the press failed to acknowledge. And that was this: Why on earth was a woman attempting to answer political questions about a serious subject matter . . . while parading herself on stage in a ball gown and a bikini with heels?
Did I miss something? Why did the entire world, with its focus on the “controversies” in the weeks following the Miss USA pageant, seem to pretend that this combination of the bikini, the heels, and the ponderous questions made any sense whatsoever?
Well, I’ll go first: The Miss USA Pageant is a joke at best and a scandal at worst, because it exploits women’s bodies and mocks their minds.
It was particularly disturbing to me, as a woman and as a mother, to learn that Ms. Prejean’s recent breast augmentation surgery was suggested, scheduled, and paid for by the Miss USA pageant in the weeks between her victory at the Miss California pageant and the national competition.
Pageant official Keith Lewis explained,
I know so many women that have done the procedure and feel better about themselves and the way they present themselves. And I think that the question is, whether or not, when you’re looking at that procedure as an option, am I going to feel better about myself?
He’s got one thing right. Plastic surgery is about how women feel about themselves. But it’s things like pageant-funded breast “enhancements” that are creating a world where even a beautiful woman requires surgery in order to feel good about herself.
It was bad enough when I believed beauty pageants were machines that profit by selling the “product” of beautiful women. But it turns out they are machines that manufacture a “product” of surgically enhanced female bodies that meet naturally impossible standards of feminine beauty.
To which I say: Stay away from my daughters, people.
But I can’t keep all of it away from my daughters. One recent day at the supermarket, I noticed my five-year-old daughter looking at a glamorous cover image on a magazine.
“You know . . .” I began.
“I know, I know,” she interrupted me. “It’s not real.”
Apparently we’ve talked about this before.
Right there in the supermarket, though, I wanted to turn her face from the image, grab hold of her shoulders, and say, “That’s right. It’s not real. And don’t you ever forget what is real — the kind of beauty you cultivate in your heart, mind, and soul when you love and serve God by loving and serving others. Don’t forget that your immortal soul is the most beautiful thing you can imagine. And always remember that God gave you great gifts, only some of which you can see on the outside, and none of which requires surgery for perfecting.”
I do sometimes say those kinds of things to my daughters. But I think the most effective lesson I will ever teach them about true feminine beauty and real womanhood will come from the example I set by living it myself.
So here goes. My daughters are watching.


Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom (Pauline 2005) and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007). Her blog is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support for Catholic women of all ages and life stages.

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