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Masterpiece YouTube: Not Your Average Beauty Queens, feat. Queneerich Rehman & Alyse Eady

That’s So Jacob presents: Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 6: The Talent Portion of the Competition

One of the best parts of watching a beauty pageant is watching the section called “talent.” It’s mean to use quotation marks, but it’s true – these women might be beautiful, intelligent, and work for good charities, but not everyone’s cut out to be a performer.

But it’s fun to watch them try.

Most pageant performances are passable, a good deal are ghastly, a few are good, and only a very select few are what I would refer to as incredibleAs in, I would legit pay to see someone do this onstage. Popular choices include song and dance. Usually, that song is something operatic like “Nessun Dorma” that very few of the ladies can hit. You’ve gotta be able to store all that air somewhere inside that body of yours, and that place is not in your boobs or your butt. Even worse than opera are renditions of popular songs in a completely different style than what they were intended for. Exhibit A: Every single woman at Miss America who’s ever performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as Edith Piaf rather than Judy Garland. (Retire that song, America. It’s enough.) Dance is another popular choice. I’m partial to ethnic dance or some good Latin, jazz, or tap numbers that actually showcase some coordination or cultural awareness. Ballet and modern do not work as well. Frankly, ballet is pretty boring onstage unless you’re like one of those ballerinas on acid like in Center Stage or something. And modern? Well, you can pretty much get away with rolling around on the ground and yelling these days, so no points for you.

The next level up would be that of instrumental music. Piano is pretty traditional, but is boring to watch, unless you’re Liberace. Which I hope that none of these ladies are. Harp, guitar, violin, sax, or drums are usually a good choice, because you can move around or use some showmanship, and it’s interesting to watch. The odder the instrument, the better. I’d love to watch some girl one day play the tambourine like the useless youngest sister on The Partridge Family. Or maybe even the triangle.

And then…there were Queenie and Alyse.

First up is Queneerich “Queen E. Fresh” Rehman, Miss Philippines in Miss World 2012.

WHOA MAMA. This is some hardcore legit performance right here. It starts with some falsetto singing, but gets better and better. Not only is this lady insanely pretty, but she can beatbox.

Beatbox.

GENIUS.

Why had nobody thought of that before? Beatboxing has been around for ages, and if beauty pageants care anything about breaking stereotypes or being more “current,” as the case may be (and always is)…wake up and smell the coffee because Ms. Rehman is burnin’ down the house right here. Screw all the ladylike nonsense of ballet and singing Barbra Streisand songs – I want to see Miss Belgium break down a rap or Miss Ghana doing a hip-hop routine or…okay, maybe not twerking, per se, but how about something like crazy jump rope tricks or acrobatic dance or an old fashioned dance-off. Make it edgy and hip, and then maybe you’ll see your flagging ratings raise. And you know what else? Miss Philippines had a long ponytail and a gold outfit – no one would dare to call her unfeminine, and if someone did, they’d probably get the beat thrown right back into their face. The compilation is exquisite as well – for someone who doesn’t care much for pop music, she certainly got a lot of the basics from the 90s, 00s, and today, so kudos to her for the smooth transitions.

Next up, probably my favorite beauty pageant performance of all time: Alyse Eady, Miss Arkansas (a few years back as well).

Again, wow. Just wow. Ms. Eady clearly spent a lot of time on her craft and her presentation, because it is fantastic. Ventriloquism is something I couldn’t even begin to attempt, and I didn’t even see her lips move once!

Unfortunately, the Miss Universe pageant (like Miss USA) does not contain a talent portion, so, sorry ladies! You’ll have to leave your ballet shoes, bongo drums, and bass guitars at home for this one.

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There She Is?: Miss America 2014, The Day After

Usually, Miss America comes and goes without much fuss, but this year brought the controversy to a whole new level, and it’s a nasty one.

The show itself provided its usual “Miss America” moments:

  • No tripping, but several missed cues by contestants, most notably Miss New York (Nina Davuluri) – when she was called for talent, Miss Georgia (Carly Mathis) accidentally got up and walked toward the stage to sing and was told to turn back. In Davuluri’s defense, she was probably too spellbound by the lights, the adrenaline, and the moment to react, and earlier in the night as she made the top fifteen she had a similar moment, in complete disbelief that her state was called. Mathis, fortunately, got a chance to sing a few girls later. (Spoiler Alert: She was not good.)
  • Miss Kansas (Theresa Vail) in all her tattooed glory, which I found kind of distracting instead of AMERICAN. She did look great though and seemed like a tough but fun chick.
  • Some beautiful gowns, particularly Miss Maryland (Christina Denny) and Miss Minnesota (Rebecca Yeh).
  • Some fantastic talent performances, the highlight of which was Miss New York (explained further below). Other standouts were Maryland (she sounded good, but she didn’t pick a particularly challenging song to sing), Minnesota (great on the violin), Miss Oklahoma (Kelsey Griswold) who did an interesting musical theatre number, and poor Miss Florida (Myrrhanda Jones), made to twirl her batons with one leg in a brace (which she did, impressively)
  • Some pretty wretched talent performances, mostly Georgia‘s country-western interpretation of “On My Own,” and Miss Texas (Ivana Hall)’s off-key, totally un-sultry rendition of “Fever,”
  • For once, everyone tackled their final question well (except, obviously, Florida)
  • Since Brooke Burke-Charvet skipped her hosting gig this year in favor of Dancing With the Stars, Lara Spencer stepped in and was utterly inept at the job. (Even Gretchen Carlson did better than her!)

Although ALL THREE of my hometown girls (MD, TX, WI) made it, the ultimate winner was Miss New York, 24-year-old Nina Davuluri of Fayetteville, NY, a University of Michigan graduate of Indian descent. She is the second consecutive winner from New York, the second ever Miss America of Asian descent (the first was Angela Perez Baraquio of Hawaii back in 2000), and most notably, the first Miss America of South Asian descent. Although her evening gown was kind of meh in my opinion, she looked great in a swimsuit, answered the final question fairly well, and put on a show during the talent portion with a Bollywood number that brought both the wow factor and a healthy expression of culture. It also fit well with Davuluri’s platform, one of diversity, which is becoming more and more pivotal in the changing nature of American society. What we today deem “minorities” – Latina/o, South Asian, East Asian – will soon be the majority, and in certain parts of the country, they are already prevalent.

Within hours – actually, minutes – Twitter and Facebook were all in a tizzy over Davuluri due to her race. She was being called “Miss 7-11,” “Miss Al Qaeda,” and even “Miss Terrorist” by mean people on the Internet hiding behind screen names. She was facing intense scrutiny by the micro-media which was dangerously tilting its way towards the mainstream media. To top it off, she’s a) American-born, raised, and educated, b) Indian-American (not Arab), c) a very talented Bollywood dancer, d) Indian-American (not Arab), e) a great public speaker, and finally, f) Indian-American! NOT ARAB! There’s a difference, people. Yes, her skin is dark, but she’s lighter than a Kardashian on any given day. Middle Eastern does not = South Asian. Get a map, Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 probably has some. Also…did you even watch the show? Did you not see WHY she won Miss America? Not because of her skin color, but because of her fitness, her talent, and her poise. Her skin color was probably the last thing on any judge’s mind.

My thoughts were pretty much the complete opposite of everyone else’s. I thought that Davuluri’s win might actually be a boost to the image of the South Asian in America (although I have heard that the Indian-American community and India itself is quite pleased and appropriately celebrating her win). I thought that maybe people would become more curious about Indian culture and want to learn more about issues in the Indian-American community. I thought that people of other minorities would embrace the new Miss America and see her as not only a champion for Indian-Americans, but for minorities (and minority women) everywhere. Most importantly, I thought that people would think that this isn’t such a huge deal after all – a pretty girl won Miss America, she’s Indian, so what? Is there a rule somewhere stating that Miss America can only be white, with blonde hair and blue eyes? I can only imagine the uproar when a Native American, a Native Hawaiian, an Inuit, or (the horror!) a Latina wins Miss America.

I thought we were beyond that, America. This was a disappointing and shameful reaction. I wish Nina Davuluri the best of luck as Miss America 2014 – she’s beautiful, she’s talented, she seems nice, and overall, she won the competition fair and square.

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There She Is?: Miss America 2014

Since 1921, one of our great American traditions has been that of the Miss America pageant. It was started as a business plan in order to keep tourists longer in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and has now evolved to become one of America’s most treasured traditions – but in recent years, one of America’s most forgotten about traditions. At one point, there was a parade with floats, featuring the ladies in period swimwear, something that should make a comeback – and could, based on today’s fashions (Side Note: they had a “parade of shoes,” but it just looked like a bunch of girls elevating broken legs in convertibles in random dresses instead of vintage swimsuits). Miss America used to be a representative for the country, and a symbol for fashion, service, and talent, almost like a female version of the President. For the last few years, however, due to financial reasons, it’s had to relocate to Las Vegas, taking with it some of the kitsch and charm and making it more like the Donald’s Miss USA pageant. One year it almost lost television coverage, until it was saved by, of all channels, CMT. This year, even in light of Hurricane Sandy, it has moved back to Atlantic City, where it all started, so expect that to be mentioned more than a few times tonight.

So, this year’s contestants are, as usual, a fun bunch. Miss America gives out several awards each year, so here are mine:

The “Small Town Girl” AwardMiss Nebraska, JaCee Pilkington. Coming from tiny Minatare, Nebraska (pop. 816), if she wins, she will be, without a doubt, the most famous person to come from there. Heck, if she makes the semifinals, they’ll probably erect a statue of her in the town square. And given that it’s Nebraska, it’ll probably be made out of corn.

The “Sentimental Favorite” AwardMiss Iowa, Nicole Kelley. She was born with one arm, so that’s something.

The “Your Parents Named You What?” Award – Miss Florida, Myrrhanda Jones. Seriously, Myrrhanda? I get the biblical reference, but did you really think about how many times your daughter would have to spell out her name?

And of course, the best bit of trivia from this years competition.

The “You Thought You Could Get Away With Sending The Same Girl To Represent Two States Award” – Miss California and Miss Hawaii. Both are sending a girl named Crystal Lee. I can only imagine the hilarity and/or utter annoyance and confusion that ensued in Atlantic City. To top it off, they look pretty similar. In my mind, they’re pulling switches and pranking all the other contestants, and confusing the heck out of all the handlers. If they become the final two, I will laugh for days.

And now, my picks:

Of course, my hometown girl, Christina Denny, Miss Maryland, from Owings Mills. She’s super cute, so I think she’s got a shot. Next up is Ivana Hall, Miss Texas – though she’s not from Houston, I won’t hold it against her. This year’s Miss Wisconsin is Paula Kuiper, who is from Madison, where I currently live, so that’ll be fun to see if she wins. I’m not one of those pageant-crazies, but I did watch some of the videos, and Miss Vermont (Jeanelle Achee) seems like a pretty cool chick, if not derpy. Vermont has never even placed, so here’s hoping.

Here’s also hoping that someone makes history, trips over her evening gown, or at least has an amusing answer to the final question. Good luck, ladies.