Ohio doesn't seem to have a Pork Queen anymore and neither does Illinois. Iowa is the only one rigidly holding to the cause. And in a way, I think Iowa is on the right track. I recently ran an eye over a website advertising upcoming pageants in Illinois (http://www.pageantcenter.com/pageant_calendar/illinois_pageants.html) and was personally astonished to find more than thirty upcoming events from now till the end of October. I'd always figured beauty pageants were annual or perhaps even bi- or tri- at the most. Granted, the Sunburst Model Search sounds like trolling, but the fact it recurs so frequently -- it sometimes occurs in more than one location on the same date -- seems to imply a niche it fills; the regularity of its recurrence only makes sense if people routinely attend. And the fact the agency itself has been around for 31 years... but the point is that pageants happen frequently. The reason? It's got to be the money right?
Well the money issue gets tricky. On the competitor side, most beauty queens don't really make enough in prize money to cover the cost of their preparations for a particular pageant. According to them, the purpose of all these gatherings is an extreme form of social networking. Contestants get together not only to win, but to meet other people who might be able to advance their modeling careers in general. Call it an auction where the cattle pays for itself to arrive. The other side of the coin is the income from said competitions. According to the Pageant News Bureau (everyone has their own media outlet these days) beauty competitions rake in nearly $5 billion dollars each year. Let me say that again. Beauty pageants in the U.S. earn approx. $5 billion dollars a year. And the numbers make sense.
First of all entry fees can range from anywhere between twenty-five and five hundred dollars. And that's just to get in. There are other fees which get tacked on depending if a competitor wants to get into specific categories such as "Best Dress" or "Most Photogenic." Each subsequent category entered increases the amount of items a particular competitor can then tack onto her curriculum vitae. In other words, the more categories you compete in the more credentials you may acquire; losing the crown does not mean going home empty handed. Other peripheral costs then need factoring in. The tab for contending in a State Miss (i.e. Miss Illinois) pageant can run as high $100 thousand dollars. One of the costs is the need for coaches to instruct and prepare girls for competition. A typical coach can bill almost $5 thousand dollars a week at a price of $1,000 per day. Keep those numbers in mind then add on the fact that about three thousand pageants occur annually drawing in nearly two hundred and fifty thousand entrants and that five billion starts to make sense.
(The sad reality, however, is that expenditures of this magnitude don't guarantee any kind of success. Jamie Swenson, Miss South Dakota '97 and three time Miss Hawaiian Tropic, once witnessed a dress that cost eight thousand dollars only make it to 6th in "Best Dress." This obviously begs the point that some kind of mass delusion must be occurring through which girls and their parents believe these expenses will somehow be recouped once So&So has won enough titles to make her a paid super-, spokes-, glamour-model, or any plethora of dreams that revolve around being the best looking person on the face of the earth. After all, once the statistics of success are put into view the probability of any of these girls triumphing, let alone to such an extent they become set for life, are so dismally slim that only someone desperate to escape from some particular reality would invest so much in what might be called a waste of time.)
So I say again, we need to bring back more of the niche pageant. The reason being that people are more than willing to spend gross sums of money for a taste of glory. The possibility of acquiring a bit of glitter for an otherwise dim future is more than enough carrot to get people's wallet out and bleeding. Don't think so? There's a reason alcohol consumption goes up during economic declines.
The economy is in a tough situation, and we need to give opportunities to those seeking unskilled labor. And since the real purpose of pageants is primarily to secure credentials and connections to further one's own modeling ambitions, it makes sense to have as many as possible. Thus the niche. It diversifies the field encouraging more competitors who will shell out money hand over fist just for the chance their life might get better. And who is to say it won't? Beauty pageants are one of the strangest forms of escapism in society as a whole -- there isn't a country in the world that doesn't have some form of beauty based competition. Yet, beauty pageants are no less valid than chronic substance abuse, through which a person experiences a distorted view of one's self, reality, and success. The thing is people want "outs" that let them experience more than their day to day has to offer (movies, television, deep fried food, booze, drugs, sex, etc.), and if there's a way to make a profit off it, isn't that the American way? The consequences of endorsing something hazardous are only considerations that will stop those who would never want said product in the first place; there's money to be made off people's hopes and dreams, but it takes an iron will to see past the human element and go for the gold; to paraphrase Igby Slocumb, it's bigger picture Darwinism at work.