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personal advice ● pageant class By Dana Rosengard, Ph.D. Class is in Session PRETTY PENNY: Penny Pearlman (C), author of “Pretty Smart: Lessons from our Miss Americas,” poses with four of the Suffolk University Seminar for Freshmen students in November, 2012, after leading a discussion about competition psychology and how pageants can prepare young women for successful lives. Together, they look like a pageant Top 5! Through a very special class, Suffolk University students have been able to learn firsthand about the history, importance and impact of America’s most influential beauty and scholarship pageants C hances are most people reading this magazine— if not all of them—and therefore this article, are quite familiar with the differences between the two major miss-level pageants in the United States. You know that Miss America began back in the 1920s in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as part of a plan by local businessmen and hoteliers to sneak an extra week of fun and frivolity on their ocean shores. Originally just a bathing beauty revue, talent was added in 1935, scholar- ships were awarded beginning in 1945, the community service platform requirement came along in 1989, and Miss America became an annual television event, a social icon and the largest private source of scholarship dollars exclu- sively for women in the world. In 1952, Catalina Swimsuit pulled away from Miss America and started Miss USA and Miss Universe in the same year. Held at first and for years in Long Beach, Cali- fornia, the program quickly became another opportunity for young, pretty women with nerve and dreams. Miss USA moved its television event around the country and sent its crowned queen to the Miss Universe pageant that broadcast the live-via-satellite final competition around the world. But again this fall, for the third year in a row, I will wel- come a group of two-dozen or so college freshmen into a course who seem to know none of this. They don’t know the difference between programs or philosophies. They don’t know trophies from tiaras. They think the entire pag- eant world runs like some bad TLC “reality” show. And this is relevant because each has signed up for “SF1118—The Role of Competitive Beauty in a Modern Society”. Yes, I teach a pageant class at a major university. 80 PAGEANTRY The Role of Competitive Beauty is part of the Seminar for Freshmen (SF) program at Suffolk University, a mid- sized private school on Boston’s Beacon Hill, where I am a member of the Department of Communication and Jour- nalism faculty. The SF program offers a variety of unusual- ly themed courses that are each full-semester, 4-credit, intellectually challenging and writing intensive experiences for our incoming students. A required course for the fresh- men, faculty from departments and disciplines campus- wide apply to lead an SF section based on an area of expertise or interest. I have been involved in the Miss USA organization at the state level since 1986, first involved as a volunteer while working as a television reporter in Greenville, Mississippi. I went on to co-produce and emcee that show for more than a decade; work that I continued across the country as I chased my professional goals. I have been a Miss Ameri- ca Organization volunteer since 1991, first involved as a judge at a Miss New Hampshire local pageant. I went on to emcee the New Hampshire state competi- tion for a few years and continue to co-produce and emcee locals in that state. I also judge on the local and state level across the country. I am a pageant fan. And so I proposed my seminar for freshmen section and was selected to have it offered among the nearly 40 sections from which our new students choose. And presto—my class was filled to capacity both fall semesters it has been offered. Two things about both groups of students—first, they were all women; and second, not one knew hardly a thing about pageants beyond having occasionally watched them on TV or having been a couch-potato to Toddlers &