"Who is the most influential Texan in history?"
"Matthew McConaughey. He has funny movies and teaches us a lot about fitness."
A contestant in front of me during the preliminary interview at Miss Texas USA actually gave that response. She gained her brilliance from experience as a former Miss Teen Texas USA, the answer earning her a spot in the Top 15 on pageant night. No offense to my fellow Longhorn University of Texas alumnus -- he is a successful man with his own production company who will make any business think twice about a "no shirt, no shoes" policy -- but I doubt Fool's Gold will ever hold a candle to anything we remember throughout history about Sam Houston.
Now that the wind is dying down since the Miss California vs. Perez Hilton fiasco, I wonder when pageantry will stay where it belongs: the last century. I know you're going to ask, why then, did you enter a pageant yourself? I entered Miss Texas USA for the same reason high school guys ask girls out to the prom: to put another notch in my belt. I want to say I have done everything humanly possible we consider accomplishments, whatever that means in today's society, and having seen that a girl in Illinois earned speaking engagements before she ever even won Miss Illinois (and later Miss America), it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The pageant was good times, all right. I learned valuable information from eavesdropping in conversations among the over 100 contestants, things like the secret to losing weight in a weekend flush is Mexican laxatives you must buy online or across the border. If you spit out a pizza slice in a trash can after each bite you won't gain weight. Who cares if it looks really gross to onlookers? You're saving 500 calories! I also learned how restrooms smell after a load of girls vomit after catering or that if anyone sees you taking allergy medicine in public (me and my Benadryl) or ordering a fruity beverage at the bar as opposed to water (me and my pineapple juice fetish), you will be accused the rest of the week of having a severe drug addiction and possibly be on your way to the Promises facility in California. Seriously. If it weren't illegal to gun down fellow contestants in the alley, these women would do it.
There was a pageant book with each contestant's photo and title inside, and each time someone asked me, "Have you met this person?" I literally had no idea. None of the girls resembled their airbrushed photos whatsoever. Even more shocking was their attitudes. I don't know about other pageants, but Miss Texas USA gives you "celebrity" treatment for a week: a police-escorted motorcade, security, catering, press coverage and so on. The girls, who in their day jobs work part-time selling makeup at department stores and attend one or two classes per semester -- hey now, giving up any aspects of a social life, career or education for a one in 125 chance of being crowned Miss Texas and doing that each year takes patience and hard work! -- all of a sudden turn into Mariah Carey. That's all good and fine for Ms. Carey, a seven-octave Grammy winner. For unknown Miss Texas contestants to act disrespectful toward maids, waiters, and anyone "below" them behind chaperones' backs is not. I recall a very nice lady who was a maid, a teacher who worked to supplement her income in the summer at the hotel in Laredo, telling me how girls would cuss her out to "hurry the fuck up" and so on, and another girl left human waste in a toilet, telling her it was her job as a maid to clean it.
The attitude spread to their boyfriends, who bragged to friends back home that they were visiting Laredo in support of their girlfriends, Miss Texas Contestants. It's like holding up a trophy to the frat dudes that you bagged a pageant bimbo hottie. Never mind that all it really takes to arrive at the state pageant was either winning a city-wide contest or paying the entrance fee to bypass that right to Miss Texas USA (me). That's right, people. You can buy your way to a pageant, and suddenly, people will consider you "one of the most beautiful women in Texas." I should additionally mention that after curfew hours, boyfriends and alcohol were frequent guests at contestant hotel rooms and many girls recited historical facts about what it takes to win a pageant, knowledge learned from the pageant staple known as The Miss Universe Guide to Beauty. They could name state, local, national and international titleholders dating back to the 1970s.
Yes, the brilliance was apparent among the Miss Texas USA crowd. I remember an Asian girl from Houston asking me once when I was speaking Spanish with some restaurant staff, "Why are you like, speaking Spanish? Why are you white?" Actually, I'm part Hispanic, learned Spanish at school, and yes, I am really white looking thanks to that Irish/Eastern European side. But yeah, genetics never crossed her mind, or the fact that a lot of white people in Texas speak Spanish anyway. The fact that she was a minority herself asking that question makes all of it seem more ignorant.
When the Miss California organization created a huge buzz over reigning queen Carrie Prejean's breast implants, I wondered why anyone cared. Half of the Miss Texas contestants had breast implants with nose jobs and arched Botox brows (not kidding) to match. Girls selling jewelry at teenybopper stores like Claire's in rural towns have plastic surgery. Do you dare to tell me the current Miss Universe hailing from Venezuela is all natural, as well as the queens over the last decade, because I have seen Miss Universe 2008 Riyo Mori in person -- a "natural" Japanese woman -- and she looks like an Asian woman with Westernized facial features about to fall over forward from the weight of her chest.
I don't want to imply that all the girls in this experience were psychotic sociopaths with axes under their sparkled dresses. There was a decent amount of nice girls. They were funny and smart, beautiful, really interesting individuals proud of who they were inside out with hobbies to boot. Some were dance instructors, graduating college and NFL/basketball cheerleaders. That's why they were just left out of the "cool" cliques that have been involved in pageants since they were babies, girls who entered a pageant maybe this being their second time tops, who wow! Entered the pageant "for fun." Who does that? You're in this to bitch slap girls to the death until you earn that crown!
Having Miss Texas USA on my resume is pretty interesting. First, it causes people to remember who I am. Second, people forget and when speaking with me, ask me about what it was like to be first runner-up at the pageant or a former Miss Texas USA. If that's the case, there isn't a point to winning the pageant when people won't remember anyway, right? Third, and this is the best part, there is a notion that beauty pageant women, especially those in the world-renowned Miss Texas USA, are gorgeous creatures in the vein of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. It's considered adequate experience for modeling and television and ask yourself, how many people on the street remember Miss Texas USA's name or who won Miss USA three years ago? I would rather rank among Miss Texas USA's famous "ugly losers," like Eva Longoria Parker and Farrah Faucett. Whoever picked on Ms. Longoria at that year's pageant is probably at home barbecuing yesterday's potroast for her 85 children while she landed on Maxim's hottest women list.
I don't know how much longer pageantry will last in this country. You would think by now with Playboy and women in bikinis everywhere that men could care less about watching girls in granny panties-sized swimwear prance across a stage to win a contest that's rigged, predetermined a week in advance, a contest the real people don't even get to vote in. What is the appeal? Miss America has already been reduced to a retirement community worth of viewers on an ever-changing cable network. Really, CMT must have given TLC a load of kickbacks to have it, saying, "Take this trash! We could get more viewers if we played ten year old Shania Twain music videos followed by Hee Haw reruns!" Worse, Miss USA and Miss Universe are "no talent required" competitions -- quite obvious if you ever meet any of the talentless, brainless contestants -- so you can't claim people watch them for the great singing.
In the future, next time there is a vague statement balling into a massive political discussion, let's not take gay rights advocacy from a formerly pink-haired celebrity blogger who became famous for drawing semen on people's photos or hear the opposing side from a bikini-clad pageant girl each seeking their extended 15 minutes of cable news fame. Yes, she's beautiful and will probably be a leading actress, his blog is a guilty pleasure even I have read every so often, but Harvey Milk would roll over in his grave if he knew the day we finally made gay rights a public matter, it would be between those two people.
Follow Krystle Russin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/itskrystleclear