"Beauty," class" and "elegance" are words that describe the woman that holds the title of Miss America. But such positive words are a far cry from the vicious attacks that former Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell once sent via email.
Haskell, a native of Mississippi, served as the chairman of the Miss America Organization from 2005-2017. In the early 2000s, thanks to the likes of shows such as "Toddlers and Tiaras," the pageant circuit had become one of ridicule and a way to become famous. However, under Haskell, the Miss America pageant rose to its former glory. It was a surge in the age old idea that pageantry served as a way to empower women. However, the objectivity of a woman's body that was present in the emails serve as a far cry from what his organization truly represents.
The vulgarity in the emails is quite shocking. If someone in a major company said vulgar slurs about a woman, much less a former Miss America, it would be expected that they would be fired as soon as possible. So why were the emails allowed to continue on for so long? The answer to that question at the current moment is not quite clear. However, with time, hopefully those affected will get the answers they so desperately search for.
Former Miss Americas have been quite vocal in their opinions of Haskell in the past. Chair of Actor's Equity and Miss America 1998 Kate Shindle had been wished dead. In another email, former Fox News Host Gretchen Carlson and Miss America 1989 had been called "the devil." It seems that for Haskell, it was less about creating a sisterhood within the organization and more about what vulgar insult he could hurl at former contestants and titleholders.
One of the more discussed titleholders in the subject lines of the emails was Miss America 2013, Mallory Hagan. Hagan was a vocal advocate of Haskell's since her reign ended in 2013 and true colors came to light. Hagan said that once the shock of the inner dealings of Haskell's wore off, it was “a relief” that his behavior was finally known to the general public.
Now, the Miss America Organization faces a new era with the welcoming in of a former sister. On January 1, 2018, Gretchen Carlson became the first former Miss America to also hold the title of chairwoman. Although it has only been five days since the announcement was made, Carlson is already getting to work on the future of the pageant. Hopefully, Carlson's hiring is a step in the right direction for the Miss America organization and its pageants.
Contestants in the Miss America organization have tuned to writing poetry about their experiences as a way to combat backlash. It's in those poems that the true spirit of the Miss America Organization is shown. Sisterhood, a value that Miss America is so known for highlighting, also comes about. It's through the sisterhood that young girls and women find their voices in the world.
I truly believe that the Miss America Organization is one that deserves to be in the national spotlight. There, girls that will one day turn into our next generation of leaders can find role models. The 2018 class was one of not only diverse ethnicities, but of talents, too; Miss Louisiana 2017 got to perform her ventriloquist act on the national stage.
The Miss America Organization reflects on the diversity not only of its contestants, but of the states they are from. While I do think that there was a mishap in the troubling behavior of Sam Haskell, I know that the Miss America Organization will continue to have an impact on society. People recover from mishaps on a daily basis, and with a new year starting, it is the perfect time for a clean slate.