Beauty pageants have become a staple of American culture. Each year, beautiful women are paraded in front of the country and one is voted “Miss America.” She is, in theory, supposed to represent the perfect woman; the woman that every man dreams of and every woman aspires to be. These women are meant to be the complete package, but that’s where they tend to run into trouble.
Of course, at the root of the pageants, they are about beauty. The competitions are about beautiful women. That’s what puts as*es in the seats. They’re supposed to be worldly and knowledgeable on some of the most complex topics imaginable, but they’re mostly just hot girls in their 20’s who have skated through the early portion of their life on their looks. They can’t be expected to bring about world peace or tackle complex issues like education reform, income inequality, and race relations.
Still, these are some of the questions these girls are asked. Some of them are smart and articulate, but the vast majority stick to talking-points when they don’t know how to respond. Because of the nature of these pageants, many of the contestants wind up looking like fools when they’re asked to speak, and here are 15 hilarious examples of just that.
15. Powerful Female Roles In Film, Like Prostitutes
When 2012 Miss America contestant, Audrey Bolte of Ohio, was asked about the depiction of women in film, she was on the right track with her initial take. She started by saying that it depends on the movie, which is true. Not all movies depict women as second class citizens, or even in need of a man to complete their life. She was beginning to make a decent point, but it went off the rails when she cited her example.
Bolte evoked Julia Roberts‘ role in Pretty Woman as an example. She was probably trying to think of a powerful actress in Hollywood, but missed on the movie she was describing. Looks like it went over her head that Julia Roberts was playing a prostitute who needed a man to lift her out of that life. Whoops! Then again, I’m not sure if contestants in a beauty pageant are the best people to ask about the depiction of women in the media.
14. Would You Rather
Would-you-rather questions are great to debate with your friends, but there’s always one party-pooper who takes the questions too literally. This happened to Miss Serbia and Montenegro during the 2003 Miss Universe competition, when she was asked if she would rather be fire or water.
After laughing at the question, the contestant replied by saying that she’s a human so she really couldn’t be fire or water. She’s a girl with emotions, and fire and water don’t have any emotions yet. Miss Serbia and Montenegro was like Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy, unable to comprehend the concept of a hypothetical.
The answer here is obvious, though—water. Water creates life and fire destroys it. Plus, we’re like 90% (probably not the right stat but you know what I’m getting at) water already, so it’d probably be a smooth transition.
13. Star Wars: Episode X – The Force Cringes
The talent portion of a beauty pageant is usually the hardest part. Not all of the contestants belong in America’s Got Talent, but they’re expected to come up with some sort of routine to wow the judges. Because not everyone has an exceptional talent, you’re going to come across some hilarious fails like this one from the 1993 Miss Arizona Competition.
Stacy Hedger’s talent was, on paper, a decent one. She was to play some trumpet and dance. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? The thing is, she seemed to barely know how to play the trumpet and butchered the Star Wars’ theme song so bad that it made every nerd in the state want to shove her in a locker.
The subsequent dancing after the trumpet solo was equally awkward and her transparent pandering to “nerd culture” was too tone-deaf to be taken seriously. Cringe-worthy is an understatement to her performance.
12. Healthcare Conviction
Healthcare has always been a touchy subject, and it’s hard to find a definitely correct answer. When Miss Arizona, Alicia-Monique Blanco, was asked about the topic during the Miss America 2009 competition, she was determined not to anger anyone in the audience.
Blanco’s answer was basically just about standing up for what you believe in—integrity, and right or wrong. She doesn’t mention healthcare at all in her response, which means she’s either really stupid or really smart. The she’s-just-dumb side of the coin would say that she had to talk her way out of answering because she wasn’t informed on the issue. On the other hand, she could have jumped through these vocal hoops just to avoid taking a side on a decisive issue. Either way, she ended her rambling statement by citing her conviction on the issue. She has strong conviction about having conviction.
11. Hawaii And…Others
During the Miss America competition in 1992, Miss Hawaii seemed to be stuck when she was responding to the final round of questioning. A lot of Miss America success relies on low-key pandering. You have to get all of the buzz words in there, like “freedom,” “liberty,” “America,” things like that. Sometimes, though, trying to remember all of that can force other important information out of your brain.
Miss Hawaii was almost immediately in over her head when she started answering the softball question, “Why are you proud to be an American?” She was throwing in “freedoms” left and right, talking about how America is great and all of that, but with no real coherence. The real fail came when she tried to think of another state outside of her own. She certainly had the “Ha-va-ii” pronunciation down, but when she said, “From the rocky shores of Hawaii, to the sandy beaches of… Hawaii…” it became clear that she was no geography scholar. To be fair, I’m sure Hawaii has both of those kind of beaches. She couldn’t speak for the other coastlines of the US.
10. Seeing Is Believing
As we’ve seen, hypothetical and critical thinking questions don’t always go well when they’re asked to beauty pageant contestants. Miss Philippines USA 2013 candidate, Joanlia Lising, was asked which sense she would pick if she only had one.
This is a tough question, and it’s hard to blame Lising for just blurting out the first thing she thought of and running with it. Having only one sense would be rough, and Lising latched on to sight. Of course, she didn’t say “sight” and only referred to the sense as “seeing,” making her seem like even more of a ditz.
Lising was clearly speaking through her stream of consciousness, even throwing in a “seeing is believing” at one point. Eventually, she cut herself off in the middle of a sentence, realizing that she was only digging the hole deeper with each word.
9. New Wave
The question portion of a beauty pageant can be the most difficult part, even for those who are fluent in the language. Miss Venezuela, Irene Esser, didn’t have the luxury of speaking English as a primary language when she competed in Miss Universe 2012.
Esser was asked about creating a new law and didn’t seem to fully understand the question. Still, she gave it her best shot, even though her answer made little sense. It seems as though she was saying that laws that are on the books shouldn’t be changed, but then she added something about being a surfer and waiting for a wave. It didn’t make much sense in the context and no one really knew what to make of her answer, but at least she has the excuse of not being a native English speaker. That’s more than can be said for many others on this list.
8. Evolution In Schools
The Miss USA 2011 pageant contestants were all asked a series of pre-recorded questions. One of which was, “Should evolution be taught in schools?” Each of their answers were presented and hardly anyone came out looking good.
There was only Miss Connecticut who simply said, “I do think evolution should be taught in schools,” without any expansion, and she seemed like the winner to most reasonable folks. There were a shocking number of contestants who thought evolution should not be taught in schools, and apart from a few others who hedged their bets on the side of teaching evolution, everyone else either said it shouldn’t or that evolution and creation should both be taught.
Again, no one other than Miss Connecticut came out looking good. None of them were articulate; even those who sided with evolution (including a girl who said she “took evolution in college). No one could adequately support their argument, and the whole video just made them all look dumb.
7. Frozen Solid
During the Miss USA 2016 competition, Miss California, Nadia Mejia was asked how we can narrow the gap between the rich and poor. Well, that’s a question for the ages. Isn’t that what everyone is arguing about? Nobody really has a plan that would work, and if Mejia had the answer, she wouldn’t be parading around in front of you allowing you to judge her on her ability to answer ridiculously complicated and nuanced questions.
That’s what she should have said. It probably wouldn’t have played but she would have been an internet hit. What she did was freeze up in the face of such a daunting task. Mejia composed herself, and said that the rich should give, the poor should work hard, and the middle class should come together and “find an in-between.” Essentially, she described communism, but was happy just to get away from the staring faces for a moment.
6. Affirmative, What Now?
It’s clear that not all beauty queens are as informed on world issues as we may like, and this is nothing new. During the 1995 Miss USA competition, Miss Minnesota was asked about how her career prospects would be affected if affirmative action was dismantled. It became clear that she had no idea what affirmative action even was.
She asked for the question to be repeated, but it didn’t make any more sense to her the second time around. You could see the judge’s face when the question was repeated, as it became clear to the room that this contestant was clueless on the subject. To her credit, Miss Minnesota tried to do a bit of word association, fixating on the word “action.” Her response made no sense whatsoever, but she tried her best to improvise her way through it.
5. Government Politeness
The 2015 Miss USA pageant was home to a couple of rough answers. The first of the two-batched responses came from Miss Rhode Island, Anea Garcia, when she was asked about political correctness. She responded by saying that it was a good question, but she was clearly stalling as she asked for it to be repeated.
When Garcia finally did give her answer, it became clear that she had no idea what political correctness was. She tried her best to word-associate her way out of it, but only made her ignorance on the subject clear when she said, “We need the people to remind us, especially the politicians, to remind us what to do right and when to do wrong.” For someone who had obviously never heard of the term before, Garcia did a pretty good job trying to figure out what it meant on the spot.
4. Race Relations
During the same beauty pageant in 2005, race relations was brought up in a question to Miss Nevada, Brittany McGowan. She had heard of the issue before, but hadn’t the faintest idea how to solve any of it. To be fair, it’s a loaded question, but McGowan stumbled about as hard as you can in her response.
She started down a decent path, saying more races should be grouped together, but went odd the rails from there. Her full response was that she would “Get more races grouped together and be able to be with each other in a non… let’s see… I think what we need to do is… uh… bring… we need to be more accepting of each other and bring people together… That’s what I think we need to do.” Well, well, well…welcome to Cringe City.
3. Gay Marriage VS Opposite Marriage
One of the more cringe-inducing and scandalous beauty pageant response came during the 2009 Miss USA competition. When Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was asked about same-s*x marriage by Perez Hilton, her response gained her considerable negative attention.
It looked as if Prejean was going to take the non-answer route when she started her response, but that quickly devolved into her personal belief that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and some people feel this way. But majority of the people watching and voting on the competitions do not agree with this stance, and she had to have known that. On top of that, it takes some pretty massive balls to say that same-s*x marriage shouldn’t be allowed right in a gay dude’s face.
2. Education…And Jobs
This example of buzz-word Mad Libs comes from the Miss USA competition in 2013. Marissa Powell was asked about income equality and what it says about society that women earn less than men even though they are the primary breadwinners in many American homes.
The more of these you see, the more you notice the coaching that these girls are given. In the event that they don’t know what to say, there are a few widely applicable words that can be spouted out in place of an answer. This was on full display during Powell’s response, as she regurgitated rehearsed lines about education and jobs. She realized that she hadn’t addressed sexism halfway through, so she pivoted back by saying, “The men…” and then proceeding to circle back to education.
1. Like, Such As
2007 Miss Teen USA’s contestant, Lauren Caitlin Upton, stands alone as giving the dumbest answer in beauty pageant history. You’ve undoubtedly seen the clip of her scrambled answer, and the internet was not kind to Miss South Carolina.
Upton was asked why 1/5 of Americans can’t find the U.S. on a map. It was a relatively easy question to answer. All she had to do was say, “Because education stinks in some areas.” But it was as if Upton opened her mouth and had no control over what came out.
Upton did reference education, but did it in such a roundabout and nonsensical way that it made her look like a complete buffoon. She tried to throw some buzz words in there, saying things like “South Africa,” “The Iraq,” “like, such as,” but couldn’t get her thoughts across whatsoever (assuming she had any). She sounded like she was reading the script Charlie wrote for Dennis in The Gang Runs for Office. Upton’s was the queen of “memedom” for about a year after this, and really shined a spotlight on how ill-informed some of these beauty pageant contestants are.