Miss America confronts a new reality

( AP )- She's been dressed up, dressed down, relocated and updated.

Now she's being mocked.

The latest chapter in Miss America's ever-evolving search for viewers and cultural relevance finds the heroine at the butt of the joke.

Her hair is too big, her hairspray totally '80s. Her makeup is clownish. Her gown belongs on an ice skater.

This year's 52 Miss America contestants haven't just been getting judged, they've been getting zinged in "Miss America: Reality Check," a four-part reality series leading up to Saturday's 8 p.m. EST crowning on TLC.

The series, whose final installment airs Friday, has tracked the transformation of beauty queens from old-fashioned "Pageant Pattys ," as some in the pageant world say, to modern "It girls."

It's out with the bouffant hair, the canned smile and the parade wave. Time to knock the beauty pageant on its sash, the show's tag line goes.

The live crowning also attempts to introduce a bit of edge. "Reality Check" viewers have been asked to vote via text message for their favorite contestant, who will automatically become one of the top 16 finalists. The losers will be asked for their commentary on the finalists, perhaps a chance to fire some zingers of their own. The contestants will wear jeans (gasp!) during the venerable opening act, the parade of states.

It's long past time for some new style and new sass, some say. The 87-year-old Miss America Pageant has seen a slow and steady decline of viewers for more than a decade. Discovery Channel-owned TLC is its second cable network since ABC dropped the pageant from its lineup in 2005. It moved from its longtime home in Atlantic City, N.J., to Las Vegas in 2006 in an attempt to build some momentum. It's already tried a menu of reality TV gimmicks, dropped the sashes, brought back the sashes and promised a return to old-school glamor .

"I don't think the past attempts were enough; they were little Band-Aids," said Sam Haskell, Miss America Organization chairman. "In order for us to survive - and I want us flourish, not just survive - we need a younger generation to support it and find it entertaining."

That means competing with reality television and, producers say, finding a Miss America who can go toe-to-toe with the Britneys and the Parises on the red carpet - though not at the night club.

"It's someone who doesn't go out and get drunk, but goes out and makes people laugh and has fun on the red carpet," said Sarah Iven , editor in-chief of OK! Magazine and a pageant judge, describing her choice for the tiara. "Not a young woman stuck in an old woman's suit."

Producers also are taking a cue from the YouTube phenomenon that was Miss Teen USA South Carolina. Video of the geographically challenged beauty queen struggling to find her way out of an on-stage question rocketed around the Internet in August. Many, many were entertained - at her expense.

So, along with receiving makeover advice, the contestants in "Reality Check" were quizzed about history and science in a segment called "Are you smarter than a Miss USA Girl?" Those who weren't were made to take a dive in a pool.

It failed to produce a YouTube moment, although Friday's episode in which some hopefuls struggle to remember the words to the "Star-Spangled Banner" has potential.

Setting the contestants up for potential humiliation and cracking jokes at their expense, however tame by reality TV standards, has ruffled the feathers of some longtime pageant devotees.

Born of a bathing suit revue on Atlantic City's Boardwalk, the pageant is fueled by a vast web of earnest and devoted volunteers who put on and judge pageants in small towns across the U.S. State "prep committees," often made up of middle-aged women, pick out and pay for their contestant's ensemble, perhaps an explanation for the stuffy suits. They've schooled their contestant in a tradition and a look - and it doesn't have much to do with red carpet style.

"I want them to be professional ladies," said Lois Elaine Smith- Zoll , a 70-year-old pageant volunteer from Vancouver, Wash., with 41 years of judging behind her. "They are mocking the old system. This young woman is going to represent our country, we want to be proud of her."

Jill Massee , whose niece is Miss Georgia Leah Massee , said more than a dozen family members traveled to Las Vegas to see the competition. Massee's hometown of Fitzgerald, Ga. has been sporting "Good Luck, Leah!" signs in shop windows. Pageant fans aren't fans of the reality show.

"I don't think it's going over so well," Jill Massee said. "I personally think it's a little bit degrading to the Miss America Pageant."

Haskell dismissed such complaints. The old school crowd may be the soul of the pageant, but it can't become the only television audience if Miss America is to have a future.

"If I brought Bert Parks back from the dead to host it, some people would be unhappy about that, he said.

Entertainment Tonight's Mark Steines will host the pageant from the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

The winner takes home a $50,000 scholarship and embarks on a year of steady appearances and charity work on behalf of her platform issue and the Children's Miracle Network, a pageant partner.

On hand for the crowning will be Miss America 2007, Lauren Nelson. The former Miss Oklahoma has spent the past year traveling the country to promote Internet safety, and appeared on the TV show, "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grader." Like so many other contestants, she wasn't, though she did manage to win $175,000 for the Miss America Organization scholarship fund.

Second asphalt layer of Ashgabat-Turkmenabat highway being laid
Second asphalt layer of Ashgabat-Turkmenabat highway being laid
Russian shipbuilding corporation plans to start construction of ships in Turkmenistan
Russian shipbuilding corporation plans to start construction of ships in Turkmenistan
Azerbaijan's Social Development Fund for IDPs announces winner of tender
Azerbaijan's Social Development Fund for IDPs announces winner of tender
Loading Bars
Latest
Airbus CEO says industry might need until 2025 to reach pre-crisis levels
Parliament's plan to increase subsides - costly for Iranian government
Ukrainian companies enter Uzbek commodity exchange
National Bank of Georgia reveals data on losses of commercial banks
Import of sugar and confectionery by Azerbaijan down
Demand for Turkish electrical goods on Kazakh market grows in 10M2020
Azerbaijan confirms 1,259 more COVID-19 recoveries
Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling in Iran
Azerbaijan discloses data on destroyed houses in liberated Fuzuli district
Baku Media Center prepares video covering Armenian vandalism on occupied territories of Azerbaijan (VIDEO)
Russian president hopes for participation of int’l organizations in Karabakh conflict settlement
Power abuse by major states prevents resolving conflicts - Russian FM
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy electrical products via tender
Turkmenistan offers business opportunities for Switzerland in number of fields
North-South Corridor - on Iran's agenda - Minister of Roads and Urban Development of Iran
Turkish, Russian military personnel to jointly patrol in Nagorno-Karabakh - Turkish MoD
Azerbaijan shows footage from Abdal, Gulabli villages of Aghdam district (VIDEO)
Egyptian air operator enters Uzbek market
Uzbekistan to introduce changes to electricity payments in 2021
Iran assigns more funds to complete unfinished projects
Turkmenistan's Turkmennebit opens tender for purchase of equipment
Azerbaijan’s startup sector expects big investments
Iran's ten-month import of steel from Turkey drops
Tesla set to breach $500 billion in market value
State budget for 2021-2023 approved in Kazakhstan following amendments introduction
Kazakhstan's bitumen output exceeds 2020 plan as maintenance works held country-wide
Port of Baku reveals total 10M2020 cargo shipments
New railway vehicles put into operation in Iran
Iran`s Zarif to visit Moscow and Baku despite postponement
Kazakhstan looking to double renewables share in electricity production
Iran continues to cut reliance on oil revenue
Volume of container transshipment between Kazakh, Azerbaijani ports almost triples
LUKOIL refusing plans to construct giant petrochemical complexes
Iran, Qatar sign an extensive Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate cooperation
Switzerland names main trade statistics with Turkmenistan
Dry cargo transshipments through Baku port grow in 10M2020
LUKOIL says reducing oil exports to Europe is inevitable
Georgia receives new buses of modern standards
Georgian hazelnuts exports up
Georgia sees increase in export of tangerines
Ryanair wants to be 'at front of queue' for new 737 MAX order
Azercell’s Mobile Eye Clinic joins campaign for IDPs initiated by the UN (PHOTO)
El Al to launch Tel Aviv - Dubai flights next month
Kazakhstan’s third-quarter economic performance benefits from recovery of oil prices
Azerbaijan informs UNESCO, ISESCO about results of initial monitorings on liberated areas
Turkmenistan’s private sector participates in dev't of poultry farming
Iran discloses plan on creation of new jobs in Yazd Province
Destroyed Armenian positions firing at Azerbaijani army during recent hostilities shown (PHOTOS)
Central Bank of Azerbaijan discloses data from foreign exchange auction
CBI announces Iran's external debt
Azerbaijan starts to grow bananas - Azerbaijani Ministry of Agriculture
Azerbaijani servicemen help Armenians to move belongings from villages of Aghdam district (VIDEO)
PAYSIS expanding range of innovative services in Azerbaijan
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for November 24
E-Space reveals volume of EVs registered in Georgia
Azerbaijan discloses volume of tobacco harvested this season
Russian insurance agency to fund Uzbekistan’s hydrocarbon raw materials production
Iran to boost apple production
Georgia reveals volume of exported apples
Income of Chinese contractor of infrastructural projects in Georgia up
We were able to get necessary international support in key issue for us - President Aliyev
LUKOIL says $40/bbl is worst case scenario for oil prices
If we had not created necessary legal framework for resolving conflict, we could have faced problems today - President Aliyev
Iran registers order at COVAX to buy vaccine
Air traffic reduces in Georgia - EUROCONTROL
Second asphalt layer of Ashgabat-Turkmenabat highway being laid
Russian Export Center discloses value of support for exports to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan's import of limestone, cement down in 10M2020
Aghdam operation was part of our plans - President Aliyev
Kocharyan and Sargsyan, you have knelt before us - President of Azerbaijan
We will restore the city of Aghdam - President of Azerbaijan
No-one should worry, especially leaders of Western countries - President Aliyev
Pashinyan imprisoning captures all opposition, West remains silent - President Aliyev
Many times when I was on line of contact, in trenches, I thought that one day we would return - President of Azerbaijan
I said, Pashinyan, you personally must give us a timetable, you must do it yourself - President Aliyev
We have destroyed enemy in hand-to-hand battle, crossing ravines, forests, mountains, and liberated Shusha - President Aliyev
Precious metal prices in Azerbaijan down
Victory on battlefield made it possible to liberate Aghdam district without a single shot - President of Azerbaijan
Today, many developed countries studying our experience - President of Azerbaijan
Some int'l organizations did not want to reveal identity of occupier in documents adopted - President Aliyev
We do not depend on anyone, do not depend on any country, on any int'l financial institution - President Aliyev
New gas condensate storage facilities to be launched in Iran's Asaluyeh County
Uzbekistan’s largest import of wood products falls on Russia
Uzbekistan eyes importing electricity from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy spare parts for analyzer via tender
Azerbaijan indicts Armenian ex-defense minister on another article
To those questioning support for Azerbaijan territorial integrity, I suggest they read UNSC resolutions - Former Romanian FM
Turkmenistan considering possibility of growing pistachios
EBRD provides Azerbaijan with loan to improve environment in Ganja
Georgia reports 3,128 new coronavirus cases
Uzbekistan’s gov’t ready to back Ipoteka-Bank
UNICEF contributes to dev't of Turkmenistan's action plan for its national strategy
Israel's Netanyahu says will visit Bahrain soon
Iran reveals data on new enterprises in Hamadan province
President Aliyev presents Holy Quran he brought from Mecca to Aghdam mosque
Turkmenistan introduces advanced technologies in oil, gas industry
Profit of Georgian banking system up
Raw sulfur output volumes drop in Kazakhstan
TOBB reveals total capital of Iranian companies registered in Turkey
Investments in Iran’s Hormozgan Province spike
All news