The History of Pageants: 1970s
Race, Feminist Protests and the Evolution of Pageants
In an important racial milestone, Cheryl Browne, win the Miss Iowa title and becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Miss America Pageant. Although she fails to make the semifinals, her achievement paves the way for the selection of the first black Miss America.
In protest of the 1970 Miss World Pageant, protesters hurled tomatoes, stink bombs and flour bombs inside Royal Albert Hall where the pageant was being held, charging that such events were a symbol of the oppression and exploitation of women. Police arrested a number of protestors.
In 1970, when the Miss America Pageant celebrated its 50th anniversary, officials ordered a specially-manufactured golden crown. During the telecast, as Phyllis George, Miss Texas, was crowned that year’s win and took her victory walk, the crown crashed to the floor, splattering rhinestones along the runway.
Phyllis George goes on to become the first female national sportscaster in the male-dominated television sports industry.
The Miss National Teen-Ager Pageant is founded in Atlanta as a scholarship pageant for girls. Sharon McLarty of Mississippi wins.
The Miss Universe pageant is broadcast live worldwide via satellite for the first time. The beautiful broadcast from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece begins a tradition of televising Miss Universe
pageants from exotic locales around the globe.
Marjorie Wallace is crowned Miss World 1973, making her the first American to win the Miss World Pageant. Soon after, she is stripped of her title after rumors of affairs with a string of famous bachelors.
Philippine First Lady, Imelda Marcos spares no expense to host the Miss Universe Pageant, only to have the event threatened by an approaching typhoon. Marcos calls in the military to seed monsoon clouds in an effort to diffuse the storm. Amparo Munoz, Miss Spain, wins the crown.
Rebecca King, Miss Colorado 1973, is named Miss America 1974. She raises eyebrows when onlookers note that she does not cry when she is crowned. The more serious miss then creates a stir when she admits she is a feminist and entered the pageant to earn scholarship money for law school. She goes on to earn her law degree and becomes a successful attorney in Denver.
Feminists return to Atlantic City where they stage a feminist conference and protest the Miss America Pageant. Oddly, that year, the pageants two most accomplished winners share the spotlight — Rebecca King, the no-nonsense 1973 titleholder who tells reporters she entered to earn money for law school, and her successor, Shirley Cothran (1974), a master’s degree recipient who later earns her doctorate.
Another scandal rocks the Miss World Pageant when the new Miss World 1974, Helen Morgan of Wales, is forced to resign when the media reveals that she is
an unwed mother who has been named as the other woman in a divorce case.
The children’s pageant system, Our Little Miss, has a banner year, when five of the seven girls selected from a major nationwide search to star in Disney’s new TV program Mickey Mouse Club are past Our Little Miss contestants.*
The Miss United Teenager Pageant is started. The Cinderella Pageant begins, quickly becoming a leading children’s scholarship pageant.
The Miss Teen All America Pageant is started.
David Marmel purchases the defunct Mrs. America Pageant. He revamps the cooking and sewing contest for homemakers into a glamorous televised beauty pageant for married women.
In a major racial breakthrough, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad-Tobago is named Miss Universe 1977, becomingthe first black woman to win the coveted Miss Universe title. The historic moment is televised live by satellite from the Dominican Republic.
The first black Miss Universe, Janelle Commissiong, crowns her successor, Margaret Gardiner, a white Miss South Africa.
Moments after the credits roll for the 1979 Miss Universe Pageant in Australia, the stage collapses as 200 reporters and contestants rush forward to congratulate the winner, Maritza Sayalero, of Venezuela. Eight contestants plunge through the stage floor to the concrete beneath and Miss Malta and Miss Turkey are hospitalized for minor injuries after rescue workers pull them from the debris.