Miss America finalists face pretty tough questions on complex issues

Participants of the Miss America 2018 Pageant. The top five finalists at the pageant all faced politically charged questions on complex current events.
Participants of the Miss America 2018 Pageant. The top five finalists at the pageant all faced politically charged questions on complex current events.PHOTO: TWITTER/CARA MUND

NEW YORK (WASHINGTON POST) - Politics made a brief appearance at the Miss America pageant in September 1969. Most of the finalists faced questions like "At what age will you marry?" and "What would you do if you didn't like your brother's girlfriend?"

But Miss Minnesota was asked whether she thought the United States would ever have a female president, and why would it take so long.

The days of soft questions are long gone.

Earlier this week, the top five finalists at the Miss America Pageant all faced politically charged questions on complex current events.

Miss Missouri was asked whether President Donald Trump's campaign was guilty of colluding with Russia. Miss Texas had to assess whether all the protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, really were "very fine people" as Mr Trump had said.

Miss New Jersey faced a question about what to do with Confederate statues, and Miss District of Columbia tackled whether legislators should ban full-contact football for elementary-age players given the concussion risk.

Miss North Dakota, who took the crown that night, was grilled about the Paris agreement to tackle climate change.

Clearly, what is expected of Miss America has changed. Though some aspects of the pageant are not so different - contestants still must don swimsuits and evening wear for the judges - the final interview has become increasingly political, to the point that Miss America contestants are treated as if they were seeking public office instead of a crown.

And that interview, which gets the most news coverage, is increasingly defining the competition to the public.

The final question, which the Miss America Organisation calls an "opportunity to distinguish awareness of issues relevant to Miss America and young women in today's world", constitutes 20 per cent of each contestant's final score.

The popular pageant wisdom is that you cannot necessarily win with a great final answer but you can lose with a bad one.

Whatever the question, each contestant has only 20 seconds to answer a complex question, not unlike a political debate.