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Monday, June 17, 2013

Miss Utah answer

"What's easy in life...being critical. What's hard....chasing your dreams." 

This is a portion of my Facebook status today describing my thoughts on the whole Miss Utah flub during last night's Miss USA pageant. By now, I'm sure you've probably seen the clip where Marissa Powell is asked about income inequality. She struggled through the answer, and now today, everyone is talking about it. I've seen people make comments questioning her intelligence--and even the intelligence of all women in pageants-- and it's maddening.

It's maddening because I've been in Marissa's high-heeled shoes. I competed as Miss Wyoming in the Miss USA 2002 pageant and honey, let me tell you, there is nothing scarier than a) a row of judges all staring at you while jotting down notes b) dozens of cameras, bright lights and hundreds of stage hands c) thousands of people in a live audience d) the knowledge that 5.8 million people are watching you from home. Does anything about the previous description sound like the nurturing environment you need to articulate your thoughts about income inequality, DNA testing or wire tapping?

Here I am praying the judges don't ask me about Osama Bin Laden

I can tell you before I competed, I practiced for months for the interview portion. It was right after September 11th and the country had just declared war, which meant my Army brother was likely going to be deployed. It was also the time when Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl had just been killed, and as a fellow journalist, I tried to think of every possible question the judges would ask me about our increasingly turbulent world.

Finally after months or preparation and planning, I felt pumped and ready for the preliminary competition. In my new business suit, I went in and faced my judges, excited to answer any tough questions they threw my way. But instead, I got this....

"Jeannie, I see here you like to cross-stitch. Why is that?"

Um, what? Apparently, I had listed cross-stitching as like #71 on my list of extra-curricular activities, and some strange judge thought that was the best thing he could ask me. You might think I would have enjoyed such an easy question, but nope, I fumbled my way through, realizing I never thought about how to answer a question like that. (Thankfully, this was pre-Twitter and Facebook, so no one could write, "Miss Wyoming bombs during pageant Q&A.")

As I said on Facebook today, it's very easy to judge others from behind the anonymous screens of our computers, but I think we should all take a step back and think, "Could I have done better?" Instead of criticizing Miss Utah, how about giving her a little credit for doing something 5.8 million viewers at home could never do.

And perhaps the next time we screw up at work during a presentation or conference call, we can laugh and think--mistakes don't make us stupid. They make us human.


  1. Too many people assume they know what it's like to wear another person's shoes, and too many stereotypes abound... good post here. I enjoy your blog a lot. Thanks. (P.S. - Miss you & Gene here on channel 8 in Indy)

  2. Thanks so much! I completely agree. Really appreciate it!

  3. Here is a great blog post from NPR about this topic...