Viewpoint: Don’t ask me why pageant Q&As matter

Rae Jefferson

Rae Jefferson | A&E Editor
Rae Jefferson | A&E Editor
By Rae Jefferson
A&E Editor

Beauty pageants do not sit well with me. Showboating physical appearance while claiming to promote various social causes, which often include women’s self-esteem, seems contradictory.

Nonetheless, I realize that pageants do provide women with the opportunity to promote things they may truly care about, and they are also fun for the ladies who participate in them. There is an added bonus if someone you know is competing because it makes the experience much more personal.

Most pageants consist of the same thing: introductions, in which contestants present themselves to the audience; a talent show; evening wear, which features participants in beautiful cocktail dresses; and question-and-answer interviews.

The one thing I really cannot wrap my mind around is the question-and-answer portions of these competitions. Contestants are fed questions about current events from around the world, and are then expected to provide coherent answers in a roughly 20-to 30-second window of time.

First of all, 30 seconds is not nearly enough time to provide a thought-out answer to questions that include educational reform, wartime efforts or medical epidemics, among other subjects. Second, being able to give a brief response about a topic does not actually show that contestants have developed an understanding of what is being discussed. Speaking about something in three sentences is very different from holding a full conversation over the same subject. Third, contestants are under intense pressure as they try to figure out what responses will best please the crowd – and judges – before them. It is understandable that ill-constructed and sometimes humorous answers are given. Fourth, this portion of the show expects 20-somethings to provide answers about problems professionals do not even have solutions to. What should we do about Ebola? How about ISIS?

Yeah, I don’t know either.

None of this is to say that pageant contestants do not have the ability to think through tough issues or give good responses. Young adults are the future of the world, so it is important that they understand what is happening around them.

The issue is that question-and-answer interviews do not adequately test whether a contestant is well-rounded or not. If anything, it proves that anyone can quickly skim news stories and recite what they have read, because the circumstances in which answers are being given are not conducive to realistic discussions about tough issues.

In the future, pageants ought to nix question and answer segments in favor of something more reliable. Conducting brief debates on current events would allow participants to display their knowledge of multiple sides of an issue, rather than just retorting with cop-out answers like “education” and “world peace.” Even having contestants give speeches on a social cause or current event would show that they have an understanding of the subjects being discussed.

Although the glitz of pageants is not necessarily my cup of tea, I can appreciate the hard work and dedication that go into hosting and participating in one of these events. Pageants allow contestants to raise awareness for causes they believe in, and although they also promote the idea of being beautiful and intelligent, pageants are lacking in the area of adequately testing participants’ awareness of issues that matter. In the end, Ebola cannot be blotted out with concealer, and ISIS is ugly – even while wearing a tiara.

Rae Jefferson is a junior journalism major from Houston. She is the A&E editor for the Lariat.