The Morning File / Thanks, Sheena Monnin, for the inspiration

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Gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen-turned-ladies, did it really have to come to this?

You take a time-honored, prestigious competition like the Miss USA pageant, which has spent six decades giving the beautiful women of America a leg up in overcoming disadvantages like jealousy from other females and tongue-tied slobbering among men, and you turn it into a sorry spectacle of back-biting and smack talk.

We're talking to you, Donald Trump and former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin (not to be confused with Miss Pennsylvania Jordyn Colao, who just two weeks ago quietly won the state version of the rival Miss America competition and presumably by now is closing in on her goal of preventing cardiovascular disease in the United States -- or at least Pennsylvania, since it's the only domain over which she has pageant queen power for now).

It's a shame, Mr. Trump, that you've done so much for two of the inspiring innovations of 21st century America -- reality television and the birther movement -- but risk losing your lofty status if you can't come out of this pageant dispute with your head of hair held high (or, well, almost as high as it already is).

And Ms. Monnin, with your fancy-pants University of Phoenix psychology degree and other assets that only you and your plastic surgeon know the real truth about, you've really stirred things up with your accusation that the Miss USA pageant is fixed. On top of that, you've complained publicly about Mr. Trump's willingness to have a transgender woman compete for the pageant title.

And on top of on top of that, you've resigned your title as beauty queen, creating a predicament for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who now has to wonder if she should demonstrate solidarity with a fellow queen by giving up her own crown after wearing it for 60 years.

The controversy over all this gained media attention far and wide last week, from Ms. Monnin's hometown of Cranberry to the Australian capital of Canberra. (Yes, we're also surprised the capital Down Under isn't Sydney or Melbourne, so don't feel bad.) It's a good thing there's nothing serious going on now in Syria or Afghanistan or the Middle East to divert our attention.

There's a lot to learn from and leer at in this tawdry saga, but let's start with the most startling fact that we had overlooked until a few days ago:

This writer, despite being of the male persuasion, could, hypothetically, become Miss Universe.

Yes, there are problems pertaining to my age and marital status and the superficial standards of attractiveness that our silly society has decreed, but maleness is apparently the least of my pageantry drawbacks -- all it takes is a nip here (ouch!) and a tuck there, and look out, Phyllis George!

This has been made possible by Jenna Talackova, a Canadian who was born a male and underwent gender-reassignment surgery at age 19. She evidently had very good doctors, as she turned into a 6-foot-1 knockout. She entered the Miss Canada competition of Mr. Trump's Miss Universe pageant, and when officials in Toronto initially expelled her, he overruled them and had Ms. Talackova reinstated. She did quite well in the Canadian pageant last month, placing in the Top 12 and also winning -- yes -- Miss Congeniality (a reminder that nice people come in all versions of genders).

The fact that Ms. Monnin could hypothetically share the stage with a he-turned-she didn't sit well with the Cranberrian, who stated in an email to a local pageant official that such competition went against her "moral fiber." On her Facebook page, Ms. Monnin lists herself as "conservative," and conservatives do claim a bit of monopoly in the moral fiber department.

But Miss Pennsylvania went further in getting Mr. Trump's dander up by alleging the top five finishers in the Miss USA pageant (she was not one, you might have guessed) were pre-selected. She said Miss Florida gave her information suggesting the voting was rigged, although the Floridian later insisted it was a joke. Mr. Trump called Ms. Monnin a "sore loser" and is forcing her into legal arbitration under terms of her contract, trying to get her to retract the claim.

All of this reveals a seamy side of an industry which we'd always put on a pedestal, whether in admiring a Miss America contestant's ability to play the harp or applauding a Miss USA competitor's sense of balance while walking in a swimsuit and wearing enormously high heels, as swimsuit-wearers generally should.

Our view is it all should instead be about world peace, whether in Syria or backstage at pageants. And if we're ever chosen Miss Universe, we certainly intend to make that our platform.

state - intelligencer

Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255. First Published June 11, 2012 4:00 AM


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