I Never Dreamed of Becoming Miss America

As a little girl, growing up, I never dreamed of becoming Miss America. I never even dreamed of becoming Miss Korea. Hell no. I was more interested in becoming one of the judges…

I watched Miss America religiously every year with my parents since I was in kindergarten. I don’t say “kindergarten” to be cute, because quite literally kindergarten was the day I truly became an American in my five-year-old mind. I realized once I got to kindergarten, that I got to speak only English all the time unlike at home where Korean was our tongue. Kindergarten was American to me, simply, and I loved being American.

So I remember clearly that I watched my first Miss America pageant in 1980 on our new color television, and I couldn’t believe how fancy everything and everyone was. We’d watch all pageants, as a matter of fact, because it was the American thing to do. We were Korean immigrants, living in New York, and so we rooted for Miss New York come each Miss America pageant. It didn’t matter what color their skin was, or that they were mostly white anyway. It never occurred to me at all. As a little girl I was proud of each beauty representing New York for me. I just felt bad that they had to walk around being perfect all the time in high heels and makeup.

A few years later, lo and behold, our Miss New York won it all. Vanessa Williams. On our television set in our small 2-bedroom apartment in the Manhattan sky, we cheered. We cheered because Miss New York won, and not just because a black woman took the title of Miss America for the first time. I was 9 years old at the time, andΒ fat. I sat in awe of stunning Vanessa Williams and all her glow, but still I never dreamed of Miss America crowns or sashes for myself. I was a realist even in grade school, and I knew there could never be a fat Miss America like me. I knew though at least, that there was such a thing as Vanessa Williams as Miss America.

I stopped watching the Miss America pageants with my parents eventually, because growing up means moving out and being too busy for such things.



Today from here in Belgium I learned that the first Indian-American Miss America, and Miss New York, was crowned last night. Nina Davuluri. I also learned that her win has angered many Americans, many racist Americans. These are probably the same Americans who may hate Obama and Muslims, and gays and people who eat lots of rice, or any number of people that together actually make up a large part of America. Having pride in your country means having pride in all of your country as a whole.

I never dreamed of becoming Miss America, but I’m thankful that Vanessa Williams and Nina Davuluri did at some point. I do dream of a day when being a Korean-American or African-American, Indian-American or anyone-American doesn’t qualify them any less than “just” an American. A girl can dream…

Always dishing,



  1. Nancy Alexander

    How the heck have I grown up in the south and have the views I have that we are all equal? If she’s American & beautiful, goes to college or wants to go being these pageants are scholarship programs and she won she is deserving. I’m starting to dislike people & becoming intolerant of ignorance. Congrats Nina!

  2. GaYToR

    Now you’ve gone and made me stop to think. I hope you have a plan to get me to start again because when I stop, I’m never sure if I will indeed ever start again. And, AND… you have the nerve to make me feel old for the second time in a few day’s span of time. Where is Michelle Jones? I need backup here. You had to go and mention the decade.

    It made me think about when I first watched Miss America with my grandmother. I am sure it was in the very late 50s before I started school, Back then I was in Texas and back then a huge percentage of the Miss Americas were from our Great State of Texas. They all had blonde hair too, piled so high on their heads sometimes our black & white screen couldn’t fit her all in one shot. Part of that was because she was extremely tall too.

    They were all very Caucasian too. Everyone on TV was Caucasian back then. Like I said, it was the very late 50s. But I didn’t just want to watch Miss America. I wanted to BE Miss America. Yes, but I didn’t qualify. I was under 6 years old. But I was Caucasian, I was a Texan. I knew my day would come. little things didn’t play a factor in my dreams. I just wanted to be on stage, and I wanted to twirl a baton, or maybe pack a suitcase. I didn’t really like opera back then but if I heard a girl belt our a showtune I was filled with even more envy. I knew I could do that. But by the time I learned to appreciate opera and began my classical training, I’d left hopes of becoming Miss America behind me.

    I’m not sure why. I could have still done it, and maybe even better because by then I was an expat living in East Central Arkansas. I was still Caucasian but with that move I had even more qualification. I lived in the Duck and Rice Capital of the World, Stuttgart, AR. Everyone in that area ate rice. We ate it by the ton. I ate it with every meal. But I was still too young. It still never occurred to me that I would never be on that stage in Atlantic City, and Bert Parks would never sing “There She Is” as I was introduced to my adoring public. I still didn’t understand it but I had something that would never allow my light to shine or wear that crown of brilliant rhinestones, wear that coveted sash or carry the bigger than life bouquet of American Beauty roses. I had a penis. DRATS! I would never walk that runway and Miss USA and Donald Trump hadn’t come along yet. Had Donald Trump been around I may have actually made it because he lowered the bar for beauty pageants. In his world You could more easily hide your flaws, or even get them fixed. You could be born a 32 B, but you could become a 38 DDD and have a better chance of winning. I’m pretty sure Mr. Trump wouldn’t care if you were born with a silly little appendage. No one would ever know because it would stay hidden in your “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”. Yes, he did away with those prudish one-piece suits that covered as much flesh as it possibly could. Donald Trump brought the idea to beauty pageants that less would always be more.. He did that for a lot of things. A lot of things, but his hair was never one of those things.

    I was born decades too early.

  3. NicoleNoreen

    Did you know that Vanessa Williams was stripped of the title due to inappropriate photographs? I remember being happy she won and devastated when I heard the news.

      1. GaYToR

        Haha! I recall the Vanessa Williams scandal so vividly. OMG! She had posed for Penthouse Magazine. I think she did it to help pay for school. Even bigger OMG! Photos were found of her in poses with another woman, either simulating or actually engaging in cunnilingus. Whatever she actually put in her mouth certainly had no affect on her vocal abilities. She became a SINsational vocalist and had a profitable career in that before moving on to stage and screen in an even more profitable career. I still love her music and everything I’ve seen her in. Miss America did her a huge favor by taking away that sash and crown.

  4. karenrakay

    I think when people say America they expect white blonde/brown hair women..ppl still don’t understand America is a melting pot designed for all mankind to grow and blossom.I will always want NY to win..lol I was excited when Vanessa won..disappointed by her scandal, rooted for her for being a Phoenix and awed when I met her….we are progessing as a country and becoming open minded…I say well done pageant judges.

  5. Let’s not assume this emanates from one race, and I think I can divine which one you were hinting at. Do blacks like Indians? Do other Asians? I know Pakistanis hate Indians. Do Native Americans hate Indians? So America is racist because some ignoramuses throw out a few tweets? The problems I heard about were all chick related from within the pageant itself. Something like the Big Brother 15 house.


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