Blondes who have been trying to prove the “dumb blonde” stereotypes to be false didn’t get any help from Miss Teen South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton.
Upton was asked on the Miss Teen U.S.A. pageant held August why one-fifth of the U.S. population is unable to locate our country on a map. She replied with a jumble of words and references to countries other than the U.S., such as “the Iraq.”
However, not all pageant contestants fumble with the interview process during contests. Several participants from Mason High School have had experience answering questions on stage in various Christmas in Mason pageants.
Having competed in and won multiple contests, freshman Chelsea Shepherd, former Duchess and Princess of Mason, stresses the importance of preparation for pageant questions.
“You don’t know the questions, but you can always prepare yourself, because they’re basic questions,” Shepherd said.
Although the pageant girls from MHS all have the contest in common, they have different views on how they would have handled Upton’s blunder.
Sophomore Laura Davis, current Queen of Mason, said she would have stopped after making a mistake.
“I would have paused to gather my thoughts, said ‘I’m sorry; let me start over, let me say that again,'” Davis said.
Sophomore Bianka Nguyen, participating in her first pageant this year, said she would proclaim her blunder to viewers afterward.
“I would publicly announce that I messed up and be like, ‘Well, hey, actually that’s not really a good idea, but a more sensible idea is…,'” Nguyen said.
Upton was given a second chance on The Today Show, where she got to re-answer the question from the pageant. Her new answer was composed of a statement informing the viewers that her friends know where the U.S. is on a map, but “if the statistics are correct,” education should focus on geography.
With the ladies involved in pageantry representing large bodies of people, a situation like Upton’s, where coverage was bountiful, could change how people view women.
“They just won’t see [women] as being as smart,” Shepherd said.
Typecasting is associated with the world of pageantry, but the labels and stereotypes don’t constantly hold in up in reality.
“There are stereotypes of girls being stupid, superficial, and catty,” Davis said. “Those are not always true. Sometimes you do get girls who are a little mean, but most of the time [stereotypes] are really wrong.”
After Upton’s answer to the map question, Shepherd thinks that pageantry will get a reputation for similar situations.
“I think that a lot of people are going to be comparing everybody to that one person, and it’s not like that,” Shepherd said.
Published in The Chronicle (page 4) on September 28, 2007.