Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America

Here She Is takes a measured look at beauty pageants, their history, and how they’ve flourished or floundered during the three waves of feminism. Author Hilary Levey Friedman has a special interest in the subject: her mother, Pamela Eldred, was Miss America 1970.

Friedman examines Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Universe, including President Trump’s controversial ownership period (1996 – 2015) of the latter two, and the uproar surrounding Bert Parks’ 1979 firing from Miss America (and his one-time return in 1990, which connected to her family). Former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson, herself Miss America 1989, is exposed as a bully and narcissist who made wholesale changes to the pageant without consulting state and local level stakeholders.

She also takes a look at teen, tween, children and baby beauty pageants, with a brief foray into JonBenet Ramsey’s murder and the Toddlers & Tiaras reign of reality TV. Two contestants featured in a BBC documentary are covered, highlighting the differences in their lives more than a decade later.

Ushering in third-wave feminism, Friedman cites Trump as “a central figure linking pageantry, politics, and feminism,” as well as driving pageantry into reality TV not only with beauty contests, but a show called Pageant Place that featured not only Misses USA and Universe, but also Miss Teen USA. Trump sold the franchises in 2015, partly because of his run for president, as well as his toxic remarks about Latinos.

Friedman concludes that, while beauty pageants are still going strong, women are taking more responsible positions in the American public sphere, and those achievements need not be preceded by a pageant position or crown.

Actress and Miss Florida 1974 Delta Burke enthused about Here She Is: “I thought I knew about pageants until I read Hilary Levey’s Friedman’s book Here She Is. The depth of her research is impressive and makes for a fascinating read.”

Also featured in Ms. magazine!

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