Posh Pageantry or Mere Fairytale?: An Ethnographic Study of Pageantry in the Modern United States




Bergfield, Ashley

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Pageantry has been belittled as an “archaic” and “passé” amusement, yet over time society has remained charmed with its search for a modern-day Cinderella. Today, the industry has burgeoned into a multi-billion dollar affair hosting a variety of pageants ranging from Miss America and Miss Rodeo America to television reality shows such as “Honey Boo Boo” or “Toddlers and Tiaras.” However, despite this rise in popularity, criticisms have failed to subside. This work will approach the arguments of critics by assessing pageants’ promotion of a “certain class of girl” through incorporation of past and present titleholder experiences as well as an ethnographic study of the various Miss Rodeo competitions. Moreover, by defining “contradicting identities,” this thesis will consider the struggle between a titleholder’s personal identity with that of an organizational or national ideal. This work will conclude by suggesting pageantry’s future implications as it relates to younger generations and changing demographics within American society.



Pageantry., Identities., Miss America., Miss Rodeo System., Child Pageants., Demographics., Fairytales.