Beauty fades; so should pageant

There is a saying, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” It comes from the bard himself, William Shakespeare, in the play “Henry IV, Part 2.”

Who would have guessed that a line written more than 400 years ago to describe English royalty would become so relevant in an American beauty pageant?

Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News commentator and the woman once seen as the potential savior to revamp and revise the Miss America pageant, is now seen as a major liability for said pageant, less than a year after she was appointed as the chairwoman of its board.

The latest bombshell hit earlier this month when the reigning Miss America, Cara Mund, wrote a five-page letter outlining what she describes as attempts to bully her and erase her from the position.

“Our chair and CEO have systematically silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a daily basis,” Mund wrote. “After a while, the patterns have clearly emerged, and the sheer accumulation of the disrespect, passive-aggressive behavior, belittlement, and outright exclusion has taken a serious toll.”

Those patterns allegedly included talking points that focused more on Carlson and less on Mund’s position as a role model for young women. The letter also included claims by Miss America’s leadership that the current Miss America was horrible at social media and responsible for the loss of sponsorships.

Carlson, who was named Miss America in 1989, responded that Mund’s claims of bullying on her part were untrue. Her response included heaps of praise, but like many novels, her letter had a twist where she bared her fangs at Mund.

“Actions have consequences,” Carlson wrote. “Friday, as an organization, we learned that $75,000 in scholarships which would have been the first scholarship increase in years, is no longer on the table as a direct result of the explosive allegations in your letter.

“The impact won’t stop there — we are already seeing a negative ripple effect across the entire organization and I am so concerned that it will dilute the experience for the next woman selected to wear the crown.”

Hmmm. Carlson claims she’s not bullying Mund, but yet she’s throwing Mund under the bus because the organization is losing money. She didn’t note in her response that 19 other former Miss Americas are displeased with her and wanting her to step down. If it was just the current titleholder slamming the organization, I could understand, but when a bunch of the misses come together like a G-20 summit, it’s hard to ignore that something is wrong.

Maybe it’s time for the Miss America pageant to take a page from wire corsets and just fade into history. The whole purpose of changing leadership last year was to change the image of an organization where past contestants were harassed and maligned, but it appears that taking men out of the equation has not purged the toxic atmosphere.

What started as a celebration of beauty has turned quite ugly, and there appears to be no way out. No matter who is put into the position of leadership in the future, there is no way to eradicate the venom that has poisoned the organization. Like a house ravaged by termites, it’s time to demolish the house and figure out something new.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown — it’s worth saying again. More than 240 years ago, colonists declared war to escape the tyrannical grip on a monarchy. Maybe it’s time that we say goodbye to our addiction to royalty once and for all by putting the tarnished crown on a velvet pillow and locking it in a safe. There are better ways to celebrate and honor women. The Miss America pageant is no longer one of them.

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for The Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at lpulaski@wolfrivermedia.com