In 2019, for the first time in history, Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe were all Black women. However, in Texas pageantry, where 12 former state titleholders have become Miss America or Miss USA are from, racial representation is scant. Since their inception in 1937 and 1952, only three Black women have won title of Miss Texas America and two Black women have been crowned Miss Texas USA. This study analyzes the motives for competing in Texas beauty pageants, experiences of preparing and competing, and the perceptions of race and racial inequalities among racially and ethnically diverse contestants and titleholders in two mainstream pageant circuits in Texas, Miss Texas America and Miss Texas USA. Data consist of semi-structured in-depth interviews with a sample of 37 beauty pageant contestants from the state of Texas, including former Miss Texas titleholders. Interviews focused on participants' experiences preparing and competing in beauty pageants, their motives for competing, their perceptions of race and racial inequalities in pageants, and their views on how race operates within the current system. Findings revealed significant patterns in participants' motives for competing, preparation for competitions, and perceptions of race within pageantry. The main findings of this study suggest that Black participants' motives to compete were often more focused on collective goals (e.g., serving as role models for other Black girls) whereas white and Hispanic participants' motives were more individualistic (e.g., personal growth), managing racial embodiment by training or undoing certain aspects of their identity (e.g., accent) and features such as negotiating their hair textures and styles to meet dominant white aesthetics, and differences observed among contestant preparation based on the pageant circuit they compete in (e.g., the bikini line). This research aims to add to the already scant literature on how race operations within the current system in Western beauty pageants especially in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Belanger, Chelsea, "The Bikini Line: Race, Gender, and Embodiment in Texas Beauty Pageants" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 647.