HuffPost: How The Miss America Pageant’s CEO Really Talks About The Winners

Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell

Writing for the Huffington Post, reporter Yashar Ali dropped a bombshell today as he revealed several internal emails obtained from the Miss America Organization that shows how the folks at the top really feel about their pageant winners.

Name-calling, slut-shaming and fat-shaming are all involved.

From the article:

In late August 2014, the CEO of the Miss America Organization, Sam Haskell, sent an email to the lead writer of the Miss America pageant telecast, Lewis Friedman, informing him of a change he wanted to make in the script: “I have decided that when referring to a woman who was once Miss America, we are no longer going to call them Forever Miss Americas….please change all script copy to reflect that they are Former Miss Americas!”

Friedman replied, “I’d already changed “Forevers” to “Cunts.” Does that work for you?”

Haskell’s short reply came quickly: “Perfect…bahahaha.”

At that point, Haskell had been the leader of Miss America for nine years, after rising through the ranks at a top Hollywood talent agency. Many prior winners, or as they’re called, “formers,” consider the pageant a wonderful, wholesome activity for young women. But Haskell’s behavior behind closed doors shows he regularly maligned, fat-shamed and slut-shamed the former Miss Americas, calling them shocking names and in one case laughing at the suggestion that one of the women should die.

That’s just the beginning.

In one email that discussed the passing of former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley, a MAO executive wrote: “It should have been (former Miss America) Kate Shindle.”

Another exchange about former Miss America Mallory Hagen wondered if four executives at the MAO were the “only four” men who didn’t have sex with her.

There’s much more at the link. Below is The Today Show’s segment on the story.

Miss New York On Trump: “He’s A Bright Reminder Of How Our Country Needs To Come Together”

This year, during the question-and-answer segment of the Miss America pageant, contestants were queried on a host of current news topics like terrorism, police brutality, and the presidential election.

Twenty seconds is a difficult time frame to express a succinct, intelligent answer, but Miss New York Camille Sims was the clear winner in this category. Sims was asked to share her feelings on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“I think he’s a bright reminder of how our country needs to come together. If you don’t agree with his message, it’s time to decide where you stand in this debate. As Americans, we need to make sure we come together, represent what it means to be American, which is celebrating all people, from all backgrounds, whether you’re an immigrant or a Native American or an African-American or an Asian-American.”

Kudos to Ms. Sims for handling both the question and the pressure so well.

(h/t Advocate)

There She Is – Miss America’s First Openly Lesbian Contestant

While gays and lesbians have worked for decades behind the scenes at the Miss America pageant, this weekend the annual beauty/scholarship contest welcomes the first openly lesbian competitor as Miss Missouri, Erin O’ Flaherty, takes the stage in Atlantic City.

While lesbians have been more visible in pageants lately, there hasn’t been an out statewide winner before O’Flaherty. Djuan Trent competed in the Miss America pageant as Miss Kentucky in 2011, when she finished in the top 10. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that she came out.

O’Flaherty is competing on the platform of teen suicide prevention, an issue of critical importance to the LGBT community.

Vanessa Williams On Miss America Pageant Apology

A few weeks ago, Vanessa Williams returned to the Miss America Pageant for the first time in three decades since she won in the early 1980s.

Speaking with CBS This Morning, she shares what the moment was like onstage.

“When they asked me to come back, I of course called my mother and she had some real reservations,” Williams said.

But Williams agreed to return, opening the night with a performance of her song, “Oh How the Years Go By.”

“I will be seen from my 20-year-old self and now I’m a 52-year-old woman who’s had a career and that was important for me,” Williams said about her decision.

After her performance, Sam Haskell, executive chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization, issued a public apology to Williams – as well as her mother — on the Miss America pageant stage saying, “I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you were and the Miss America you always will be.”

“Sam came behind me and I could feel his hands started shaking,” Williams recalled the moment. “It was wonderful, I’m happy for my mom. I kind of wiped my hands and said, ‘I’m moving on,’ but they endured a lot.”

Williams joins the cast of the hit series “The Good Wife” this season as a successful businesswoman who begins a romantic relationship with Alan Cummings’ character, “Eli Gold,” beginning this Sunday at 9PM on CBS.

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Vanessa Williams on apology from Miss America Organization three decades after losing her title:
Posted by CBS This Morning on Thursday, November 12, 2015

UPDATED: Miss America Pageant Organization Formally Apologizes To Vanessa Williams

Sam Haskell apologizes to Vanessa Williams for the Miss America pageant
organization for its treatment 32 years ago

UPDATED: Here’s the apology.


Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America in history, returned to the pageant for the first time in 32 years tonight as Head Judge, as the organization formally apologized to Williams and her mother, Helen, for the way the pageant handled the end of her reign in 1984 over a nude photo scandal.

From Hollywood Reporter:

Sam Haskell apologized to Williams during Sunday night’s nationally televised Miss America pageant for the way his predecessors handled the controversy involving nude photos of Williams that were published in Penthouse several months after she became the first African-America Miss America.

Williams, who returned to the pageant for the first time in 32 years as head judge, resigned the title in 1984.

Haskell, who was not involved with the pageant at the time, said, “I want to apologize for anything that was said or done” during the photo scandal.

“You have lived your life in grace and dignity and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned. Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams,” he announced onstage. “I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”

Williams, who went on to become a famous stage and TV actress, says she “did the best I could” during the scandal.

Vanessa was all of 21 years old when the scandal broke. She was 18 I believe when she made the mistake that made such a huge impact on her life.

Since then Vanessa has racked up tons of award nominations for Tony Award, Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards and more.

I have not watched the Miss America pageant again until tonight, as I’ve held a grudge that the organization dropped her so quickly.

At the time, I felt it was un-American that the organization moved to distance itself from her so quickly.

It was gratifying to see Helen, her brother Chris and long-time associate Brian Edwards in the audience to take in the moment.

Better late than never.

Vanessa Williams’ longtime associate Brian Edwards, mother Helen Williams
and brother Chris Williams

Vanessa Williams performs at the 2016 Miss America Pageant

Miss America Contestants Offer Clear & Strong Thoughts On Kim Davis, Donald Trump, Planned Parenthood

I haven’t watched the Miss America pageant in 32 years until last night (see my posts about the return of Vanessa Williams).

My, how the depth and tone of the Questions segment has changed. Last night, we saw interesting questions about Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, Planned Parenthood and even The Donald.

And smart answers from the ladies. Check this out from the Advocate:

Miss Mississippi, Hannah Roberts, fielded a question about renegade Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ continued refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. While most opposition to marriage equality has come from southern states, Miss Mississippi came down firmly in favor of gay and lesbian couples. Roberts took first runner-up in the competition.

“[Issuing marriage licenses] absolutely does not violate her religious freedom,” she said. “That is her job she was voted into doing. That law is a federal law throughout the rest of the country. So, yes, she did violate the law there.”

Hannah Robison, Miss Tennessee, was asked about Republican threats to shut down the government if their attempts to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood are unsuccessful. No federal funds are used to support abortions.

“I don’t think Planned Parenthood funding should be cut off,” Robison said in response. “The $500 million dollars that gets given to Planned Parenthood every single year goes to female care. It goes for scanning for cancer. It goes for mammograms. And if we don’t get that funding to Planned Parenthood, those women will be out of health care for reproductive costs.”

Asked about Donald Trump’s amazing rise to the top of the Republican presidential field, Miss Alabama, Meg McGuffin, said the GOP should be “absolutely terrified” of the business mogul’s reign at the top of the polls.

“I think Donald Trump is an entertainer, and I think he says what’s on a lot of peoples’ minds,” she told judge Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. “But I think the Republican Party should be absolutely terrified of all the attention that he is taking from incredible candidates like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie who could absolutely do the job of president of the United States.”

You can watch the Q&As below:

Reminder: The 2015 Miss America Pageant Today On ABC

Thirty years ago I watched along with the rest of the world as Vanessa Williams became the first African-American woman to win the crown of Miss America.

I went to college with Vanessa at Syracuse University, and we’ve remained friends all these years.

Tonight she returns to the pageant, as head judge, for the first time since then.

Tune in tonight to see who will win on ABC at 9PM EST/8PM CST.

But for now, let’s relive the moment we all knew a star was born as Vanessa sang “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

Trivia – Vanessa had the idea to sing the song while school was still in session, but she didn’t have the recording. She borrowed my Barbra Streisand album to learn the arrangement – my tiny contribution to her winning performance 🙂

A more in-depth look at Vanessa’s road to Miss America below:

Vanessa Williams Will Return To Miss America Pageant For First Time In 32 Years

Vanessa Williams, star of stage, screen and the recording industry, has agreed to return to the Miss America pageant for the first time in 32 years. She will take part in the pageant’s festivities as head judge.

Many will remember that Williams made history in 1984 by becoming the first African-American to be crowned Miss America.

But just weeks before the end of her one year reign, she was forced to relinquish her crown due to Penthouse Magazine publishing nude photos of Williams without her consent.

It’s no secret to readers here on The Randy Report that Vanessa and I are friends since college. I knew her and cheered for her when she won the title. She’s still one of my favorite talents, and a close friend whom I adore.

I also booed the Miss America pageant for not having the courage to stand by Vanessa in the midst of the scandal. And I haven’t watched the TV presentation since that day.

Of course, since then Vanessa has conquered just about every aspect of the entertainment industry with 11 Grammy Award nominations, 3 Emmy Award nominations, a Tony Award nomination, and tons of other high profile accolades. Fans know her hit songs, her roles on “Desperate Housewives” and “Ugly Betty,” plus starring on Broadway in “Kiss Of The Spiderwpman,” “Into The Woods,” “Sondheim On Sondheim,” and “Trip To Bountiful.”

AND – she is a huge equal rights/LGBT ally, having been honored with the Human Rights Campaign’s Ally for Equality Award, among many others, for her humanitarian contributions.

As always, success is the best revenge.

Ratings for the beauty pageant have suffered for years, so it’s clear the folks at Miss America are hoping for a bump via Vanessa’s star power.

ABC will air this year’s Miss America competition live starting at 9 p.m. ET on Sept. 13. It faces stiff competition from NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

With Vanessa Williams backstage at “Trip To Bountiful” in LA