The Problem with Miss Teen USA

BY: JENNA CALDWELL

The 2016 Miss Teen USA competition has been under the harsh scrutiny of the American public for its lack of diversity.  Miss Teen USA’s top five competitors were Erin Snow (Alabama), Carissa Morrow (Nevada), Emily Wakeman (North Carolina), Marley Stokes (South Carolina), and winner Karlie Hay (Texas). All are blonde blue-eyed white women – a poor representation of the “melting pot” of the world. Model Chrissy Teigen brought attention to this matter by sarcastically tweeting, “Wow how can choose from a diverse bunch.” Agreed Chrissy.

Representation for non-white people has always been a major issue within the United States. A lack of recognition for American minorities have sparked outrage and inspired hashtags such as #OscarSoWhite – twice. Unfortunately, a lack of diversity among its contestants was not Miss Teen USA’s only racial issue.

In June 2016, Deshauna Barber, representing the District of Columbia, won the title of Miss USA. Barber is only the eighth African-American woman to be crowned Miss USA since its founding in 1952. That very same month, Miss Teen USA decided to replace their swimsuit portion of their competition with athletic gear. President of Miss Universe, Paula Shugart, stated this was because it "reflects an important cultural shift we're all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same." The organization was well on its way to having an extremely successful year without any backlash until it was time to crown their Texan winner Karlie Hay.

Once Hay was crowned the 2016 Miss Teen USA it did not take the public long to uncover her past tweets using the N-word. After sitting down with Good Morning America, Hay apologized for the inappropriate and racist language used on her Twitter account, blaming influence from her friends and the music she listened to. Hay blamed  the rap music she listened to for driving her to tweet racil slurs. The Miss Teen USA organization has decided to defend her, instead of asking her to step down, and are “supporting her continued growth.”

Recently, Miss Florida 2017 lost her crown because she hired a professional makeup and hair artist which was against the rules. While “do not tweet racist things” is not an official rule, logically the action should have at least the same or more severe punishment as hiring someone to blow dry hair.

Miss Teen USA is a public figure. Not only was it careless of her to tweet such things in the first place, but even more careless and shocking that she did not attempt to delete her old tweets before stepping onto such a public stage. Her actions having no consequences; Hay is using her white privilege to the best of her abilities.

In 1984, Vanessa Williams, the first ever African-American Miss USA winner, stepped down from her title. The Miss America Organization requested she give up the crown after Penthouse magazine published naked photos of Williams without her consent. The organization has since apologized to her, but if Hay can keep her title then surely there are some crowns that should be returned.

If the Miss Teen USA organization stripped Hay of her crown, the action  would send a message to millions of teenagers (and adults) that using racial slurs is wrong and unacceptable.

Jenna CaldwellComment