The common misconceptions of beauty queens are slowly
disappearing in the face of more and more women who are queens
because of their intellect and talent not their swimsuit, although
at one time the stereotypes were more correct.
However, the pageants of today do not look for merely a pretty
face but have become selective of individuals who are in college
and aware of current issues as well as passionate about causes.
“The Miss America pageant is the biggest scholarship program for
women in America,” said Gina Rotolo, a junior apparel merchandise
major and the current Miss Loveland.
Rotolo began entering pageants as a way to use her singing
ability to her advantage to pursue scholarships as well as gain
widespread singing experience and exposure. Rotolo also hopes to
incorporate her cause of helping to spread awareness of eating
disorders and is currently running for the title of Miss
“Since the ’80s pageants have changed as they now require women
to have a platform which they plug through out their competition
and reign,” said Rotolo, whose platform is eating disorder
awareness, a cause that Rotolo has always been passionate about,
having counseled others on the disease as well as volunteering in
Eating Disorder Awareness Week here at CSU.
Beauty pageants often conjure thoughts of the old Vaseline trick
on the teeth or taping one’s butt cheeks together.
“We do use adhesive to stick our swimsuits to our rear so they
don’t ride up during the competition,” Rotolo said.
Hoping to lay to rest many myths about beauty pageants she
explained her experience winning Miss Loveland.
“It was really a positive experience. All of the girls were very
nice and we helped each other out. One girl lost her evening gown
and we all helped her find something to wear,” Rotolo said.
Contestants in the Miss Colorado pageant are scored in four
categories. Interviewing with the judges is 40 percent of their
score and the talent competition is worth 30 percent, while the
swimsuit competition, evening wear and impromptu questioning are
all worth 10 percent of the overall ranking. This emphasis on the
contestant’s intelligence and talents as opposed to sheer beauty
ensures that the chosen contestant was selected for much more than
“Being able to help others with eating disorders and inspire
other women to use their talents to gain a voice in society has
been well worth it,” Rotolo said.
The position of a CSU beauty queen was extremely popular in ’50s
and early ’60s until the politics began to shift and racial and
sexist criticism of pageants began to swell. In 1968 an
organization of African-American students decided to unite and
attempt to put an African-American woman on the ballot for the
first time. Vivian Kerr, who is currently a professor at Southern
University, recalls her experience attempting to run.
“We formed a group and I was elected to run as a contestant and
carry on our statement of the unfair exclusion of African-American
women in pageants at that time. I wasn’t allowed on the ballot
because I was not a part of enough organizations, although being an
African-American woman, I wasn’t allowed to join any organizations,
so I was unable to run,” Kerr said.
After her attempt to be put on the ballot, Kerr received some
discrimination but said that many CSU students reacted to the
statement by boycotting the homecoming event and showing their
support for African-American involvement in CSU activities.
“After our statement, the support we received on campus grew a
considerable amount and we noticed a significant change in some
students and groups and the campus acceptance,” Kerr said.
Kerr went on to graduate in 1969. Two years later, Kerr’s friend
and colleague Trudy Morrison ran for Homecoming Queen and was
crowned the first African-American Homecoming Queen in 1972.
Morrison had decided to run because of Kerr’s inspiration to make a
“I was living in Belgium at the time and Trudy sent me a letter
after she won the title of queen. She wrote that I had inspired her
to make a difference. It really was a wonderful experience
altogether,” Kerr said.
According to James Hansen, professor of emeritus and CSU
historian, the 1974 Homecoming queen candidates included one male
on the ballot. After all the votes were counted Theron Abbott was
elected by an overwhelming margin although the Alumni Association
that was responsible for the homecoming events, refused to
acknowledge a man as homecoming queen.
Ken Goldsberry, the faculty chairman for homecoming was reported
as saying, “The contest called for a queen and a queen is someone
of the ‘female gender,’ and Abbott does not fill these
After several students threatened to stage a protest, and the
school’s legal counsel suggested liability for sexual
discrimination, homecoming officials allowed Theron Abbott to be
crowned CSU’s first male Homecoming Person.
Abbott had decided to enter the pageant because, “there were no
bylaws or anything in the rulebooks that said a male couldn’t
apply. So the Commission on the Status of Women sponsored me. It
was definitely a feminist statement about the objectification of
women. We felt that a state of equality needed to be met. The whole
ordeal was great fun,” Abbot said.
After the political unrest and controversy surrounding the
pageant, the title of homecoming queen fizzled out of the CSU
Homecoming tradition but the impacts of the first African-American
Homecoming Queen as well as the first male Homecoming Person set
standards of racial and gender equality that have shaped CSU’s
history, and beauty pageants continue across the country to this
day, although the definition of beauty queen has changed