Last Sunday night, I decided to watch the Miss USA beauty pageant.
And I really have no excuse for it. For one, Game 2 of the NBA Finals was on at the same time. Secondly, I can’t even use the swimsuit portion of the competition as my excuse because I turned it on after that had already occurred.
The worst part? The legitimate, honest reason why I watched it is because I wanted to see the Backstreet Boys perform.
Anytime I hear a Backstreet Boys song, it takes me back to the Golden Age of the late ’90s. Before EDM. Before dub step. Before Nicki Minaj.
So having that glorious throwback juxtaposed with contemporary pop culture is just a sensory overload.
While watching, I didn’t think I’d get sucked in to actually caring about who won. But I did a little bit. The pageant starts with representatives from all 50 states — plus the District of Columbia (it’s important I point this out, trust me) — and eliminates contestants as the show proceeds. I turned it on somewhere around the Top 15.
By the time it got to the Top 5 — with representatives from California, Georgia, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and a last state that I want to say is Alabama but am too lazy to look it up — things started to get interesting. And the Backstreet Boys still hadn’t performed yet.
The Top 5 was the portion of the competition where they ask the finalists a question. And we’re not talking “What’s your favorite color?” or “What’s the best Instagram filter?”
(X-Pro II, duh.)
They asked one girl a question about the legacy of Muhammad Ali (the girl clearly knew nothing about Muhammad Ali); another girl a question about voting restrictions in the U.S. (she gave a very dumb response); another about social inequality (she did OK) and the girl from D.C. about the Pentagon recently allowing women in the military to fulfill combat positions (it was a slam dunk considering the girl is a member of the Army Reserve).
And bear in mind, these are questions that would be difficult to answer in a written essay if you had hours to contemplate your response.
These girls are asked these questions on the spot, on live TV, are asked to respond in 30 seconds — all during a competition where, up to that point, intellect was a complete non factor.
Even on the show Jeopardy, contestants are at least given the option not to respond. Yet, they’re asking girls in a beauty competition to solve the world’s most pressing issues in 30 seconds with no prior warning.
But what was truly appalling was the final question, when they asked Miss Hawaii if she was going to vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Whatever happened to voter confidentiality? No one — not even celebrities or public officials — have any obligation to declare who they are voting for. And yet, this girl is being asked to on live TV?
The crowd promptly booed the question — either because of the insensitive nature of the query, or because the pageant was formerly co-owned by Donald Trump before his denigrating comments towards Mexicans forced him to sell his stake, or a combination of both.
Miss Hawaii, however, drew a loud applause when she rightfully punted the question, avoiding any political affiliation by saying it’s people’s own prerogative to vote for whomever they think best represents them.
But nonetheless, whoever thought it was a good idea to ask these serious questions during a beauty pageant is probably the same person who invented those visor hats that come with frosted tips attached to them.
Anyway, the winner ended up being Miss District of Columbia, Deshauna Barber, who is not only a servicewoman, but is African-American. It was too much for voters to resist.
She also replaces Olivia Jordan, Miss USA 2015, who I am quite fond of.
But right before that announcement, the Backstreet Boys finally took the stage to serenade the top three finalists.
And then I swore I would never tell any one about this night.