Miss Landmine Cambodia 2009

Nat Geo 1/2012

I don’t get this at all.

Here we see pageant organizer Morten Traavik helping winner Dos Sopheap with her prize (a titanium leg to replace the one blown to smithereens), which she decided was too uncomfortable to actually utilize. Her fame, however, brought her college sponsorship. Norwegian filmmaker Traavik claimed the pageants “challenge the conventional concepts of beauty” and allow these women opportunities to feel pride as well as earn income. I suppose it’s a not-so-classic case of making lemonade from lemons, but it’s a hard issue to address.


Winner Of Atlantic City’s First Bathing Beauty Contest

“I Remember Distinctly”

Miss Washington, above, won the title in September of 1921 with knees “daringly bare.”

By 1923, hemlines had shifted to show yet more thigh. Can you even imagine wearing stockings to go swimming?

By 1935, the winner received a crown, robe, scepter, and a moment on the throne.

No wonder Atlantic City has been immortalized in art.


In The Arms Of Santa

Cactus 1943

This WWII Santa doesn’t appear that much older than the doe-eyed toddler he’s holding. Volunteering from a university fraternity, he seems a bit smoother about the edges than his later counterpart in 1967, shown below.

Tipi 1967

Sideburns and skinny ties share the stage with both a plusher Santa beard and Santa suit, which appears to have been velveteened. Of course, not everyone can get the Santa gig. Some folks have to settle for holiday titles.

Ozarko 1968

Who even knew Barnwarming Queen was a thing? Are barns notoriously cold? Do queens exude that much heat?

It looks pretty toasty for these Savitar Barnwarming Queen Candidates in 1959. The only real loser here is the missing “g” in barnwarming.


Makes it sound oddly like barn-worming. But that’s another thing altogether.

Before Gaga’s Meat Dress, There Was Frank Skirt


Geene Courtney had the honor of being Queen of National Hot Dog Week 1955, a pageant sponsored by the Zion Meat Company. Personally, I’d rather have skipped the meat scarf and just posed with a fish on a skyscraper. 

Gail Hooper was paired with this 56-pound catfish (that must have been carried up an elevator all those flights of the Hotel New Yorker), as part of her duty as Miss National Catfish Queen in 1954. 

I imagine they both took long, hat baths after that!

Working The Same Block

"In Search of the Corn Queen"
“In Search of the Corn Queen”

These two gals are all gussied up for the Cairo (pronounced by locals as “we don’t care-o”), Illinois River Days festival in 1990, but they don’t look too excited about it. Touted as “America’s most depressing city” by www.cyburbia.org, it wouldn’t be farfetched to assume these gals got the heck out of dodge before the millennium ended. More recent images from 2008 show what downtown has become.

However, if you simply travel 21 miles north to Ullin, Illinois, you can witness the beauty pageant held at their modern-day River Days, which is still going strong.

2015 Cache River Days, facebook
2015 Cache River Days, facebook

And these Little Miss Sunshines, having traded tights and tap shoes for strappy sandals, seem a lot more excited about it.