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Miss America vs Miss USA: The Great Rivalry

It’s a common question that every pageant girl knows or should know the answer to: “What’s the difference between Miss America and Miss USA?” Many outside the pageant community would see the two systems as one in the same.

During Monday’s football championship when No. 2 Alabama defeated No. 1 Notre Dame, Katherine Webb’s, Miss Alabama USA, name was the center of controversy started by ESPN anchor Brent Musburger. Webb was mistaken for a Miss America representative rather than a USA.

Many of Webb’s fans and girls from the pageant world’s comments blew up on social media outlets for the blunder. Both Musburger and Webb apologized for the confusion. Webb even apologized to Anna Bryan, Miss Alabama, who is in Las Vegas this week for the Miss America competition.

So what is all the confusion about? What really is the difference between Miss America and Miss USA? Two years ago when a provocative photo of Fadil Berisha’s bedroom shots were released, 1989 Miss America Gretchen Carlson set out to explain the difference.

Miss USA Explains Miss America

Carlson invited the 2004 Miss USA Shandi Finnessey onto “Fox & Friends” to explain. “Miss USA girls want to grow up to be Victoria Secret models, and Miss America girls want to be doctors and lawyers,” Finnessey said.

Miss USA contestants are judged based on the ability to smile and speak the best. The system is more about appearance. The winner of Miss USA goes on to compete for Miss Universe. It was founded in 1952 by Catalins Swimsuits as a promotional tool.

Miss America Judge Explains Miss USA

On the other hand, Miss America was founded in 1921 as a scholarship program. Contestants are judged on their talents and their ability to think.

One of the Miss America 2013 judges went onto to say that Miss USA girls only compete in the system after they have found out they do not have what it takes to be Miss America. “These young women [of Miss America] have to have their community service platforms, they have to work on their talent and they have to be in school.” The Miss America system focuses on its contestants who can make the country a better place and it is not about pretending and glamour.

“They are the doers, the planners and big picture thinkers who will define America’s tomorrow,” a story in Marie Claire’s January issue said.

Which dress do you like better?

11 thoughts on “Miss America vs Miss USA: The Great Rivalry

  1. Everyone knows that the Miss Universe Organization picks their own winners…Miss Teen USA, Miss USA and Miss Universe. The pageant is fixed, whereas the Miss America Pageant is one with integrity. It’s the oldest and the most honorable pageants recognized around the world today and will remain that way!

  2. The Miss America Organization was founded as a promotional event as well. In 1921, local merchants in Atlantic City were looking for a way to extend the Labor Day holiday business on the Boardwalk & they decided to hold a contest which eventually became the Miss America Pageant. The scholarship component was not added until years later.

  3. These two pageant systems are like Yale and Harvard…the most elite and competitive. To outsiders, it may seem like Yale and Harvard are merely two very expensive universities and hard to tell apart. But try saying that to anyone who goes there. Both MAO and MUO hate the other system. It is very rare that you like both systems equally. Overall, it’s based on what system works better for you.

  4. I feel like this article is really bias. Definitely in favor of the Miss America Organization.

  5. I agree with Sandra Wilson. This is definitely a very biased article. If you are going to put a quote saying that Miss USA is only for girls who can’t be Miss America (which I’ve found to be very untrue), then you should have something to back it up. Just because it was in a big glossy magazine doesn’t make it true. The two systems appeal to different girls for a variety of reasons. Some girls participate in (and are successful in) both. Allyn Rose (Miss MD USA 2011 and Miss DC 2012) is an excellent example. I would expect more from a website dedicated to pageantry.

    1. This is not a biased article, they quote people from both organizations. Most girls do go on to try to be Miss USA if they dont necissarily want to put the time and effort into being Miss America. MAO has tought me so much and its not easy, if i wanted easy i would do Miss USA. but Miss USA teaches you nothing except for how to look pretty on stage. Miss USA is kind of pointless in my eyes

  6. Honestly,
    I know many girls who have competed in the MAO system and let me tell you that they are no saints. Also, we should mention that women of color have a better chance of becoming Miss USA than Miss America. Do the research. To degrade a woman because she is beautiful is just “mean girl” behavior. Pretty girls can be smart girls too. Some girls, no matter how smart they are would never be chosen for Miss America simply because they don’t look the part, meaning they are overly gorgeous. We need to stop the “girl on girl” hate.

    1. actually That is crazy of you to say that. Colored girls have an equal chance in MAO, besides you cant even compare the two pageants. In MAO its all about intelligence, therefore it doesnt mattter if a lower number of woman who are of color win, they are all held to the same responsiblities. Just because woman of color win more in Miss USA doesnt mean MAO doesnt like them. And let me tell you if you are beautiful or not you can win. They do no degrade women, its a fair race.

  7. I think two openions on the pagants arent enough. This article should have multple point of views. Or had NOT been published.

  8. I think it should be measured on how much you give back and influence, not based on if you can sing or dance well. I’m running in a Miss USA program and part of it is because my “talent” or skill is cooking, how am i supposed to do that on stage? How will anyone taste the food? Plus, both pageants push the ladies to be a better person health wise and making an impact on thier community. This article is horrible. It used quotes yes, but the way it was interpreted was wrong and makes the Miss USA organization seem lazy which it isn’t at all.

  9. I am 26. I have never done a pageant before and decided this year I would go for it. Looking into I found that I was not allowed to do the MAO pageants because of my age. If this means I ‘Do not have what it takes to be Miss America’ then that is ridiculous! I can be a role-model at any age.

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