Television, like cinema, loves to use pageantry as a setting in its films or as an intrigue in its series. We have compiled a list of these different works that we will update throughout the year.
THE GREAT AMERICAN BEAUTY CONTEST (1973)
A feminist enters a beauty contest, hoping to win and deliver a speech on exploitation and sexism at the end.
THE NIGHT THEY TOOK MISS BEAUTIFUL (1977)
Criminals hijack an airplane that not only carries a dangerous organism that is to be used in bacterial warfare, but also five beauty contest finalists for Miss Universe-style competition.
KATIE: PORTRAIT OF. A CENTERFOLD (1978)
This TV film about a Texas beauty queen, seeking Hollywood stardom, who learns the realities of the business after attending an unethical modeling school
MISS ALL-AMERICAN BEAUTY (1982)
After winning a beauty contest in Texas, a teen-aged girl is unprepared for the demands of travel, press conferences and interviews that go with winning the title and participating in a national beauty pageant.
CROWNED AND DANGEROUS (1997)
This made-for-TV movie stands head and shoulders above the rest—I mean, murder + pageantry is an unbeatable combination (seriously, why do they always go hand-in-hand??). Though little proof can be found online, the film claims to be based on a true story, bumping it to the top of our pageant film queue.
BEAUTIFUL GIRL (2003)
Marissa Jaret Winokur plays Becca Wasserman, a young woman recently engaged to a young man, Adam Lopez. Hoping to improve their modest honeymoon plans, Becca seeks the vacation prize offered in a local beauty pageant. Charming and buoyant, Becca enters herself confidently, over the objections of her embarrassed mother who believes that her daughter’s plus-size form will be ridiculed. Becca rejects the criticism and becomes determined to win.
Overcoming all expectations, Becca becomes Miss Squirrel Hill. The flush of success drives her to compete in other, larger pageants in the city, and she announces ambitious plans for the future. Her fiancé is supportive at first, but he becomes quickly dismayed by her aggressive efforts to win. As Becca struggles to advance in the pageant circuit, she appears to change for the worse in many ways, before finally recapturing her original good nature and joie de vivre.
TALL GIRL (2019)
Jodi, the tallest girl in her high school, has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. But after years of slouching, being made fun of, and avoiding attention at all costs, Jodi finally decides to find the confidence to stand tall.
The $1.98 BEAUTY SHOW (1978-1980)
The $1.98 Beauty Show is an American game show that aired from September 1978 to September 1980. Hosted by Rip Taylor, the series is a parody of beauty contests, and featured six female contestants competing for the title of “$1.98 Beauty Queen”.
The show consists of three rounds, during which each contestant is judged by three celebrity panelists. These include Jaye P. Morgan, Jamie Farr, Steve Garvey, Rosey Grier, Patty Andrews, Louis Nye, Peter Lawford, Dorothy Lamour, Marty Allen, Trini Lopez and the Unknown Comic (all of whom served as panelists on The Gong Show). Emcee Taylor introduces the contestants one at a time.
Round 2 features each contestant showcasing their “abilities”. Round 3 is a swimsuit competition, in which emcee Taylor ushers the contenders on stage and announcer Jacobs cracks jokes about their vital statistics and hobbies.
At the end of each show, Taylor announces the “$1.98 Beauty of The Week.” That contestant is presented with a tacky plastic crown, rotten vegetables as a bouquet, and the titular cash prize of $1.98, which Taylor dispenses from a coin holder on his belt.
The outcome was previously arranged, as was noted in the introductory monologue by the announcer and the fine print of the closing credits of each episode.
PAGEANT PLACE (2007)
Pageant Place is an American reality show that follows Miss Universe Organization pageant winners Miss Universe Riyo Mori, Miss USA Rachel Smith and Miss Teen USA 2006 Katie Blair, (who was later replaced by her successor Miss Teen USA 2007 Hilary Cruz) as they live together in an apartment in New York City. They are guided by Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner, in a chaperonal role.
TODDLERS & TIARAS (2009-2013, 2016)
Toddlers & Tiaras or Another Toddlers & Tiaras is an American reality television series that aired on TLC from January 27, 2009 to October 16, 2013. After a three-year hiatus due to much controversy, Another Toddlers and Tiaras aired the sequel on August 24, 2016. The show follows the personal lives of families of contestants in a child beauty pageant. Like many shows about children pageants, it generated controversy for dressing the children provocatively. The show led to other reality show spin-offs: Eden’s World, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and Cheer Perfection. On November 24, 2016, TLC cancelled the show after its 7th season.
KING OF THE CROWN (2009)
King of the Crown is an American reality television series that debuted on TLC in 2009. The show follows the life of pageant coach Cyrus Frakes and his assistants of Gowns and Crowns as they prepare beauty pageant contestants to compete.
CASTLE – PRETTY DEAD – EPISODE 3.23 – 2011
Castle and Beckett are called to investigate when a contestant in a beauty pageant is found strangled and every suspect has a motive to commit murder, including jealous fellow contestants, the pageant’s sponsor, and the show’s host.
LITTLE MISS ATLANTA (2016)
Little Miss Atlanta is an American reality television series which aired on TLC in 2016. A spin-off of Toddlers and Tiaras, it profiles contestants in the Little Miss Black US Pageant system, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Each episode features three young African-American girls and their mothers as they compete in one of the system’s pageants.
Insatiable is an American dark comedy-drama streaming television series created by Lauren Gussis, starring Dallas Roberts and Debby Ryan. It is based on the 2014 New York Times article “The Pageant King of Alabama” by Jeff Chu.
Patty Bladell is a teenager who was constantly bullied in school for being overweight. After being on a liquid diet for three months over summer vacation because of a violent run in with a homeless man, she is now thin and seeks revenge on her bullies. A disgraced civil lawyer and obsessed beauty pageant coach, Bob Armstrong, notices Patty’s potential and sets out to turn her into a beauty queen.
THE QUEEN AMERICA (2019)
Queen America is a Facebook comic web series created by Meaghan Oppenheimer, that aired in Facebook Watch.
Queen America is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma and follows “Vicki Ellis, the most renowned (and ruthless) pageant coach in the state, and the hapless Samantha Stone who hopes Vicki can mold her into worthwhile contender for the title of Miss America. Vicki is desperately sought after by young women competing to be Miss America for one reason; she can turn any girl into a winner. But when she gets paired with the beautiful but unpolished Samantha, Vicki’s entire reputation might be at stake.”