Are you not already a fan of Lyz Lenz? MISTAKE. Exhibit A is this Tucker Carlson profile from 2018, but close on its heels is Exhibit B, her recent Jezebel essay about the flagging Miss America pageant. I’ve never wanted to attend Miss America in person, but I would gladly go if I got to do it in the company of Lyz Lenz. To wit:
The Miss America pageant wasn’t supposed at the Mohegan Sun Casino, but it makes sense that the pageant would end up at a place that’s both a triumph of capitalism and an absolute hellscape. The casino is divided into two main areas: earth and sky. But once inside, both real earth and real sky immediately recede. It is simultaneously soothing and disorienting. Everything anyone could possibly need is right here, especially if need consists of a Sephora and Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain.
(Here, we try not to think about how many people’s needs might actually be fully met by a Sephora and a Bobby Flay restaurant.)
After breakfast, I go to meet Miss Iowa, because that’s where I live and it’s like going to meet a state representative who you didn’t vote for, but somehow is supposed to embody something about your state that you cannot really define. I don’t end up meeting her—“pageant day,” of course. But her mother is there. Miss Iowa’s mom is confused about her daughter’s success. Not that she doesn’t think her daughter shouldn’t win, just that Emily Tinsman just started pageants in college and now here they are, in a casino in Connecticut right before Christmas. What a world.
(Here, we are all Miss Iowa’s mom.)
But whatever else they are, they are still defined by their bodies. Each contestant has to sign a contract saying they’ve never been pregnant and never had children. They can’t be older than 25 years old. They also have to be single. Translation: No abortions. Bodies: Pure. Even if they aren’t donning swimsuits and strutting on stage, their viability in the pageant is about the sanctity of their bodies. Just like Margaret Gorman, the childlike, innocent first winner, they must remain pure objects of desire—tight, poised, flesh vessels for our values.
(Ouch. Awful. And so America.)
If you’re not yet convinced, there’s also an Exhibit C: her name, which is cooler than my name and your name put together, and I say that with confidence despite not knowing what your name is. It’s a sharp name for a sharp writer.
Read this essay, is my point. It’s time well-spent.