Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pageant Press: Competing for the Crown

The following article, titled Competing for the Crown, was found in this month’s Cleveland Magazine. Miss Ohio, Melanie Murphy, is featured in the article and on the magazine's cover [left].

This article has proven a bit controversial in the pageant world, as some people found Mel’s comments over confident or inappropriate, others feel this is a horribly written article and the journalist is to blame.

I have no knowledge of Colleen Mytnick or her body of work, but I do agree with the later, that this is not a good editorial, but that’s not Melanie’s fault.

I’ve given several interviews, and it is a scary experience! You have to hold your breath until the publication date, hoping you’re accurately portrayed. As a very sarcastic person, I have to juggle showing my personality with the fear that a reporter will misquote something as literal. More of my comments after the article…

Competing for the Crown

Melanie Murphy began her pageant career as Miss Brook Park. Crowned Miss Ohio last summer, she will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant Jan. 29.

The Competition: I started competing when I was 16. I'm 20 now.

The first year at Miss Ohio I was preliminary swimsuit winner, spirit award winner, commitment to excellence award winner and Top 10 overall. The second year I was Top 10 and swimsuit winner. I got another spirit award, too, which was great.

It's not catty like you see on "Miss Congeniality" or stereotypical shows or movies. There's so much more to it. But it is tough because all the girls are amazing. My whole life I've always had trouble dealing with girls because of jealousy. I've always been a cheerleader or a dancer. And I've always been the best at what I've done because I've always worked very hard.

I met the other contestants for Miss America earlier this year, and it was great because they were all like me.

The worst thing you want to do is compare yourself to other contestants. It's all about your confidence. Really, that's what it is. A girl can be the most fit, but if you can tell she's nervous, she's not going to score high. Who has the silent confidence? That's the girl who's going to win it.

For Miss Ohio, you get to pick your own swimsuit. I wore my favorite color--pink. I always win when I wear that swimsuit. At Miss America, all the girls wear the same swimsuit. We don't know yet what it's going to be, but I hope it's a string bikini because I know I'm going to look good in it. I work with a personal trainer, and I work hard to look the way I do, so I'd definitely like to show that off.

I do weight training three times a week, and I do a lot of cardio now too. I'm trying to lose a little bit more weight for Miss America because when you're onstage you look a little bit heavier. I weigh 125. I want to weigh 110.

Miss Ohio: When I was crowned Miss Ohio, they gave me a company car--a 2000 silver Pontiac Sunfire. It's got 90,000 miles on it. I'm constantly traveling--Mansfield, Toledo, Cleveland--to make appearances all over the state. That's what makes you so tired, all the driving. I practice singing in the car, talk on my cell phone or listen to NPR news. It's always something, some sort of preparation or business.

You've got to know where you stand on an issue, not wishy-washy. Anything goes in the interview room. The question is not just, "What's your favorite color?" or something like that. But if you don't know or haven't thought about that particular issue, you should just say so. What's important is how you say it. Half the judges probably don't know what they're asking you anyway. They just like to listen to themselves talk.

The biggest thing is just to be yourself. It sounds so easy, but it's hard when you're in the pageant world. So many people say, "Oh, you should get this done or you should get that done." So many people want to change your appearance or change who you are.

People have told me that if I got lip injections, I'd have fuller lips. That would not be me, and I wouldn't be comfortable with that. A lot of girls know all about this stuff. I didn't even know there was such a thing as lash extensions. I'm going to stick with fake eyelashes. That'll be fine.

I wouldn't have won Miss Ohio if I had those kinds of problems. I'm happy with what God gave me and what I have, so I'm not going to change anything. Some girls feel that that's going to make them more confident so, hey, go for it.

Past the Pageant: It's not about winning the crown. It's about what you can do with the job. So many girls do this for the wrong reason. I guess that just gives me reassurance to know that I'm in this for the right reason.

If I don't win, the God has a bigger plan for my life. There's so many things I want to do with this opportunity. There's so many lives I want to touch. There's so many ideas I have.

After this is all over, the first thing I'm going to do is go back to school. I would be in my third year at CSU. My degree is in digital media and film production with and emphasis in journalism. My next goal is to get an internship. But I don't want to be just a newscaster. I don't think that's interesting enough to me. I would love to eventually have my own TV show like "Regis and Kelly." I would like to have something where I could show my personality.

Until then, I know I'm meant to do this. I just know my whole life that God made me differently, even in middle school. I was always very independent. I was never in a clique. I always did my own thing.

I think a lot of people didn't like me in high school. I never went to parties or things like that because I was always busy with dance--constantly involved with things. Now I'm glad I did all those thngs because it's paid off. Look where I am. I'm so much closer to my dream of being Miss America.

--As told to Colleen Mytnick.

So, as I said above, giving interviews is not easy. I have found that like the pageant interview, it’s best to “just talk” and be yourself. If you think too much and try too hard, you come off overly rehearsed and robotic. This notion requires a journalist to… I don’t know… do their job! No one ever thinks about it, but the way we speak is dramatically different from the way we write. I expect a reporter to edit my spoken statements into correct written sentences. I can’t count how many sentences in this article began with “And” and “But.” Similarly, conversations bounce from topic to topic, but written work should not. It doesn’t seem as though Ms. Mytnick rearranged her conversation with Melanie as to make a well structured, organized article.

Further, several things are not given context. For example, Melanie is not vainly hoping for string bikinis. Rather, for the past two years Speedo has sponsored the Miss America pageant, providing controversially tiny string bikinis. Mel’s simply saying she’s not worried about something that has been and continues to be a major concern for many contestants. Similarly, the comment which seems to be disrespectful of judges is rumored to be about mock interview judges, who are often individuals with zero pageant experience and trouble asking questions that actually benefit the contestant.

It’s a shame that a few things that didn’t come off well are over shadowing the accomplishment of getting the cover of this magazine and the several great things Melanie said. She is clearly a driven, accomplished woman. Best of luck to her as she continues preparing for Miss America.

1 comment:

  1. Abby,

    I agree with your assessment. This is horribly written - no organization, no context - there's nothing of the "writer" in this story at all - nothing to indicate what is really Melanie's comments and beliefs (besides scant quotation marks) and what is the writer's impression. I hope that Melanie as well as the Miss Ohio organization draft a very strong letter to the magazine editor. Cover or no - this publicity could be bad for her if the wrong people see it and take it at face value. As a public figure - image is the most important thing - as a private citizen - reputation is everything. This article made Melanie appear cocky, uncaring and over-confident - three things that I highly doubt she really is - she seems to be a genuine, wonderful woman and this certainly does not reflect that. Also, on a larger scale, the way this is written furthers the mistaken notion that pageant girls are stuck on themselves, etc. I have to wonder if the female writer of this piece was pulling her own personal feelings/biases into the article and misusing her journalistic skills to misrepresent something she may not herself agree with - don't know - either this journalist is really good (purposely making Melanie look like an idiot) or really bad - just bad two cents


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