|Subject: Interesting Article from 1989|
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Date Posted: 17:27:54 05/27/15 Wed
Miss America: It's Beauty And Business
By David Johnston, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: September 15, 1989
ATLANTIC CITY — Jeannie Carpenter was shocked when she saw the dresses that Molly McIntyre, Miss Michigan, and Angelo De Los Santos, Miss New Mexico, wore during the preliminary evening-gown competition at the Miss America Pageant.
"That should never happen," said Carpenter, referring to the almost- identical white gowns with gold accents the two contestants wore. Neither won that phase of the competition.
For eight years, Carpenter, 35, a former first runner-up for Miss Arkansas, has run a prosperous business selling pageant gowns. She said she limited how many contestants in a state pageant she will work with to avoid just such a faux pas.
"When you spend several thousand dollars on a pageant gown you should make sure the designer doesn't sell another one that's almost the same to another girl," Carpenter said.
The Miss America Pageant: A Scholarship Program works hard to remind the public that it is a nonprofit affair with 300,000 volunteers that in most places operates on a shoestring. This year's Miss Montana pageant, for example, will spend about $32,000, of which $6,000 will go for cash scholarships, state pageant director Jack Lawson said yesterday.
But like many nonprofit operations, the pageant also generates entrepreneurial activities.
If each of the 70,000 state and local contestants spends what dress-sellers say is the price of a low-end, off the rack gown (about $600), plus shoes and a swimsuit, that suggests $70 million in annual sales. Add in the money spent on personal fitness trainers, wardrobes, travel and other activities and that number could easily double.
Whoever is crowned tomorrow night before a television audience of more than 60 million will spend most of the coming year making appearances for the corporations that sponsor the pageant. Leonard Horn, who was paid $200,000 last year to head the pageant, said that one of his major goals was to get sponsors to spend more money on Miss America through scholarships and higher fees than the basic $600 plus expenses for a half-day appearance.
These sponsors are the primary source of money for the pageant. Last year, the sponsors and NBC brought the pageant $3,902,780 or 84.2 per cent of the Miss America Pageant's revenues.
In addition to the high-profile sponsors, other firms find ways to attach their name to Miss America.
A DISNEY CONTRACT
Disney, for example, thrust a contract into Gretchen Elizabeth Carlson's hand last year while she was still on the runway weeping and got her to say that the next thing she wanted to do as Miss America was see Disney World.
And Harley-Davidson motorcycles will be used in both a production number on the TV broadcast and in the Boardwalk parade, which begins at 7 tonight.
But on a much lower profile to the public are the small firms that sell pageant gowns, swimsuits, jewelry and other necessities of runway life.
In Anaheim, Calif., Earline Jones said in a telephone interview that
resurrecting the Miss Anaheim pageant in 1980 has been good for business at her Orangewood Beauty Salon. "Of course, I had a Miss America and that helps," Jones said, referring to Debra Sue Maffett, who won the local pageant in 1982 and became Miss America in 1983.
Yesterday, Carpenter, the dress designer and marketer, and 29 other small business owners displayed their wares in the Marcus Aurelius Room at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel-Casino as part of the third annual trade show sponsored by the executives directors of the Miss America state pageants.
"The executive directors started this because we wanted to make sure that every girl in this pageant has a fair chance," said Lawson, an independent insurance agent in Missoula, Mont., who is the volunteer executive director of that state's pageant. "Information is power and we wanted the girls from states like mine to have information they need."
MAKING THE DIFFERENCE
He said that in some Southern states where pageant are most popular, it was easy to find the clothing, accessories and advisers who can make the difference between just a trip to Atlantic City and becoming a top-10 finalist.
Carpenter said that "if you walk into a store in a place like Billings, Mont., where pageants aren't big, and ask for a pageant swimsuit, they won't know what you're talking about.
Until two years ago, she said, hers was mostly a regional trade selling ''in pageant country" the Deep South. "Now I've got people flying in from everywhere," said Carpenter, who added that she has decided to limit her business to pageants - principally Miss America pageants - shunning a lucrative ready-to-wear market.
"I make a good living and I like working intimately with a few girls," she said. Carpenter said that she got the idea for the business after realizing she may have missed becoming Miss Arkansas by wearing an emerald green dress. "I've found out by asking men that three or four out of 10 of them hate green."
Carpenter's store is an hour's drive from Little Rock in Russellville, Ark., a town of 14,000 that is also home to Randy's Another World, a store that sells pageant gowns. Owner Randy Dimitt said so many contestants fly in
from around the country that he keeps a courtesy car at the Little Rock Airport for incoming patrons.
COSTLY PLASTIC SURGERY
Many pageant contestants also stop by the plastic surgery clinic of James Billie of Little Rock. Billie has said that he molded the face or figure of five of the 51 Miss America contestants this year including Christine Rae McCubbins, who was selected Miss Alaska by a panel of judges that included the surgeon.
"I approached him," McCubbins said in an interview. "In 1985, I was in a car accident. I feel asleep at the wheel outside Las Vegas. My sister, who was 11 months younger, died. I had reconstructive surgery on my face, but I wasn't happy with it," she said, running her hand over her rebuilt nose and noting that her jaw line is slightly asymmetrical and numb.
McCubbins said on June 20, eight days after she won the state contest, she visited Billie's clinic. "I'm very happy with what he did," she said.
Pageant chairman Horn said he sees no ethical issues in this relationship
because the surgery occurred after the state pageant. He said Billie is free to judge other pageants and to operate on contestants after the local competition is over.
Billie couldn't be reached yesterday.
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