Past Pageant Winners Thin Shame Miss USA Finalists

pageant-womenOy vey, “the road to hell was paved with good intentions” or whatever.

Last night, on HuffPost Live, a few former Miss America and Miss USA winners inappropriately discussed the bodies of the finalists in Sunday night’s Miss USA Pageant. It would be appropriate to blast the beauty ideal or the pressure the women are under or the pageant for objectifying women, but they seemed to focus on the contestants bodies in a critical and thin shaming way.

Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund has struggled with an anorexia herself and even has her own foundation called Kirsten Haglund Foundation that she can use as a platform to raise awareness about eating disorders. Instead of discussing the damaging pressure these women are under, she decided to say:

“The girls, I thought, were much too thin… if you would have tested their BMIs that they probably would have been much too thin. And that’s the standard in the modeling industry and the fashion industry as well.”

Well, yes to that last part, sort of. It’s not a secret or even up for debate that those industries have extremely narrow standards of what bodies are acceptable. The first part though, “much too thin”–much too thin for what? For you and what you think is ok and attractive.

Miss USA 2003 Susie Castillo shared a similar view:

“I was a little shocked too, sitting in the audience and seeing ribcages showing, protruding from these girls’ skins. I was like, ‘Wow, these girls…’”

Real nice, Castillo! You didn’t like the look of their bodies? Castillo apparently teaches classes in “Pageantology” and encourages her clients to be themselves and maintain a healthy weight. Do girls with bones “protruding from [their] skins” not have the same right to your body-positive message?

She followed the previous statement up with this rhetorical move I like to call the brag n’ shame:

“I realize that 10 years ago, when I was Miss USA, I was a lot thinner too, only because I was younger and active. I was an athlete. I wasn’t that thin. And I agree that it’s going in a way where girls are just super thin,”

Oh, so 10 years ago, when you were Miss USA, the girls were actually hot and not bony skeletons scaring viewers? Got it. It’s ok to recognize that standards have changed and are even damaging in some ways, but positioning the standard you complied with as superior to the current one is problematic. The Huffington Post has a gallery of beauty pageant contestants throughout history, it shows how the physical standards have shifted–but they still existed in the past, just differently. The issue isn’t that pageant participants have gotten thinner, it’s that there are rigid standards at all. Castillo’s athletic figure from her day in the sun could be as unhealthy to attain as any other.

I’m sure these former beauty queens thought they were being kind and saying the right thing. Their concern is troubling–because they’re criticizing these other women and they think they’re being nice while they’re at it. Sure, the ex winners know the crushing pressure the new contestants are under from experience, but they aren’t their doctors and if they were, “too thin” isn’t really a legitimate diagnosis–it’s just a rude judgment.

bearded-beauty

Back in my day, all the beauty queens had full beards.

via HuffingtonPost & HNGN//Images via Shutterstock

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    • Duh

      Wrong. You are implying that all body types are equally healthy and that’s it’s wrong to say otherwise. Having a BMI below 19 is anorexic. You can be too thin. Period.

    • Duh

      Wrong. You are implying that all body types are equally healthy and that’s it’s wrong to say otherwise. Having a BMI below 19 is anorexic. You can be too thin. Period.

      • Muggle

        No, you’re an idiot who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. A BMI over 18 is considered healthy. Anything else is called “underweight,” NOT anorexic. I’ve actually been underweight, and idiots like you do not make life easier. I did not suffer from an eating disorder like you’ve apparently deluded yourself into thinking all underweight people suffer from. I was a teenager with an insanely fast metabolism, some hormonal problems that made gaining weight next to impossible, so I was just barely at a healthy weight when I came down with viral meningitis and didn’t eat for a week. Was being that thin healthy? I’m not even going to pretend it was. But being told to EAT MOAR and that I was obviously anorexic did not help me one bit. It sent me into two years of horribly disordered eating and body dysmorphia.

        What gets me is that you and other weight-shaming assholes like Castillo rant on and on about how horrible “anorexic” chicks look and how they’re OBVIOUSLY unhealthy, but even through your amateur diagnosis of a potentially fatal disease you have no sympathy for them. You don’t give two shits about anyone who is underweight or actually suffering from anorexia nervosa, you’re a bully and an asshole and you’re not helping anyone.

      • Muggle

        No, you’re an idiot who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. A BMI over 18 is considered healthy. Anything else is called “underweight,” NOT anorexic. I’ve actually been underweight, and idiots like you do not make life easier. I did not suffer from an eating disorder like you’ve apparently deluded yourself into thinking all underweight people suffer from. I was a teenager with an insanely fast metabolism, some hormonal problems that made gaining weight next to impossible, so I was just barely at a healthy weight when I came down with viral meningitis and didn’t eat for a week. Was being that thin healthy? I’m not even going to pretend it was. But being told to EAT MOAR and that I was obviously anorexic did not help me one bit. It sent me into two years of horribly disordered eating and body dysmorphia.

        What gets me is that you and other weight-shaming assholes like Castillo rant on and on about how horrible “anorexic” chicks look and how they’re OBVIOUSLY unhealthy, but even through your amateur diagnosis of a potentially fatal disease you have no sympathy for them. You don’t give two shits about anyone who is underweight or actually suffering from anorexia nervosa, you’re a bully and an asshole and you’re not helping anyone.

      • enbrown

        Not to mention that just as people can be slightly overweight or chubby and still healthy, you can have an underweight BMI and still be quite healthy. People are built differently and the body mass index is a general formula, not a precise measure of “overall health.” I say this as a girl who had a “healthy” BMI both when I ate nothing but fast food & crap and when I was bulimic/nearly anorexic, but has had an underweight BMI ever since I got healthy and started eating well.

      • enbrown

        That is not even remotely correct about anorexia/BMI.

      • Yeah, no

        My BMI is 18… and right now I am eating an entire alfredo chicken pizza. And earlier I had a blueberry muffin and 3 donuts… and mac and cheese… and celery with ranch… so I’m not anorexic… I’m just a 5’2″ 17 year old athlete with a very fast metabolism. When I was 14, I didn’t have a figure or anything and all my teammates and coaches got onto me about being anorexic and detrimental to the team. It didn’t help that I have hypoglycemia and fainted a lot, which they said was due to my non-existent anorexia. Yes, there are unhealthy body types. But a BMI of 19- is not necessarily one of them. You can even be overweight and still be healthy; you can be underweight and be healthy. Actual anorexics are anorexic and unhealthy. Obese people are unhealthy. You are not helping anyone with your ignorance.

      • Elle

        Wow…you have a really bad life style (aka diet)

    • October

      Thin-shaming in an western, euro-centric beauty-based american society is like reverse racism; it doesn’t exist?

      if you have to asky “why”, you have a whole lot of research to do.