Musing over Miss Arkansas 

It's 6:30 p.m., time for the pre-event talent showcase. The house lights are still on and Summit Arena is somewhere between one-third and one-half full. People mill about, dressed in everything from tuxedos and sequins to seersucker and khaki. Handmade posters line the section railings, wishing specific contestants good luck. Ten minutes later, the crowd hasn't filled out, but the lights dim anyway.

Welcome to crowning night, the highlight of the 75th Miss Arkansas pageant. General admission will run you about $30, but the best seats are reserved for press. They line the runway, affording reach-out-and-touch proximity to visibly quaking calves, tear-streaked, make-up muddied faces and the occasional glimpse of Spanx-clad thighs.

Early on, I realize this is going to be more interesting than my prior pageant experience — watching friends shuffle onstage in our high school auditorium, using the event as an attempt to extend the usefulness of their prom dresses.

Miss Arkansas, night six, officially starts with each of the 47 contestants storming the stage to club music, stating their name and qualifying title, and then strutting down the runway in identical dresses that resemble a one-shoulder take on a Pan Am uniform. From the press perspective, it's a full-scale advance, an army of perfect — albeit orange-hued — limbs parading about 2 feet from my face. When I manage to overcome the hypnotic motion of so many legs ending in the same pair of rhinestone heels, the runway immediately conjures my sole after-hours experience on Fayetteville's Dickson Street — bleached blondes, everywhere I look, with a few exceptions. The party girls are even dancing a little, because they can't help themselves. Many of them are college freshmen, and when someone cues this kind of music, dancing is just instinct.

The limbs arrange themselves onstage, some posed atop wooden blocks. When the limbs are still and the smiles pasted, the top 10 contestants are announced. The chosen few line the runway, some of them so eager to make it to the "safe" corner that they trot rather than walk, the way that a boxer might. Except that they're trotting in heels, which means they're actually scuttling. A few of them are weeping (in relief, I suspect) at having made it this far. As the chosen clasp hands, embrace and swipe their eyes, I glance at the 37 others. Way back there on the big stage, the smiles have grown tighter. One girl wears an expression of utter bewilderment. It's obvious that her mind is racing, trying to process the incredible disappointment of having it all end, just like that, and at the same time, recalling what she was instructed to do in this worst-case scenario. Oh yes, she should offer a hand to the girls on the risers, help them step down in their heels. She turns to her left, then her right, but the risers are already vacated. The former occupants are either standing on the runway or have made a desperate getaway backstage, where they can sob in semi-privacy.

Tracy Neal, Miss University of Arkansas, is in the top 10. We met a few months back, and she told me how her Miss Arkansas wardrobe breaks down — $300 for swimsuit, $4,000 for evening gown, $1,500 for talent. In addition to these expenses there are the talent fees and the walking and interview lessons, often given by former beauty queens and traveling coaches.

"Miss Arkansas can cost up to $15,000," Neal said. "My budget for this year is between 7 and 8,000 [dollars]." Neal, a graduate student in the community health promotion program, raised about 80 percent of her budget. After our chat, she dashed off to host a princess party at the dance studio where she teaches. For an evening of manicures and makeup, little girls' moms were forking out $25 each.

Comments (60)

Showing 1-25 of 60

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 60

Add a comment

More by Cheree Franco

People who saved…

Most Shared

  • Bill to regulate dog breeders draws opposition inside chamber from industry rep

    A fight could be brewing over regulation of puppy mills, with legislation planned to better protect dogs and opposition already underway from a state representative who makes a living working with commercial dog breeders.
  • Arkansas's new anti-gay law forgets history

    It turns back the clock on civil rights.
  • The hart

    It is hard for a straight person, The Observer included, to imagine what it would be like to be born gay — to be shipwrecked here on this space-going clod, where nearly every textbook, novel, film and television show, nearly every blaring screen or billboard or magazine ad, reinforces the idea that "normal" means "heterosexual."
  • Clergy oppose another piece of gay discrimination legislation

    SB 202, which will take effect Tuesday unless Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoes it, isn't the only legislation pending that aims at protecting discrimination against gay people. A companion bill, HB 1228, by Rep. Bob Ballinger, has similar intent to protect "conscience" as a pretext for legal discrimination against gay people in matters unrelated to religious practice.
  • Presbytery of Arkansas opposes bills aimed at gay discrimination

    The Presbytery of Arkansas, the governing body for Presbyterian churches in the northern two-thirds of Arkansas, met Saturday at Clarksville and adopted a resolution urging Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto SB 202, which is aimed at preventing local government from passing anti-discrimination laws to protect gay people. The Presbytery also expressed its opposition to a pending House bill that, in the name of "conscience," would protect those who discriminate against gay people.

Latest in A&E Feature

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Most Viewed

  • American Lions take round four

    The Showcase continues Thursday, Feb. 26.
  • Miranda Lambert returns to Verizon

    Also, 'To Light a Candle' at Robinson, 7 Bands 7 Bucks at Low Key Arts, The Tontons and Wild Mocassin at Stickyz, 'James and the Giant Peach' at Ron Robinson and Jonathan Richman at Juanita's.
  • Hogs play team ball

    The dearth of team cohesiveness had killed Arkansas basketball in recent years. "Hawgball" more or less died because in-house friction led to on-court product that bore the evidence of dissent. Not to pick on any individual players, but you never sensed that in the last years of Nolan Richardson's regime or Stan Heath's or John Pelphrey's respective tenures that the players did the so-called "buy-in" or cared much about team unity.
  • Could have been worse

    'Hot Tub 2' scores some chuckles.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2015 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation