Former Miss America Runner Up: Donning the Bikini Was ‘Inherently Feminist, Not Demeaning’

Crystal Lee
Getty Images/Ida Mae Astute

In a new editorial, a former Miss America contestant noted that the recently canceled bikini competition wasn’t “demeaning.” Instead, she claims the competition was “inherently feminist.”

In a June 12th Los Angeles Times op-ed, Crystal Lee, a one-time Miss California and the first runner-up winner for the 1994 pageant, told of what occurred backstage as she and her fellow contestants made ready to take the stage during the 1994 pageant’s bikini segment.

Lee, co-founder of the tech startup named LifeSite, told of the eye-opening way that bikini bottoms were secured so that they stayed in place and didn’t ride up, she told of what the contestants did backstage as they prepared, and she told of the mental checklist she ticked off as she eyed the stage.

But, she also noted that the whole experience was not one of humiliation nor was it demeaning:

I hadn’t anticipated how much colder it was going to be out on stage in the air-conditioned auditorium. Sharing the same space with the fans and judges suddenly made all the distance disappear. My racing heart seemed to slow down as a calmness gradually came over me. Years of anxiety — of both fearing and wanting this moment — evaporated. The tension in my jaw melted away, replaced by a genuine grin. I felt not just confident, but unstoppable. In an instant, it was over.

Walking out in a bikini before a crowd cheering my name gave me a rush and sense of courage I never thought possible. I know will never again be able to get that feeling.

Lee went on to criticize the elimination of the bikini phase of the pageant:

Still, dropping the swimwear category is a loss to the contest. It delivered a powerful message: that beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive and that you can be a feminist and flaunt your body. Letting contestants don the bikini was inherently feminist because women made that choice for themselves. Future participants will be forced into a new form of sexism, one that emerges out of today’s popular feminist narrative. It may be driven by contemporary ideas, but it disguises the same, familiar barriers and judgments surrounding women’s decisions.

“Critics love to lambast pageants for being objectifying and degrading. But ask contestants like me. We’ll tell you we were baring our midriffs because we wanted to,” Lee concluded.

Lee’s op-ed met with much support from those who just don’t understand the militant feminist direction the Miss America pageant is taking.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.