Whether you dislike beauty pageants because you see them as just another way of exploiting women or you enjoy them for their celebration of feminine splendor, beauty pageants don’t cease to exist when someone turns the corner to 60. The Ms. Senior America pageant is a testament to the reality that beauty is ageless.

Every year, contestants aged 60 years and older from every state, gather in New Jersey to participate in the Ms. Senior America Pageant, “the world’s first and foremost pageant to emphasize and give honor to women who have reached the age of elegance”, was created in 1972 and has been going strong since then. Their Mission Statement confirms their commitment to a positive image of aging:

“The Ms. Senior America Pageant…is a search for the gracious lady who best exemplifies the dignity, maturity and inner beauty of all senior Americans. The Ms. Senior America philosophy is based upon the belief that seniors are the foundation of America, and our most valuable treasure.  It is upon their knowledge, experience and resources that the younger generation has the opportunity to build a better society.”

The Judging

  • The pageant is modeled after the Miss America Pageant and like that pageant, the contestants are judged according to the following criteria:
  • Interview – This interview is individual where the contestant meets with a panel of judges and is given the opportunity to express her personality and conversational skills.
  • Evening Gown – “Senior America believes that the woman makes the clothes” she wears and not visa versa. This is where she is judged according to her poise and grace and if she possesses a knowledge of what’s right for her as expressed in her choice of gown.
  • Inner Beauty – “The Pageant recognizes physical fitness, but seeks to emphasize that true beauty is a matter of insight as well as eyesight. Each contestant shares her personal “Philosophy of Life” with the audience so that the judges may develop an insight into each lady’s own inner beauty. The thirty second Philosophy statement isn’t a biography, but rather the wisdom that the contestant wishes to share with the younger generation.”
  • Talent – Whether it’s music, art, dance, comedy, drama, or sewing, each contestant has an allotted time period to demonstrate their talent and exemplify the pageant’s commitment to showing that talent and beauty do not decline with age.

The judging is done in two stages:

1. The Preliminary Round – Contestants compete in the four categories and then those scores for each contestant are then added together. The ladies who receive the top ten scores move on to the Finals.

2. The Finals – Finalists enter the finals with their scores from their interviews, and then compete for Evening Gown, Philosophy of Life, and Talent.

In an age that worships the wrinkle-free faces of youth, this year’s Ms. Senior America may have her work cut out for her before she’s even won. But we older folk do have something invaluable and beautiful that can only be forged in the fiery furnace of age: in the words of Ms. Senior Arkansas, “‘You’ve had surgeries, car accidents, deaths, divorces. You name it, we’ve been through it. It’s how you react to it and how you grow from it that gives you wisdom.” Now, that’s true beauty!

Research

1. Ms. Senior America: Behind the Scenes at the Beauty Pageant for Pensioners.
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/ms-senior-america-beauty-pageant-pensioners-oaps-photographer-sixty-plus-60-us-a7578316.html

2. SeniorAmerica.org.
http://senioramerica.org/