Deja Vu: The Answer Miss Utah Should Have Given

Written by Christina Mozaffari (@PMRChristina) on June 17, 2013 – 11:10 AM

To quote Yogi Berra, It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Another beauty pageant contestant is a YouTube sensation for colossally fumbling a competition question. This time, the awkward moment comes from Miss Utah USA, Marissa Powell. When asked about equal pay for women issues in the Miss America pageant last night, Miss Powell offered an incomprehensible answer that showed she clearly didn’t understand the issue.

While I sympathize with Miss Powell’s tough situation, she obviously could have handled the question better.

Most spokespeople get into trouble when they try to answer questions for which they don’t know the answer. They tend to give factually incorrect answers, or, as in Miss Powell’s case, answers that make no sense.  She could have said something to the effect of: “You know, the causes of pay inequality in the United States are very complicated and too much for me to take on in just a few seconds. But like so many things, this comes back to education for me…” It’s certainly far from a perfect answer, but it would have prevented her aimless answer and helped her transition to a safer topic.


Miss Utah USA Marissa Powell


Miss Powell is not the first pageant contestant to suffer such a fate. Miss Teen South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton, had a similar gaffe in 2007’s Miss Teen USA competition when she froze up after being asked about why so many Americans can’t point to the USA on a map.

What do you think? How could she have delivered a better answer? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have the best of the blog delivered to your inbox twice per month! Enter your name in the box on the upper right of the blog to join our mailing list.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments (5)

  1. By Jeff Domansky:

    Brad, as you know, strange things can happen when the lights and mics go on. These unfortunate pageant contestants aren’t the only victims of poor preparation. I’ve seen it happen to senior execs too. The lesson is preparation and practice for any interview, media, job or pageant.

  2. By Brett:

    Perhaps she could have used her opportunity to make the connection between women being objectified (see: Beauty Pageants) and women being treated as something less than equal in the workplace.

    Not necessarily a winning answer… but really, isn’t it time for those things to go the way of the dinosaur?

  3. By Brad Phillips:

    Brett —

    I’m with you. The holy trinity of beauty, talent, and wisdom they’re selling sends a bad message to those who only possess two of the three. “Are you brilliant and talented but only average looking? Please have a seat at the bar. We’ll call you later.”

    I’m willing to bet that these shows are finally relegated to the dustbin of a bygone era during my lifetime.

    Thanks for writing,

  4. By Ann Rowe-McMullen:

    Brad and Brett,

    I greatly appreciate both of your opinions, yet must wholeheartedly disagree.

    The Miss America Scholarship program helped shape me into the woman and successful crisis communications professional I am today. As a teen, I endured braces, headgear, coke-bottle glasses and teasing – all at the same time.

    However, because I and others were able to see beyond those physical and visual challenges at the time (by the way, I have slight scoliosis, one leg that is longer than the other, and a foot that is 1/2 size larger than the other), I was encouraged and able to continue focusing on and seeking my goals in life – one of which was attending college, (I was the first in my family to do so) and two, becoming successful in my career and life. I utilize the skills I learned while competing in the Miss America system – every single day at my job, when relating to others, and how I conduct myself. Am I a celebrity? No. Am I incredibly rich? No, not in terms of finances, yet I do believe I am rich in many other ways, which includes having a strong faith in God. I encourage you to read the recent article published by the current Miss America regarding Miss Utah’s misstep (June 18), her words mirror my feelings on the subject of pageant competition very well. There are many roads and options to obtaining an education and realizing your dreams in life, and I remain very proud I chose the Miss America Scholarship program as one of the vehicles to aid me in achieving those and future goals.


    Ann Rowe-McMullen
    Miss Maine 1990
    Tallahassee, FL

  5. By Brad Phillips:

    Dear Ann,

    I’m grateful to you for stopping by the blog and leaving such a thoughtful and respectful comment. Your perspective was missing from my original post and from the other comments, so I appreciate having such a smartly presented perspective from “the other side.” It sounds like the Miss America system was incredibly valuable for your personal and professional development, and you’re right that there are many paths to self-growth.

    Since I didn’t elaborate on my objections in my earlier comment, I’d like to present my main concern. The objection I have isn’t that Miss America doesn’t do wonders for the women who are part of the system, but rather that it can be destructive for women who aren’t – or, because of their “average” or “less-than-average” looks – can’t be part of it. To me, it perpetuates a societal notion that someone good enough to be called “Miss America” must be great looking, because talent and knowledge just wouldn’t be enough. I’m the father to a son, but can’t help thinking that I wouldn’t like my daughter receiving that message one day.

    I would welcome your thoughts on that. And although I’m not sure we’ll ever fully agree on this particular issue, I’m very grateful for your intelligent perspective and hope you’ll feel welcome to remain a part of this community.

    Thanks again,

Leave a Comment

(will not be published)