"Why is America's largest distributor of college scholarships for women judging its recipients based in part on how they look in a bikini?"
That's the question, or one of them, Mic.com writer Zak Cheney-Rice was left pondering after Sunday's Miss America Pageant, which was won by Miss New York Kira Kazantsev. Miss America's perennial promotion of similar-looking white women who conform to a Western standard of beauty (i.e., look good in a bikini or you will never have a chance) caused Cheney-Rice to seek out something more, as he puts it, "badass."
He found it in Miss Indian World. His article, "This Badass Pageant Shows Miss America What True Beauty Really Looks Like," lists six ways in which Miss Indian World is better than Miss America: 1. It's NOT a "beauty pageant." 2. It takes place at the world's biggest powwow. 3. Every winner is a woman of color. 4. There's no bikini contest. 5. When the apocalypse comes, you want these women on your team. 6. It helps preserve and promote a culture too often overlooked by its neighbors.
(If reason #5 doesn't make immediate sense to you, here's some elaboration from an Al Jazeera America story by Native journalist Tristan Ahtone, as paraphrased by Cheney-Rice: "One of this year's runners-up, 23-year-old Megan Leary of Napaimute, Alaska, demonstrated she is ready for pretty much anything. She drives a snowmobile, fixes boat engines and carries a .243 Winchester rifle when hunting moose." Who needs Doomsday Preppers when you have Miss Indian World?)
The piece is a marvelous ode to the beauty of Miss Indian World and Native American pageants in general—a must-read for pageant hopefuls and enthusiasts (and we'd like to think someone at the Miss America organization will stumble across it and give it some thought). It cites reports from a Native Peoples report by Tara Gatewood and Ahtone's Al Jazeera America story extensively, and includes colorful photos.
"The qualities rewarded at the Miss Indian World pageant last a lifetime," Cheney-Rice concludes. "These are the attributes we should really be celebrating."