Donald Trump on the David Letterman Show this week said that you only have to be beautiful to win Miss Universe.  The Donald dismissed the Miss America Pageant and its scholarship program when Letterman brought it up.  Here’s the clip.

Many people don’t realize that the Miss USA Pageant, which feeds the Miss Universe Pageant, is not affiliated with the Miss America Pageant. To become Miss America, unlike Miss USA, a young woman has to have brains and talent along with her beauty. She has to be “pretty smart” – focused, disciplined, intelligent and persistent. Having interviewed 22 former Miss Americas for my book , Pretty Smart: Lessons from our Miss Americas, I have a clear-eyed perspective of what distinguishes the women who compete in Miss America from other beauty pageants out there. As a woman who is pretty smart herself (a Wharton MBA grad) and one who had no involvement with pageants prior to writing Pretty Smart, I bring a third party credibility to the argument that Miss America is a substantial step above other pageants.

Miss USA is actually an offshoot of the Miss America Pageant. The Catalina Swimsuit Company, a sponsor of the Miss America Pageant in the 1950’s, walked off in a huff when Yolanda Betbeze, Miss America 1951, a serious opera singer, refused to model the sponsor’s swimsuits during her reign. She told them to start their own pageant – and they did.

To become Miss America, a young woman needs talent, brains, perseverance, goals and a social issues platform. She must be either about to enter college, attending college or a recent graduate. She has to first win at the local level, and then the state before she can compete for the title of Miss America. Young women aspiring to Miss USA fill out an application form to be part of a state pageant, and, if accepted, pay an application fee. (Miss USA is a for-profit organization, Miss America, a non-profit scholarship program with no application fee.) To become Miss Universe, a woman need have no talent other than the ability to appear gorgeous in a bikini.

Yes, I’ll watch Miss Universe on NBC this weekend, and I’ll cheer on the winner. These young women still show admirable qualities of persistence and discipline. But frankly, they’re no Miss America.

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