Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Bonnie Van Ness

Relational Format



Adrian Phillips, a Pageant President and volunteer in the Miss America Organization for more than seven decades, stated that, “Things evolve. The press likes to refer to ‘changes,’ but most everything that has happened has been a precedent of something evolving. It comes by evolving and it disappears by evolving. And that has been the history of the Miss America Pageant” (Bivans). With the centennial anniversary quickly approaching and drastic changes made recently within the Miss America Organization, my Thesis examines the program’s evolution and evaluates its sustainability through finance, marketing and journalism perspectives. To do this, I drew information from a plethora of books, news publications, articles and statements. In addition, I created and distributed an anonymous survey through social media platforms to gauge the public’s perception of the current state of the Organization. Through the compilation of the history of the program and an analysis of the nearly 1,000 survey responses recorded, I observed that the current state of the Miss America Organization is not sustainable and that immediate action needs to be taken in order to guarantee the continuation of the Pageant. From the start of the Competition in 1921, the Miss America Organization has faced many of the same challenges year after year. Back lack and criticism, the ever-present need to prove its relevance, shifts in media outlet utilization, the frequent adaptation of Miss America’s role to fit societal expectations and the reliance on outside entities for a substantial amount of funding have not stopped the Pageant from continuing in the past. However, as the current situation of the Organization weakens, it must fight to sustain itself as a relevant program. Resolved internal dispute, a relatable image the public connects with, strong financial backing, revised competition elements and scoring criteria, a network broadcast partnership and a renewed sense of belief in the Pageant are all immediate needs that must be met in order for the Miss America Organization to both survive and prosper beyond its upcoming 100th anniversary.

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