"You can say it's about scholarship money, but it's also about this ideal about what the ideal American young woman is," Nicolosi says.
Personal trainer and Cross Fit enthusiast Chelsea Dubczak, 23, Miss Iowa, made "Ladies Who Lift: Strengthening Mind and Body" her pageant platform.
"There she is, your ideal." Miss America 2016, Betty Cantrell, in Atlantic City for the contestant arrival ceremony welcoming 2017 contestants, had to hide her ring and keep the big news under wraps after she got engaged towards the end of her reign.
(Tim Hawk | For NJ.com) Though the pageant fashions itself as a friend to women pursuing college degrees -- a "competition," not a "beauty pageant" -- Miss America persists in trying to manage the love lives of its titleholders.
"I really wasn't supposed to be engaged as Miss America," says Cantrell, 22. Though attempts have been made to reinvigorate the pageant for younger audiences, no amount of rebranding can paper over Miss America's dubious history of "championing" women, critics say. Founded in 1921 as a spectacle to keep people on the boardwalk past Labor Day, Miss America remains an American antique, latched to a vintage rendering of the "ideal" woman.
"She's supposed to be America's sweetheart," she says of Miss America. "There she is, Miss America," goes the old song, crooned for years by pageant host Bert Parks.