The definition of beauty has been in a constant state of flux over the years, and Harris County, TX beauty pageants are no exception. In the 1920s, when oil wealth was booming, the Cactus, the annual edition of the University of Texas, was full of accolades for attractive students. Theater producer Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. was one of the celebrities who chose the most alluring ones.
Nowadays, society's priority is to demonstrate to the world what women in these spaces can do while staying true to themselves. Norma Kristie, state representative from Arkansas, was crowned the winner of the Miss Gay America pageant in 1973, and in 1975 Norman Norma Kristie Jones took over the pageant instead of Jerry Peek, who founded it. Beauty pageants can be incredibly beneficial for personal growth since they can apply the skills acquired by serving the community, speaking in public and answering questions to real-life scenarios. Winnerviews' JJ Smith, a leading interview coach with decades of industry experience, shared his opinion on why beauty pageants can get a bad rap.
The aim of these contests has shifted from being external credentials to becoming talent and intellect. The change can also be seen through the media that broadcast them, with changes in ownership, networks and social values as a whole with the times. Rather than harshly judging contestants by their physical presence on stage through first impressions, costumes and choreography, the Plus contest engages contestants in rigorous interviews, giving them the opportunity to show who they are beyond the competition. As Miss Gay America gained popularity and prestige, many professional impersonators who lived full time as women found that they were unable to compete in the pageant due to their old rule that prohibited transgender female contestants.