Miss America (2002 film)

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Miss America is a documentary film directed by Lisa Ades that takes its viewer on a journey from the very beginnings of the Miss America pageant in 1921 to the present-day pageant while exploring how the pageant has reflected the country’s views and where the country was moving towards by whom it chose as its winners each year. As the categories became more substantial and the requirements to participate more rigorous, the Miss America Pageant became much more than just a national contest to be America’s female representative to the world. The pageant, hosted in Atlantic City every year since it started, transformed into a place where sexual politics as well as the position of women were subtly fought and battles against anti-semitism and racism were won. This documentary was released as an episode of American Experience season 14 in January 2002.

Miss America
Directed byLisa Ades
Produced byLisa Ades, Lesli Klainberg
Story byMichelle Ferrari
StarringJulia Alvarez, Margaret Cho, William Goldman, Isaac Mizrahi, Gloria Steinem, along with former Miss Americas Bess Myerson, Lee Meriwether, and Mary Ann Mobley
Narrated byCherry Jones
Music byDouglas J. Cuomo
CinematographyBuddy Squires, Peter Nelson
Edited byToby Shinim
CLIO, Inc., Orchard Films, Visualizing History, WGBH
Distributed byWomen Make Movies and PBS (WGBH)
Release date
January 22, 2002
Running time
96 Minutes
CountryUnited States

Commentary CastEdit

Julia Alvarez is an author who has written many books, poems, novels and essays.[1] She was also awarded the 2009 F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature among other notable achievements.[2] Margaret Cho has many occupations, but is best known as a comedian through which she tackles social and political issues. William Goldman is a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright and has won two Academy Awards. Isaac Mizrahi, although known for his fashion, is also a TV presenter and creative director of Xcel Brands. Gloria Steinem is a writer and an activist and founded Ms. Magazine among many other organizations and foundations. Steinem has also been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.[3]

Interviewed Pageant WinnersEdit

Bess Myerson won Miss America in 1945 and, after refusing to change her name, became the first Jewish Miss America in the same year that World War II ended.[4] Lee Meriwether won Miss America in 1955 and was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award for her acting career following Miss America.[5] Mary Ann Mobley won Miss America in 1959. After continuing on to acting, Mobley was awarded the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year-Actress in 1965 and the Outstanding Young Woman of the Year Award by Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson in 1966.[6]

Behind the Scenes CrewEdit

Miss America was directed and produced by Lisa Ades who has won an award for another TV series, New York: A Documentary Film. Lisa Ades has directed and produced a number of other documentary films for television.[7] Co-producer Lesli Klainberg has won awards for her directing and producing her own documentaries and has recently taken the position of executive director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.,[8][9] Writer Michelle Ferrari has received honors for her other works from the Writers Guild of America and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards as well as others.[10] Editor Toby Shimin has worked on multiple award-winning films and documentaries in addition to co-founding the editing and production company Dovetail Films.[11] Award winner Cherry Jones narrated Miss America. She has also been on Broadway and in multiple films and television episodes.[12]


Critical receptionEdit

  • “Refreshingly evenhanded, ‘Miss America’ tackles the pageant’s intersection with race, sex and women’s liberation—among other things—without sinking into gratuitous pageant-bashing.” (John Curran, Lexington Herald-Ledger)[13]
  • “... this critical but balanced American Experience documentary acknowledges the pageant’s status as a national institution.” (Review by Terry Kelleher, People Magazine)[14]
  • “‘Miss America’ [is] a film that may be the definitive documentary of the pageant.” (Review by Charlie McCollum, San Jose Mercury News)[15]
  • “PBS' Miss America is the model of brevity, covering 80 years and the changing role of women in under two hours.” (Hal Boedeker, The Anniston Star)[16]
  • “There's an abundance of feminine icons and anti-female outrages in Miss America, the outstanding beauty-pageant history by award-winning documentarian Lisa Ades.” (Peter Howell, The Toronto Star)[17]


  1. ^ Potts, Sienna M. "Welcome!" Julia Alvarez: Official Author Website. April 13, 2015. Web. April 22, 2015. <http://www.juliaalvarez.com/>.
  2. ^ "Past Honorees." F Scott Fitzgerald. F Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival, January 1, 2015. Web. April 22, 2015. <http://fscottfestival.org/honorees/>.
  3. ^ Steinem, Gloria. "The Official Website of Author and Activist Gloria Steinem - Who Is Gloria? ”The Official Website of Author and Activist Gloria Steinem - Who Is Gloria? January 1, 2010. Web. April 22, 2015. <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>.
  4. ^ "1945." Miss America. Miss America Organization, January 1, 2015. Web. April 22, 2015. <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 13, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>.
  5. ^ "1955." Miss America. Miss America Organization, January 1, 2015. Web. April 22, 2015. <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 12, 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>.
  6. ^ "1959." Miss America. Miss America Organization, January 1, 2015. Web. April 22, 2015. <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 10, 2015. Retrieved May 12, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>
  7. ^ Ades, Lisa. "Bio." LISA ADES Documentary Filmmaker. January 1, 2007. Web. April 22, 2015. <http://www.lisaades.com/>.
  8. ^ "Golden Gate Awards." San Francisco Film Society. San Francisco Film Society, January 1, 2015. Web. April 22, 2015. <http://www.sffs.org/sfiff57/about/prizes/golden-gate-awards>.
  9. ^ Foundas, Scott. "Film Society of Lincoln Center Confirms Lesli Klainberg as New Head. "Variety. Variety Media, March 7, 2014. Web. April 22, 2015. <https://variety.com/2014/film/festivals/film-society-of-lincoln-center-confirms-lesli-klainberg-as-new-head-1201127934/>.
  10. ^ "Michelle Ferrari." Hyperion Books. Hachette Book Group, Inc., January 1, 2015. Web. April 22, 2015. <http://hyperionbooks.com/bio/michelle-ferrari/>.
  11. ^ "About." Dovetail Films. Dovetail Films, January 1, 2011. Web. April 22, 2015. <http://www.dovetailfilms.com/about.html>.
  12. ^ "Cherry Jones." IMDb. IMDb.com. Web. April 22, 2015. <https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0427728/>.
  13. ^ Curran, John. "Reign or Shine- There It Is, a Documentary About Miss America Pageant." Lexington Herald-Ledger January 25, 2002, Weekender ed., Final sec.: 27. Print.
  14. ^ Kelleher, Terry. "Picks and Pans Review: Miss America." People January 28, 2002. Print.
  15. ^ McCollum, Charlie. "Evenhanded Portrait of Miss America." San Jose Mercury News January 25, 2002, Morning Final ed., Arts & Entertainment sec.: 1E. Print.
  16. ^ Boedeker, Hal. "Are You a Pageant Person? Don't Miss ‘America'" The Anniston Star, January 22, 2002, Entertainment sec. Print.
  17. ^ Howell, Peter. "Reel Women-This Year's Sundance Film Festival May Be Remembered Most For Its Portrayal of Females in Popular Culture." The Toronto Star January 13, 2002, Ontario ed., Entertainment sec.: 1. Print.

External linksEdit