... a lavish and detailed account of the various milestones that have defined the pageant for decades ... a spellbinding narrative replete with information about one of the nation’s more iconic events ... contestants of color...faced racism from pageant fans who were resentful that a non-White woman was chosen as the representative of American beauty and womanhood. These are some of the book’s most riveting narratives. Mifflin shows the periodic moments of indecision that have plagued the pageant in lucid detail ... Mifflin gives an intensely detailed description of Vanessa Williams’s selection as the pageant’s first Black Miss America and the backlash and racial fallout that followed. Mifflin’s perspective on the racial, cultural, and sexual stereotyping; the conspiracy theories; and on Williams’s resignation following the nude photograph scandal is deeply informative and compelling ... a fascinating and entertaining account for anyone interested in reading a first-rate analysis of the United States’s most distinctive beauty contest.
Looking for Miss America is, in the language of pageantry, lavish in its research, and its prose is sparkling. It is a riveting, multivalent history. About this, if nothing else, most feminists and pageant enthusiasts will agree ... This history of the Miss America pageant is probing, scintillating and tremendously entertaining—a pleaser for feminists and pageant devotees alike.
Mifflin is no Miss America apologist. She’s cleareyed about the pageant’s many hypocrisies and failures, which include a legacy of racial exclusion ... The marks she hits are largely familiar, and her galloping pace through a century of pop culture—310 pages pass swiftly—produces some moments of Wikipedia on speed .... Looking for Miss America is at its best when Mifflin pauses this sweeping summary to tell the stories of individual contestants. The pageant’s tensions and ambiguities emerge most vividly through the way particular women understood them in the context of their particular time ... The commercial promise that saw the pageant through shifting winds of feminism and fame would seem, at present, to have mostly disappeared. Mifflin’s lively book reads as an obituary.