Miss USA Contestants Have Nerdy Pasts

by Laura Rosenfeld

By now, you should know that beauty pageant contestants really do have more going on than just looking pretty. As the top 20 contestants of Sunday's Miss USA competition were announced, we got to know each woman a little better with a short bio video. We learned about their inspiring stories, overcoming ailments and early-life struggles. We got to know all about their hobbies, like dancing, martial arts, and the outdoors. We also learned that a few of them were such big nerds growing up.

Cue record halting screeching sound. What?! You mean some of these women were actually into things like science or at one point of their lives wore glasses? Gasp! This seems to be the reaction some of the contestants thought they would get from the audience when they talked about how big of a nerd they once were or still are.

Take Miss Minnesota Haley O'Brien, for instance. Now she's a ginger bombshell, but way back when, she said she had an awkward phase. Photos of her with a bowl cut and glasses popped up on the screen as she said this. Now, she explained, she's a pre-med student who takes some of the same classes as her mother, a pre-nursing student, and they compete in who knows more about things like anatomy in their own little nerd-offs.

When O'Brien was describing her nerdy self, it seemed like she was half-proud, half-ashamed, like she was thinking, "If I say I do all of these things, people are going to think I'm weird, so I better beat them to it and make sure they know I know I'm weird." Miss Maryland Taylor Burton also said she was a nerd with the same effect in her video.

I think these ladies need a reminder that being a nerd isn't a bad thing. You're allowed to wear glasses, have an awkward phase, and be intelligent without feeling bad about it. While the contestants saying that they were nerds does help everyone watching to know that beauty and brains aren't mutually exclusive qualities, at the same time, their discounting of the term is like taking a giant sashay backward for all of womankind.

Twitter users also took notice of all the supposed nerds in the pageant. The reactions were mixed and ranged from excitement over there being some smarty-pants in the competition to confusion over why they consider themselves nerds.

Hopefully, there will come a day when these pageant queens can fully embrace their nerdom without any sort of shame. But then again, if I was looking for a venue where stereotypes would be broken, a beauty pageant is probably not the best place to look.

Image: Twitter/@hjberg71