When I was a little kid I’d watch the Miss America pageant with my parents, viewing the spectacle the way I later viewed the movie Aliens. Bert Parks would sing “There She Is, Miss America!” and a shapely, toothy 21 year old blonde who looked 35 would parade down the runway, not looking like anyone I had ever seen on the streets of Brooklyn.
So it was somewhat of a shock to me when I read that new Miss America Mallory Hagan lives in Windsor Terrace, a few blocks from my brother, and hangs out in Prospect Park.
“All right! A Brooklyn girl–that’s great!” said Jessica Bartolo, a resident of neighboring Park Slope.
But is Hagan really a Brooklyn girl?
Born in Alabama, Hagan moved to the city just a few years ago in pursuit of a career in the fashion business.
“I needed to figure out who I was and what to do with my life,” said Hagan, explaining her move from tiny Opelika, Ala. to the biggest city in the nation.
Hagan enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology with dreams of ultimately becoming an executive with a beauty or fashion firm.
To get her name out there, Hagan entered the NY state beauty pageant as Miss Brooklyn. She came in second and when the strict beauty contest rulebook didn’t allow her to compete for the borough crown again, ran for the Miss Manhattan crown a year later (you can still live in Brooklyn yet run for Miss Manhattan–don’t ask), won that, and the rest, as they say, is history.
After her victory, many said Hagan isn’t really Brooklyn, Manhattan or New York at all, but a Dixie opportunist.
“This is bizarre,” New York native and Windsor Terrace resident Jane Hoppen told The New York Times . “We don’t believe in beauty pageants here.”
Others cited Hagan’s relatively brief time here and southern accent as proof that she’s not a real New Yorker.
But Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz begs to differ.
“That’s Brooklyn chutzpah,” he decided, referring to Hagen running in both boroughs. “She is Brooklyn, despite her Southern twang.”
Hagan says she feels at home here and that she “loves New York and its diversity.”
So what do you make of a Brooklyn southern belle who clinches the Miss America title by tap dancing to James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing?”
Perhaps her answer during the climax to the pageant on Saturday night will help you decide. When asked about gun control, Hagan sneered at the NRA’s proposal of armed guards at schools.
“I don’t think the proper way to fight violence is with violence,” Hagan told a national television audience.
So is Hagan really one of ours or a redneck passing through? Let’s see: pro diversity, outspoken, in an interracial relationship, pro gun control…
Fuhgeddabowdit! A New Yorker all the way!
(film review: Zero Dark Thirty–click Arts atop page)