This was a performance event conducted as my thesis project during my last year as a graduate student at UCLA. Conceived as a project that would offer both institutional and social critique, I developed and produced the Miss UCLA Y2K Pageant that was presented at UCLA’s Royce Hall in May of 2001. Open to the entire student body at UCLA, the pageant was designed to draw parallels between the hierarchical structure of competition and levels of achievement (and ultimately, the conference of a title or degree) inherent in the structures of both an academic institution and a beauty pageant.
Students from all majors were encouraged to apply for and compete in the Miss UCLA Y2K Pageant, which offered 4 categories of competition, and a tuition scholarship for one quarter as the prize. The categories of competition were modeled after those of a traditional beauty pageant, but modified to appeal to UCLA goals and standards. The categories were: Talent (which had to relate to the participant’s major); Interview (about their identity and role as a UCLA student); Physical Fitness –a Simon Says competition (to replace the bathing suit competition and emphasize the irrelevance of physical ability to the construction of one’s social and intellectual identity); and Bear Wear (instead of evening wear, participants were asked to present a UCLA-themed outfit that best represented their relationship to the campus).
Participants in the pageant represented their major in their titles: Miss Mathematics, Miss Psychology, Miss Theater, etc. There was a panel of 9 judges from diverse professional, academic and social backgrounds which awarded each participant a grade for each category of competition. The participant with the highest overall pageant GPA won the crown and the scholarship.