By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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beauty queenButt glue. Duct taped toes. Hair teased “until it screams.”

Sound like some type of medieval torture? Guess again. It’s just another day in the life of your average Miss America contestant.

Like millions of others, I watched Sunday’s Miss America pageant–me, for the first time in several years. I’m not sure whether it was the hoopla surrounding the pageant’s return to Atlantic City or just nothing else to do on a Sunday night, but I was glued to the set for a full three hours, first for a20/20 special and then for the contest itself.

Turns out, I wasn’t the only thing glued.

During the pre-contest program, a behind the scenes look at preparations, contestants offered to help one another with their “butt glue,” used to keep bathing suits from riding up butt cheeks while parading in front of judges. I’m not sure what the “helping” entailed. The show left that part out, probably to avoid an X rating.

Other lovelies lamented ill-fitting heels that caused neglected pinkie toes to hang off the side of the shoe, uncomfortable enough when you’re not balancing on a five inch stiletto. The solution? A length of clear duct tape wrapped several times around a pedicured tootsie to hold all the piggies in place. Perfect.

There was enough hair product in evidence to warrant a quarantine for toxic chemicals and one beauty was frantically combing at her head, vowing to tease her over-processed hair “until it screams.”

Yikes. So much for glamor.

I’m all for transparency, but this was like finding out the Wizard of Oz was just a lost, sad little man behind a curtain. Somehow, the giant, scary, green head was so much more interesting before the truth came out.

I know beauty queens work hard to look impeccable. But I liked the illusion. When I was a little girl, the sight of over fifty gorgeous young women gliding down a runway was enough to inspire a year’s worth of fantasy, until the next Miss America was crowned the following year. Knowing that they’re slapping glue on their butts changes things somehow.

The contest itself was a little strange, too. Once full of an audience of well-dressed, reasonably behaved people, this looked more like a college football game at halftime. Or a One Direction concert with an audience of old people. One or the other.

And the talent segment? Oh my. A violinist–excellent, a ballerina–lovely, a Bollywood dancer–weird, the requisite baton twirler (Really? Isn’t it about time to eliminate that as a “talent?”) and at least three truly terrible singers. I mean, awful. I had to wonder: Just how bad were their competitors at the state level if this was the cream of the crop?

Of course, one of the singers, Miss Kansas, had to be given a bit of a pass. She taught herself to sing opera in a matter of months after her original skill of archery was banned. Something about a clause prohibiting the use of projectiles. Oh, and I almost forgot the Irish step dancer who proclaimed “head up, boobs up” and something else, I lost her after the boobs part, before she danced. Classy.

The judges proved to be another collection of oddballs, as one of two openly gay men on the panel proclaimed that with all of the beauties surrounding him, he would be straight by the end of the next commercial.

The entire evening was surreal. Somehow, though, it was fitting, especially with the pageant returning to that most honky-tonk of honky tonk shore towns, Atlantic City.

I’ll probably tune in again next year, if only to see how much more weirdness they can cram into one show. One thing’s for certain, though. Between now and then, I intend to find some of that butt glue. It may not be glamorous, but if it keeps my bathing suit from climbing up my butt cheeks, I’m in.

What did you think of this year’s Miss America pageant? Click “comments” below and share!