Will Brooklyn Ever Love Its Miss America?

The Atlantic
Will Brooklyn Ever Love Its Miss America?
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Will Brooklyn Ever Love Its Miss America?

"When the news rippled through the bars, cafes and organic markets, some people just raised their eyebrows. Others laughed," writes Vivian Yee in The New York Times. She's talking, if hyperbolically — really, this was the talk of the organic markets? — about Saturday night's big news (at least to those who consider such things big news): A new Miss America was crowned! She lives in ... wait for it ... Brooklyn! How can this be? 

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Well, first, a few things to get straight. Miss America, also known as Miss New York, Mallory Hagan, 23, blonde, Miss-America-ready, is not a Brooklyn native. Since 2008, she has lived in Windsor Terrace, a working class neighborhood that, as rents went up in Manhattan and even nearby Park Slope, has absorbed the kind of people like, well, Hagan. Currently a student at FIT, Hagan is from Opelika, Alabama, went to Auburn University, and loves her adopted town. Yee quotes Hagan's blog post, which read in part, “In the time I’ve spent in New York, Brooklyn has grown very close to my heart. I love New York (and not in a tourist T-shirt kind of way) dearly and I truly believe this is the city where dreams come true." In 2010, Hagan was crowned Miss Brooklyn.

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Her dream-winning talent is this:

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The strange juxtaposition of the new Miss America, a pageant goddess, residing in a neighborhood once divided in fury over the apparent gender normative assumptions about a child's winter hat, where "Ms." is preferred to "Miss" (is that true?) is not lost on The New York Times. Is it that Brooklyn has changed so much? Or has Miss America? (Our vote: Brooklyn. Did you see that tap-dancing? Have you looked at rents in Park Slope?)   

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All the while, Hagan has been living in plain sight, "among some of the Americans least likely to watch the pageant at which she was crowned winner on Saturday night," writes Yee, who snagged this quote from a real Brooklyn writer:

“It’s bizarre, right?” said Jane Hoppen, a writer, sitting at the bar at the Double Windsor in southern Park Slope on Sunday afternoon. Nothing against Miss America herself, whom she called a “damned good tap dancer,” but, well, to be honest: “We don’t believe in beauty pageants.”

Chuck Schumer likes Hagan, as does Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who told Yee, “She is Brooklyn." Another Brooklyn writer (the place is lousy with 'em) whom Yee spoke to asked her 4-year-old daughter if she knew who Miss America was. The little girl said no. Yet Hagan is a newfound vision of the American dream! As Yee writes, "Ms. Hagan has said she came to New York in 2008 with a large suitcase and less than $1,000, dreaming of becoming Miss America and then, someday, a big-time cosmetics executive. She competed for the Miss New York title twice before winning it last year, and wrote that she juggled full-time employment and school in addition to her pageant duties."

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Can Brooklyn love its new Miss America (who, for the record, is against placing armed guards in schools)? Well, we've all been transplants at some point or another, right? Perhaps the big difference between the old days and now is that in the old days, Miss America would have lived in teen tiny apartment in Hell's Kitchen, Yorkville, or Loisaida . Now, she lives near a beautiful park and has easy access to artisanal mayonnaise. Pageantry comes in all shapes and sizes, but you will know it by its telltale crown.

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