Sammie Eccentric and the Jersey Girls
Through a forest of long legs, hundred dollar heels and size zeros, 5’2” tall Samantha Scibetta stood out rocking a mohawk and ink on the Miss New Jersey USA pageant stage in October 2011. The graphics designer, photographer, and artist from Wayne, New Jersey, also referred to as ‘Sammie Eccentric,’ decided to enter the contest through a Facebook ad that read, “Do you have what it takes to be the next Miss NJ USA?”
The front woman of the brand-new progressive punk band Dead Ponies and veteran of two Zombie Beauty Pageants experienced firsthand the inner workings of the more commercialized beauty pageant. Sam’s main purpose was to represent a group of girls which hasn’t been represented in the pageant before. “I deserve to be up on that stage as much as any other girl does.” Sam planned to show not only the judges but also the other girls in the pageant that she could exemplify another type of beauty.
Samantha’s first task as an applicant was to raise $1195.00 to cover stage production costs, hotel fees and food costs during the pageant. She raised the money first by filming a Youtube video of herself, then putting on a local show, and finally raising a majority of the money through Facebook donations. Sam was one of the first applicants to raise the money, three weeks in advance. Out of 106 girls who entered the pageant, Sam learned that some of the contestants might have only been accepted because of the money they’d raised.
Sam recalls, “I was almost disqualified twice before the competition. I had to explain that I posed in my bra and panties a few times for my college thesis photography project, which was an anti-rape metaphor. I also had to tell them the story about how I was arrested once as a juvenile when I attacked a boy at school who had a history of abusing women. It’s also the reason I have the vagina dentata tattoo.”
According to the Miss New Jersey USA website, the pageant encourages contestants to “build self-confidence, individual pride, greater self-awareness, and greater social awareness.” The pageant also aims to provide an opportunity for young women to better themselves.
The pageant lasted three days at a New Jersey Holiday Inn. Day one of the pageant consisted of answering interview questions in front of a panel of judges. When Sam was asked, “Which celebrity do you think is a good role model right now?” Sam admitted that she didn’t follow the lives of celebrities and that people don’t always have to have famous role models. She replied, “I’m a good role model to my sister and I’m not famous. It shouldn’t matter who’s watching you. You should always try to set a good example.”
There were few questions that reflected intelligence and education, supporting the idea that the pageant is mainly a judgment of lowest body fat content. The answers read aloud for her on stage, Sam said, made her out to sound wacky, rather than unique and intelligent. When Sam was asked, “What’s the most adventurous thing you have ever done in your life?” Sam replied honestly: “I slept in my car for three days while on a trip to Canada to see a concert.” Sam also answered that her theme song is “Indestructible” by the Misfits because, “no matter what happens, I keep on going.” Sam was well received by the audience and the judges, despite her unconventional answers. “The judges didn’t seem to be interested in anything other than surface qualities and looks. I would have loved to tell them about my art and all of the other creative things I do.”
Sam was consistent with her attitude during the contest, wowing the judges with her unexpected stage presence and grace in high heels. Sam says, “Once I was up there, I just snapped into character. But it was like the judges were looking for a specific set of answers from a specific kind of girl. The answers basically told them who they wanted in a three minute interview.”
Day Two of the pageant consisted of the famous swimsuit and evening gown contests. Most girls lost weight for this part of the pageant. “If someone didn’t confess to slimming down, even at size two, it was like blasphemy to the other girls. I was the only girl who actually laughed as some of the others were discussing how they lost the weight, and I was glared at with disbelief for a while,” Sam recalls. “When I said, ‘What if everyone just didn’t lose weight before the competition?’ Someone replied, ‘then we’d all be some really fat competitors.’” Pageant contestants typically spent hundreds of dollars on shoes for the pageant. Sam’s fifty dollar JC Penny evening gown didn’t compare to the $300 some girls spent on their dresses and shoes.
The contestants were also taught choreography for Jennifer Lopez’s “Get on the Floor” and had to enter the stage to a Bon Jovi song. Sam remembers being placed in the back of the stage during rehearsals, which were chaotic and highly unorganized. The dances didn’t count as talent portions and the girls were not being judged on their dancing abilities. The dances were just for entertaining the audience. Day Three required the girls to dance again; the performance was worse the second time around.
During the contest, there were mini-competitions in which the girls could win awards for Miss Amity (which was a popularity contest, determined by which contestant talked to the most girls), Miss Photogenic, and Miss Humanitarian. The Miss Humanitarian award had three recipients, which went to those who’d donated the most new coats. The most coats donated was 63. At $50.00 a coat, the contest seemed to be more about wealth than about humanitarianism. “Most of the girls dressed in full makeup and nice clothes during down time. It was like they were dressing up for each other. The motto we heard often was to ‘be yourself’ but most girls hardly did that. I was one of the only girls who didn’t shed pounds before the swimsuit contest or cover up my tattoos with tons of makeup. I honestly thought the girls who covered up looked better with their piercings and ink anyway.” Though Sam looked very different and unconventional to the audience, she was surprised to get such a good reception from pageant parents and other contestants. She said, “people would stop me and say that I was changing the pageant world.”
Although Sam didn’t make it to the Top 16, she still made an impression with her individualism and punk look. Sam says, “Everyone liked me. People took me aside to take pictures of my hair, and even parents said I looked cool with my mohawk and tattoos. Miss Teen USA even approached me to tell me how cool I am. As for the winner, you just can’t be pissed at her, because you feel her energy and can’t help but feel happy for her.” When the Top 16 were picked, the skinny and tall ones, those girls had to remain on stage to continue the pageant, while the losers got to eat dinner and watch the rest of the pageant on a closed circuit television. “That’s when the mudslinging began,” Sam remembers, “and the girls easily admitted how Miss NJ USA was the most superficial pageant. There is no talent portion, so people are obviously judging how good you look in a bathing suit.”
Sam is an example of what it means to showcase your own personal style and promote different kinds of beauty. Sam explains, “Last year’s Miss New Jersey USA looked totally different in person from the way she did in her photos because she was so severely photo-shopped (as if that much work were necessary in the first place; the woman is beautiful.) The same has been done to the current Miss NJ (also totally unnecessary). The weird thing is, the way they were both photo-shopped, they almost look like the same person, which I feel reinforces that idea that there is only one type of beauty.”
“Most of us have heard the phrase, ‘Men are judged by women, and women are judged by both men and women.’ I think the pageant would be an excellent example of this statement. The organization and the event is run mainly by women (mainly former beauty queens and pageant winners), and (while the Miss NJ USA Pageant is not televised, the following Miss USA pageant is) the target audience is women and girls. It would seem that beauty standards are set and enforced by women, and passed on to other women and girls. Beauty standards are something women place on each other.”
If anything, Sam’s message to other women and girls is that, “there’s more than one type of beauty. It’s as simple as that!”