Theatre Ph.D. Dissertations

Miss Homegrown: The Performance of Food, Festival, and Femininity in Local Queen Pageants

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Theatre and Film

First Advisor

Ronald Shields (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Jonathan Chambers (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lesa Lockford (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lynda Dee Dixon (Committee Member)


The cultural phenomenon of the beauty pageant, one could argue, is deeply embedded in the gendered performance of the feminine ideal. Although, in recent years, the Miss America Pageant appears to be fading into kitschy nostalgia, the local pageant remains a celebratory and respected event held in many small Midwestern communities. The appeal of the pageant as a performance genre continues to reflect the qualities of the American feminine ideal beauty, perfection, “healthy” competition, consumption, and consumerism. However, local pageants are often rooted within festival celebration and thereby represent and maintain the social and consumer values inherent in each individual community. Using case studies of local festival pageants held in the Midwestern state of Ohio as well as interviews with pageant contestants, in this study I locate the ways in which contestants perform, within the given boundaries of the pageant, a small town version of the feminine ideal. In relation to the values of economy and prosperity that local festival celebrates, I specifically examine festivals that are centered on the celebration of food. In doing so, I equate the gendered performance of the young female body in relation to the food whose title she bears and identify how the feminine body is at once consumed and celebrated by the local community. As queen pageants are contested feminist terrain, it is my hope that this study provides a new and provocative look at local femininity as defined by small town community through the valuing and celebration of the young female representative in local pageant performance.