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People & Events: Miss Americas Chat Online

On January 24, 2002, Miss America 1974, Rebecca King, and Miss America 1998, Kate Shindle, visited AOL Live to chat about the PBS program 'Miss America.' The film reveals how the pageant became a battleground for the changing position of women in society. See what they had to say below!

AOLiveMC3: Welcome to AOL Live, Rebecca King, Miss America 1974. :)

Rebecca King: Hello, everyone. This is Miss America 1974, Rebecca Ann King, and my name -- Rebecca King Dreman, my married name. I am certainly interested in all your questions, and I am hoping that we have a wonderful chat this evening.

AOLiveMC3: Are you ready to take some questions?

Rebecca King: Absolutely!

Question: What is it like being a queen?

Rebecca King: LOL. You know, I never really thought of myself as being a queen, although people tease me about being a king as well. It was very hard work.


Rebecca King: I was up at 5AM every morning, on an airplane going to a destination in this world. Many nights, I only had three or four hours of sleep. I was interviewed by the press anywhere from 10 to 20 times a day and often shook thousands of hands and signed hundreds of autographs a day. It was hard work, but a year that I would not give back.

Question: What was it like in front of all those people trying to prove that you're worthy of being Miss America?

Rebecca King: I believe the contestants are all very confident that each of them can be the new Miss America and that they can be a representative of the Miss America pageant. One must be careful as a contestant not to take oneself out of the competition by looking at other contestants and saying they are more beautiful, more talented or brighter than yourself. If that can be accomplished, I found I felt very confident that the judges would select me or any contestant as the new Miss America.

Question: How do you keep your figure?

Rebecca King: After two children -- and, by the way, they happen to be 16 and 13, soon to be 14 -- it is not easy.

Question: Has the Miss America pageant become more commercialized? Do you think it carries the same stigma of American pride that it once did?

Rebecca King: I believe the Miss America pageant is as strong as ever. I believe you will see in the PBS documentary that there was a time that the pageant was not representing the current young women -- that was shortly before I was crowned Miss America in the late '60s and the early 1970s. Today the pageant is representative of a population of young women who are interested in furthering their education as well as enhancing their careers. The pageant is a nonprofit organization, so there are commercials on the television program and there are sponsors. But those sponsorships are only there to maintain the pageant and the scholarship it provides. In other words, we aren't Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageant. As an example, it is my understanding that they are pageants of a profit-making organization.

AOLiveMC3: Rebecca, what time will the documentary be on PBS?

Rebecca King: It is on at 9:00PM EST. I would check your local listings on your local television PBS station.

AOLiveMC3: On Sunday, Jan. 27.

Rebecca King: And now that I think of it, I believe it's being premiered at 9PM everywhere in the United States. Please check to make sure, though. We don't want you to miss it.

AOLiveMC3: Thank you for being our guest, Rebecca. We really enjoyed your enlightening answers. Our next guest is Miss America 1998, Kate Shindle. She'll join us soon.

AOLiveMC3: Welcome to AOL Live, Kate Shindle. :)

Kate Shindle: Hi, everybody. I'm thrilled to be part of this documentary, 'Miss America,' which will be airing this Sunday night on PBS at 9PM.

AOLiveMC3: Here we go with your first question:

Question: Did you always have a dream to be Miss America?

Kate Shindle: Sort of. I grew up in New Jersey, so the pageant was always right in my backyard, so I was always aware of it. I didn't start competing in pageants until I was 17, and I became Miss America when I was 20.

Question: How did you feel when you won?

Kate Shindle: LOL. Pretty shocked. It was one of the most surreal moments in my life. I was absolutely in shock. It was sort of an out-of-body experience. I felt kind of mechanical. But when I watch the video, I look pretty happy. I think I was just a little detached.

Question: What was your platform during the Miss America pageant?

Kate Shindle: AIDS education and prevention, and it's something I spent the year advocating, and I stayed very involved with it until the present day. It was revolutionary in some eyes for a Miss America to be talking about AIDS, but I actually wasn't the first. Miss America 1993, Leanza Cornett, had tackled the issue as well.

AOLiveMC3: Will we learn more about you on the documentary?

Kate Shindle: Somewhat. There are a number of Miss Americas interviewed on the documentary, and most of them are telling their own story. I tell a little bit of my own story and otherwise, throughout the film, am commenting on different issues. Other Miss Americas are profiled more in depth.

Question: Kate, how has being crowned Miss America changed your life since then, and how has your life changed since Sept. 11 in reference to being Miss America?

Kate Shindle: Wow, that's a loaded question. Since being Miss America, my life has changed dramatically in ways that I never could have anticipated. I just finished my junior year in college, and suddenly I was a national advocate for the AIDS movement, as well as a celebrity. So it took me a while to figure out how to balance all the different demands. Now, it's something I still feel the effects of, but I don't wear my crown to the grocery store. It's sort of a footnote, in ways, to what I am doing now, which is theater.

Kate Shindle: As far as Sept. 11, I live in New York, and I was here that day. And I imagine that it's affected me more as a New Yorker than it has as Miss America -- or I guess you can say, that is, affected me, Kate, that happens to have been a Miss America.

Question: What was your most fulfilling experience during the year you were Miss America?

Kate Shindle: Wow! There are so many! I would say that anytime that someone either felt compelled to tell me their story, especially someone living with or affected by AIDS, or when, for example, a high school student would come up to me in an assembly and tell me that I had changed their attitude either about Miss America or the AIDS epidemic, that was fulfilling.

AOLiveMC3: Thank you for joining us tonight, Kate. Do you have any more comments?

Kate Shindle: I just want to thank everybody for coming to chat and remind you to tune in to the documentary 'Miss America,' airing on PBS Sunday night, Jan. 27 at 9PM.

AOLiveMC3: Again, thank you. It was a pleasure having you as a guest. And audience, thank you for your excellent questions. Good night.

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