Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageants and Campus Life

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Universities are unlikely venues for grading, branding, and marketing gendered beauty, bodies, poise, and style. Nonetheless, thousands of college women have sought not only college diplomas but campus beauty titles and tiaras throughout the twentieth century. The cultural power of beauty pageants continues into the 21st century as campus beauty pageants, especially racial/ethnic pageants and pageants for men, have soared in popularity. Tice asks how, and why, does higher education remain in the beauty and body business and with what effects on student bodies and identities. She explores why students compete in and attend pageants as well as why campus-based etiquette and charm schools are flourishing. Based on archival research and interviews with contemporary campus queens and university sponsors as well as hundreds of hours observing college pageants on predominantly black and white campuses, Tice examines how campus pageant contestants express personal ambitions, desires, and, sometimes, racial/political agendas to resolve the incongruities of performing in evening gowns and bathing suits on stage while seeking their degrees. Tice argues the pageants help to illuminate the shifting iterations of class, race, religion, region, culture, sexuality, and gender braided in campus rituals and student life. Moving beyond a binary of objectification versus empowerment, Tice offers a nuanced analysis of the contradictory politics of higher education, feminism and post-feminism, empowerment, consumerism, race and ethnicity, class mobility, and popular culture on student bodies and cultures, the making of idealized collegiate masculinities and femininities, and the stylization of higher education itself.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages304
ISBN (Electronic)9780199933440
StatePublished - May 24 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012 by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


  • Beauty
  • Black campuses
  • Campus beauty titles
  • Class mobility
  • Collegiate masculinities and femininities
  • Empowerment
  • Etiquette
  • Higher education
  • Post-feminism
  • Student life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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