Bridging the Opportunity Divide

The Epic Take Down of Miss America That Has Led to a Very Unexpected Windfall

September 30, 2014
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The Epic Take Down of Miss America That Has Led to a Very Unexpected Windfall
John Oliver roasts Miss America pageant YouTube
The skewering of the annual beauty pageant has definitely paid off for some.

John Oliver has helped secure scholarship money for some future female engineers — and these women didn’t have to parade around in a bikini to get it.

During a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” the funnyman delivered a scathing commentary on the annual Miss America beauty pageant (covering topics such as the objectifying nature of swimsuit competitions to the absurdity of answering complex questions domestic violence or foreign policy in 20 seconds).

However, Oliver exposed something about the organization that’s more eyebrow raising than butt glue (yes, that’s a real product). According to the show’s research, it appears that the pagent’s claim to be “the world’s largest provider of scholarships for women” is incredibly exaggerated — the organization says it gives $45 million a year, but it appears to be more like $4 million. Not only that, the only women who are eligible for scholarships are pageant contestants between the ages of 17 to 24 who’ve never been married or had a baby. (The Miss America pagent has since responded to Oliver’s report in a blog post.)

At the same time, Oliver listed off other female-only organizations that he felt could use a little more funding, including the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Patsy Mink Educational Foundation and the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund.

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After the episode aired, donors decided to open up their wallets for these organizations. According to the Chicago Tribune, SWE received $25,000 in just two days (about 15 percent of its expected annual donations) as well as wild jump in web traffic.

“This has been huge for us,” Peter Finn, deputy executive director of SWE, tells the publication. “It’s tremendous.”

Additionally, the Jeannette Rankin Foundation tweeted, “Came to work this morning to find many more gifts; $2,800 in total donations since @LastWeekTonight mention! You are all so great!” NationSwell reached out to the Patsy Mink Foundation to see if they’ve received a similar windfall, which is now referred to as “the John Oliver bounce,” but has not received a response.

If you’d like to find out more or donate to any of the organizations, click on the following links:

Patsy Mink Foundation

Jeannette Rankin Foundation

Society of Women Engineers 

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