Tuesday, August 28

Answering Dumb Questions: Miss South Carolina

Almost anyone can sympathize with the notion that even the most polished presenters can experience stage fright at the worst possible time. Without question, that seems to be what happened to Miss South Carolina during Miss Teen USA.

When asked why she thinks “one-fifth of Americans cannot find the United States on a map, “ Miss South Carolina offered up one of the most perplexing answers and solutions in the history of all pageants.

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps.” — Lauren Caitlin Upton

Upton then went on to offer a solution that included, um, better education in third world countries. Despite the flub, she still finished third, which further demonstrates just how important the question and answer segment was to the pageant.

To redeem herself, Upton agreed to appear as a guest on NBC’s “Today” show where she was given a do-over. “I believe that there should be more emphasis on geography in our education so people will learn how to read maps better. Yay!”

Hmmm… I don’t know if that is any better given the do-over drove 1.5 million more people to see the original flub on YouTube (4.5 million and counting). Maybe someone should have advised Upton to say something completely different.

“The question took me aback because I personally don’t believe that one-fifth of Americans cannot find the United States on a map. I’d like to see the methodology of that study because I doubt its objectivity.” Or maybe …

“What kind of propaganda is Miss Teen USA trying to spread about our country anyway? That’s what I’d like to know.” Or maybe …

“Hey, what difference does it make? I was the third runner-up. Yay!”

Instead, Upton has become the pageant’s patsy despite her third runner-up position, which may or may not have softened the blow, and the Miss Teen USA pageant has succeeded in deflecting all accountability in asking a question that would have made most people ask: “What the heck are you talking about?”

Worse, as many excuses as she gave for not being able to answer the question (including one that was coached to her by a sympathetic host), one wonders if Upton’s appearance helped at all. Here is the do-over, courtesy of the Gawker, who preferred the first answer.

Granted, Upton had to answer the question because it was part of a pageant. However, we can’t help but to provide some hard-learned lessons for up-and-coming semi-public and public figures: don’t answer dumb questions because it will increase your propensity to provide a dumb answer; if you do answer, make sure you prepare one solid response that addresses the mistake before going on the “Today” show; and, most importantly, never take the “do-over” because while it’s cute for the show, it doesn’t do anything for you.



Rich on 8/28/07, 5:21 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"She's right ... some of us Americans can't afford maps." — Sean O'Donnell defends Upton on a YouTube response. Based on the comments, several viewers may not connect with his deadpan delivery with the concept that he might be presenting satire.


Anonymous said...

I think I'd have looked really surprised that so many people can't find us on a map. If this is true we're in trouble. I can sympathise with her rambling and nerves too. But if she wants to be in beauty pagents, she needs to practice.

It's too bad that her flub is getting more comment than the question.


Rich on 8/29/07, 8:58 AM said...

Hey Nightbird,

Thanks for visiting! You know, I don't think it's true that one fifth of Americans cannot locate the United States on a map. I asked my son and he near fell over laughing. He pointed out our home state for good measure. He's 8.

Based on her Today show appearance alone, you are dead on target that she needs more public speaking practice (imagine ... she still made the top four).

In fact, this is where it fits in with my Fragile Brand Theory. Her label — being a contestant — was bigger than her as a person. That's almost never a good thing.

So, the reason people are mesmerized by her awkward moment, is because they don't see an 18-year-old girl, they see her label ... a contestant who is supposed to be representing our best and brightest. Ergo, no one would have laughed or been appalled if they asked her the same question and received the same answer on the street.

All my best,

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Cancun was part of Texas.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rich - here's the map that allows you to follow her statement:


Rich on 8/30/07, 7:56 AM said...

Hey Ike!

What an absolutely brilliant find. The logical leaps were pretty outstanding. I think we have found a future political candidate in the making, like such as.

All my best,

Rich on 9/14/07, 1:56 PM said...

More words:

"I did find an oft-cited survey sponsored by National Geographic and conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media that tested map skills of 510 Americans ages 18 to 24. While the findings, published last year, emphasized missteps (”More know where the TV show CSI is set than can find Iraq on a map”), survey respondents did know their North American geography. Only 6% couldn’t locate the U.S. on a world map, an improvement from 11% in a similar 2002 National Geographic survey and 18% in 1988. Also in the latest survey, only 8% couldn’t find Canada and just 12% couldn’t locate Mexico. (That’s on page 26 of the full survey report.)"

It seems was The Wall Street Journal wondering too. http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/was-miss-teen-south-carolina-set-up-188/

Rich on 9/16/07, 9:43 AM said...

More Maps:

Hat tip to Idea Grove who proves even when a joke grows old, you can revive it with the right context:

Map Of The Iraq


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