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

Written by Lorraine Chow

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 pageant’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.

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 about any of the organizations, click on the following links:

Patsy Mink Foundation

Jeannette Rankin Foundation

Society of Women Engineers


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This post originally appeared on NationSwell.

Photo Credit: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver via YouTube


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago


John S.
E S4 years ago

It's pathetic that some of the best sources of news and informed commentary in the US are Jon Stewart and John Oliver, but great that they do such a good job. Happy to hear that these foundations are being helped. Miss America's blog response is pathetic - it doesn't even attempt to disprove anything.

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra R4 years ago

I''ve actually watched some of the preparations for a "Miss Victoria" competition. The young woman who entered has now been a doctor for for about fifteen years and is a mother as well. I was very happy when she won, because she was a cheerful, intelligent and socially aware person who differed from a lot of her cohort who were into being "Cool", which meant they wore black, didn't take part in lively and intelligent conversation and never, ever smiled!
The competition seemed like good clean fun in that family, but I realize that it isn't like that for everyone and that only a fraction of the money raised reaches the targeted beneficiaries.
When I stand back from that experience, I do agree with John Oliver.
One of the things that does concern me about the beauty industry is that in my travels I have seen large fields cultivating plants for perfumes and other cosmetic industry alongside people that were obviously starving. I thought at the time that excessively indulged vanity could be murderous - mass murderous.

Muff-Anne York-Haley

Miss America is so outdated anyway! Welcome to the 21st century;)

Jp Jp
Jp Jp4 years ago

Yay John Oliver! Yet another way you're awesome!! :)

Tammy D.
Tammy D4 years ago

this pageant, et al, causes so much damage. This is what you need to be, girls! Parrot back something shallow but popular in 20 seconds, and make sure you look great in a bikini. Worrying about your physical appearance is the best investment in your future you could make. If you're not popular, you won't succeed.

Women, girls, we really are our own worst enemies.

john Parr
john james P4 years ago

No one forces these girls to enter beauty contest, and no one forces anyone to watch them... So whats the problem... it their life ,,, respect their chose ..

Leanne B.
Leanne B4 years ago

John O. makes the point so well. Thanks for sharing.

Melissa Flaherty
Melissa Flaherty4 years ago

Beauty pageants and other degrading practices should be made illegal in my opinion, to prevent us needing to worry about our young and vulnerable daughters being sucked into thinking their bikini body is their earning potential. My teen daughter was telling me last week she wants to enter beauty contests. I hope this is just a fleeting idea like many of the ideas she comes up with these days.