Reaching for the crown: Pageant films


GFT Youth Board member, Kayleigh Keany, gets inspired after seeing Miss Juneteenth at GYFF Presents and talks us through some of her favourite pageants in film.

Growing up I remember watching a lot of pageant and competition based tv shows such as Dance Moms, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. I don’t why I was drawn to these shows but I do know that they had a massive influence on me as I still find myself quoting them and checking up on the cast members.

Watching Miss Juneteenth at GYFF Presents reignited my weird passion for pageant-based media and got me thinking about some of my favourite pageant movies so I decided to have some fun and make a list!

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Little Miss Sunshine

Released in 2006, Little Miss Sunshine tells the story of a young girl, Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) and her family’s cross-country road trip to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Along the way they deal with death, colour blindness and ex-lovers, with the film masterfully balancing the pain and tragedy of these situations with the humour of them. The film culminates in a hilarious and heartfelt dance routine at the pageant by Olive choreographed by her grandpa (Alan Arkin). The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning two for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Although the entire ensemble cast give outstanding performances, my favourite comes from Toni Collette as the overworked mum struggling to keep her family together and make them happy. This was one of the first “real” movies I remember watching and loving and it never fails to put a smile on my face whenever I watch it.

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Miss Juneteenth

Nicole Beharie stars in this intimate and heartfelt drama about hardworking, single mum Turquoise as she prepares her daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) for the upcoming Miss Juneteenth pageant, which she is a previous winner of.  The prize of the pageant is a full scholarship to any historically Black college/university, a prize Turquoise was unable to fulfil due to her pregnancy with Kai. The film mostly focuses on the often-times tense mother daughter relationship between Kai and Turquoise as Turquoise desperately wants her daughter to not make the same mistakes she did as a teen. Beharie’s performance as the ex-beauty queen is incredibly earnest and oozing with charm. The film ultimately is about all the small moments and people that make life worth living.

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Drop Dead Gorgeous

This campy cult classic released in 1999 focuses on the small town of Mount Rose as they prepare for the upcoming Sarah Rose Cosmetics®™ Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant. The film mostly follows the optimistic underdog of the pageant Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) as she slowly realises someone is sabotaging the competition. Both Denise Richards and Kirstie Alley shine as the preppy, conservative mother-daughter duo, Rebecca and Gladys Leeman. Rebecca is the frontrunner of the pageant and is played to perfection by Richards who delivers some of the films best lines, “Oh my God. Lights, camera, and me without a stitch of makeup on!” The film’s excellent ensemble cast also includes Allison Janney, Brittany Murphy and Amy Adams in her first ever on-screen appearance. My personal favourite moment of the film is Rebecca Leeman’s pageant performance where she does a stunning rendition of ‘Can’t take My Eyes Off of You’ with a Christian twist.

Although the movies on this list are very different in tone and budget, they all show that pageants are kind of weird, and that winning isn’t everything. If you want to read a full review of Miss Juneteenth by fellow youth board member Kasey, you can find it on our blog.

Pop over to our twitter @glasgowfilmedu and let us know some of your favourite pageants in film. Category is...favourite movie pageant looks!


GFT temporary closure

GFT will remain closed until at least 14 December, due to restrictions on cinemas in areas under tiers 3 and 4.

We hope to re-open soon and will keep you updated.

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