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Mormon Miss America contestant's modest swimsuit draws Christian blogger's praise

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 26 2011 3:17 p.m. MST

Miss America 2011 is Teresa Scanlan, 17

Miss America

A devout teenage Evangelical Christian won the Miss America pageant this month in a bikini. That it wasn't her but instead a Mormon contestant who was the only one to wear a one-piece swimsuit led to some searching questions in Christianity Today's women's blog.

The questions centered around what higher good could come from a Christian woman participating in the pageant.

"What would make a Christian Miss America stand out against her pageant peers?" asked Katelyn Beaty in the blog her.meneutics. "Why would a young Mormon woman, but not an evangelical one, dare to buck the ubiquity of bikinis and bronze-tanned skin in favor of something more modest? Can Christian pageant contestants gain the worthy cultural and political influence that usually comes with a pageant crown without losing their souls?"

Miss America 2011 is Teresa Scanlan, 17, who wore her Christianity on her, well, sleeve, pointing heavenward more than once in the her joy and celebration after the announcement. She also certainly believed there was divine purpose to her competing for the crown. "When I found pageantry," she wrote on her blog, "I realized that God had prepared me for this competition by creating me to love diversity, and here was the place I could use the talents He had given me."

The Christianity Today blogger considered as immodest the bikinis worn by Scanlan and every other contestant but Miss Idaho, Kylie Kofoed, a 19-year-old BYU student with a music scholarship: "In our sexualized visual culture, I'm not sure we can see bikinied women strutting on stage in high heels as anything but hypersexual."

At least in relative terms, Kofoed's platform fit her swimsuit choice (see photos here: "Strengthening the Family." For her bio on the Miss Idaho site, she wrote that "The issue of self respect is critical in my generation. … With self respect, our lives will be a reflection of what really matters to us and we will have a sense of peace in the unique person that we are."

Kofoed's unique choice to shun a bikini drew little other attention, unlike the hubbub four years ago when another BYU student and Mormon, Katie Millar, finished in the top 10 in a one-piece suit.

"I wanted to represent BYU, my church, my family and be who I was. I told them at the pageant I'm probably the meatloaf mom from Utah," Millar told the Deseret News

Like Kofoed, Millar made a conscious decision. "When I did make the top ten," she told KUTV, "the first thing that went through my mind was, 'I get to wear my one piece swimsuit on national TV and hopefully a girl will see that she doesn't have to show a lot of skin to get attention or do well in society today.' "

The Christianity Today blogger would like to see more conscious thought given to modesty by Christian pageant contestants.

"But most of all, I hope more evangelical women entering the tricky world of beauty pageants will dare to be conspicuous for Christ — even if that means forgoing those black bikinis or evening gowns with plunging necklines. Faced with the pressure to conform to Miss America's standards of beauty, they might realize that trying to be a modern-day Esther means sacrificing too much self-worth and real beauty for a little bit of power."

Kofoed didn't make the top 10 but was an interesting story. The oldest of 10 children, she is part of her family's singing group E11even, which has an album of "Songs of family, faith, love and fun, tours and performs an annual Christmas concert in Nampa, Idaho.

She also listed herself as a member of the BYU women's chorus and a recipient of the LDS Church's Young Womanhood Recognition award.

Her own large family is just the tip of the iceberg. Her grandmother had nine children and now has 52 grandchildren, 153 great-grandchildren and four great-great-granddaughters.

Kylie said she has more than 400 first and second cousins.

In her YouTube video urging American's to vote for her , which is part of the pageant now, she sang lyrics from "Funny Girl" ("Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade").

To see another photo of Kofoed, click here.

The her.meneutics blog describes itself as providing "news and analysis from the perspective of evangelical women. We cover news stories and books related to international justice and evangelism, pregnancy and sexual ethics, marriage, parenting, and celibacy, pop culture, health and body image, raising girls, and women in the church and parachurch."

e-mail: twalch@desnews.com

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