Isaac Brekken, Associated Press
Miss New York Mallory Hytes Hagan reacts as she is crowned Miss America 2013.

“Take a look at her now. Role model and beauty queen. Trendsetter and leader. Timeless icon and fresh new face. Inspiration for a new generation.”

Mallory Hytes Hagan, Miss New York, was recently named Miss America 2013. As this beauty was stooped down receiving her jeweled crown (in a state of utter and complete shock, of course), I couldn’t help but wonder if this really is the best way to choose a “role model and leader” for our young girls.

My older sister, to her everlasting embarrassment, was gently and firmly persuaded/forced by my parents to compete for Miss Bountiful in high school. As far as beauty goes, my sister had it in the bag: long legs, long hair, perfect smile, peaches-and-cream skin. She’s a brain, too, and always made the high honor roll in high school.

But she hated “competing” in the beauty pageant.

“I hated the fact that even though they say it’s more than how you look, it’s really not. They were judging my every move. ‘Hmm … look at the way she walks … does that make her beautiful? Look at what she chose to wear … does that make her beautiful?’ I didn’t like anything about it.”

What makes someone more beautiful than others? How can beauty be judged?

I believe in taking care of yourself. Working out, getting your hair done, wearing nice, clean clothes and overall putting your best face forward are not bad things. In fact, I think people respect you more if you show you respect yourself.

However, what qualifies someone to judge a person’s beauty? Watching all the Miss America contestants recently smile and dance — er, move around onstage — I couldn’t tell you who was the most beautiful and why. Sure, they are all physically gorgeous. But to me, what makes a woman “beautiful” is who they are inside.

What are her beliefs? What are her ambitions? What changes does she want to see in the world, and how is she going about promoting them?

I think that’s what bothers me most about beauty pageants. The majority of the time is spent walking around in skimpy suits and evening wear. Most of the focus is on outer beauty.

I like the talent portion but think one of the most important parts — the Q&A segment — is much too short. These women are expected to answer current events questions in less than 20 seconds. This tells us little about what they really think and why. And most of the top five contestants panicked the other night and just gave a one-sentence answer that was more like 10 seconds or less. I wanted to hear more!

For example, why, Miss New York, do you think having an armed guard in schools to protect our children would promote more violence? How, Miss Wyoming, should parents go about looking for alternative medicine if their child is diagnosed with ADD?

And I’m quite sure, Miss Iowa, you didn’t mean marijuana should be used for “recreational use” in health care.

I appreciate the fact that the girls are expected to have a platform, and respect our new Miss America 2013 for her “Stop it Now!” program that works to stop child sexual abuse.

But no one said you have to be a beauty queen to make a difference. There are plenty of beautiful, talented, hard-working girls out there quietly making a difference without the fame.

I personally think beauty pageants need to change their focus. Let’s learn about who these women really are. Let’s look more at their goals, accomplishments, grades and values and less at their body size and shape.

Let’s change the order of the Miss America slogan: “Style, service, scholarship, and success.”

And perhaps add self-worth.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.