I have been watching Averie Bishop’s TikToks since 2020. As an aspiring attorney — who is currently diligently studying for the LSAT — she has been an inspiration to me from the minute I found her TikTok. Like me, she is a woman of color from Texas. She is a first-generation student. She is also the daughter of immigrants and has had to essentially figure out how to navigate the world of applying to law school and being in law school by herself. She has become like a big sister to all the girls of color who dream of going to law school. She breaks down concepts like the LSAT and what the law school application process is, and is transparent about student loans. She also shares videos of herself crying to show how debilitating the stress of law school can be. 

I knew Averie competed in the Miss America pageants, but I did not see that as her primary identity. Regardless of the fact I never thought much about her competing in pageants, the 25-year-old is now Miss Texas. She is the first Asian-American to win this title. When I saw she had won on TikTok, I was shocked. As a Texan who knows the beauty standard in the Lone Star state is blondes with blue eyes and big hair, I did not think a law student and Filipina-American would win Miss Texas. I honestly thought she didn’t have a shot. Averie’s story highlights how pageants are beginning to become more inclusive

I think what is also very important to understand is Averie is Miss Texas, not Miss Texas USA. Miss Texas is a part of the Miss America pageants, with Miss USA being an entirely different set of pageants. Miss USA is a traditional beauty pageant, whereas Miss America is a scholarship pageant. Another famous difference is Miss USA still has a swimsuit portion, whereas Miss America no longer has one and instead has a talent competition. Miss America also tends to have less of an emphasis on appearance and more of an emphasis on social issues. Bishop speaks about her social mission for the pageant, stating, “I am going to work tirelessly to promote small, minority-owned businesses, diversity and inclusion across public schools, and advocate for anti-hate and discrimination policy for the city of Dallas.” 

Miss America has had a complicated history. It is a pageant that has been both loved and hated by many. The pageant began in 1921 and was known as the Intercity beauty pageant. The pageant was banned twice and finally made its official come back in 1935.  There was mass controversy surrounding the pageant in the 1960s, due to feminists seeing it as everything that was wrong with how the United States viewed women as meant to only be looked at and not spoken to. Plus, Americans who were against the Vietnam War were angry the pageant helped raise a significant amount of money for the Vietnam War. 

Black women were also not allowed to compete in the competition until 1971. However, there were other people of color who had competed in the pageant before this, notably Asian Americans. The first Black Miss America was Vanessa Williams in 1984. She had to give away her title for the last seven weeks of her term when her first runner-up, Suzette Charles, who was also Black, stepped in as Miss America. There has been a total of eight Black Miss Americas, whereas there have only been two Asian American Miss Americas, the first being Angela Perez Baraquio in 2001. Miss America has also been criticized for having a lack of Latinx representation, with few Latinx contestants and so far, no Latinx Miss America.

However, people like Averie are showing the landscape of both Miss America and Miss USA is changing. In 2021, three Black women won the three major competitions of Miss USA. Miss USA has also had several Latinx winners. 

Representation in beauty pageants is far from perfect. Miss America and beauty pageants in general still have an extremely long way to go. But for Bishop, winning a title in an extremely red state that just chose to criminalize abortion is no small feat. Women like her are showing that you don’t have to be the stereotypical pageant girl to win these competitions. 

Bishop is a true representation of who an American girl is: a child of immigrants, first-generation, and a woman trying to create a better life for herself than the life her parents had. She is putting the scholarship money she won towards her student loans, a debt that many of us can relate to. The biggest impact she has made however is pushing other women like her to sign up for Miss America pageants to help them pay for their education.