Tuesday, February 2, 2021

|Podcast| Here She Is - Hilary Levey Friedman


Photo Credit: Bethany O Photography

Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, is the author of Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America and Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture. She is part of the Department of Education at Brown University, where she teaches courses on topics like afterschool activities, sports, and qualitative methods. She is also a Fellow at the Taubman Center for American Politics and Society.

Prof. Levey Friedman is currently President of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women (RI NOW). She is also a member of the Public Policy Committee of the United Way of Rhode Island and the Platform and Issues Committee of the Rhode Island Democratic Party. Additionally she volunteers as an active Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). She is a civic leader as well, having served as Chair of the East Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, as an Affordable Housing Commissioner in the town of East Greenwich, RI, and as a Board of Trustee at Temple Torat Yisrael.

Prof. Levey Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Detroit where she graduated from Marian High School. As an undergraduate at Harvard she discovered sociology, graduating magna cum laude with highest honors in 2002 and writing her honors thesis on child beauty pageants. She then earned an MPhil from the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences as a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where her dissertation was about fashion and national identity. Following her time in England Prof. Levey Friedman matriculated at Princeton University, from which she earned a PhD in Sociology in 2009 as both a Spencer Dissertation Fellow and as a Harold W. Dodds fellow. During graduate school her research focused on competitive after-school activities (chess, dance, Kumon enrichment classes, and soccer). Prof. Levey Friedman completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University quantitatively studying youth sports injuries, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The mother of a first grader and a third grader, she spends whatever spare time she has reading (anything and everything!) and watching a variety of (reality) television shows and documentaries.


JEANBOOKNERD PODCAST 2021: SEASON 3 EPISODE 2
GUEST: HILARY LEVEY FRIEDMAN
JOURNALIST: ANGIE AMEZCUA
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Praise for HERE SHE IS

“Friedman reveals the symbiotic relationship between beauty pageants and feminism, showing, unexpectedly, how their trajectories intertwine over a century, with each reflecting and responding to the other. The result is totally original, utterly compelling, wholly entertaining social history that surprised and challenged me in the best of ways.” —Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex and Boys & Sex

“An accessible study of beauty pageant culture, this is an engaging, thought-provoking read.” —Library Journal

“I thought I knew about pageants until I read Hilary Levey Friedman’s book Here She Is. The depth of her research is impressive and makes for a fascinating read. It also put me in mind of the way the pageant world dramatically impacted my own life.” —Delta Burke, Emmy-nominated actress and Miss Florida 1974

“Levey Friedman’s book combines a sociologist’s sharp insight and a daughter’s love of her own Miss America mother to render a fascinating and important portrait of the complicated history of women in the United States. It’s easy to dismiss the parts of femininity that run counter to the narrative we want to tell ourselves about feminism, but Levey Friedman’s book doesn’t shy away from the truth. She grapples with all the realities of the history of womanhood in America and creates a nuanced portrait of beauty and liberation. Deeply researched and insightful, Here She Is examines the complex and ugly truths about history, patriarchy, and feminism. Levey Friedman has created an important necessary book that provides crucial insight into the enterprise of being a woman in America.” —Lyz Lenz, author of Belabored and God Land

“Hilary Levey Friedman is uniquely positioned—as the daughter of a Miss America pageant–winner and as a scholar of sociology—to make unexpected connections between the history of American beauty pageants and the progress of American women in the political sphere. From women’s suffrage to the #MeToo movement, she expands our view of the beauty pageant as a reflection of both femininity and feminism.” —Johanna Neuman, historian and author of Gilded Suffragists

“Friedman’s book is at once searing and sympathetic. As she shows, beauty pageants have been problematic in all of the ways we might imagine. But they have also intersected with—and, at times, advanced—feminism in ways that might surprise us. Indeed, Friedman’s great contribution is to provide compelling, nuanced portraits of the women who forged their own paths through the world of beauty pageants, often reimagining and reshaping that world along the way.” —Blain Roberts, professor of history at California State University, Fresno and author of Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women

“How fun and informative! A combination of American history, personal history, pop culture and social analysis, this delightful book of Americana has something for nearly everyone.” —Daniel Hamermesh, Distinguished Scholar in Economics at Barnard College and author of Beauty Pays


A fresh exploration of American feminist history told through the lens of the beauty pageant world.

Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century. Yet they are thriving. America's most enduring contest, Miss America, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement's signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them a voice in the age of #MeToo.

Using her unique perspective as a NOW state president, daughter to Miss America 1970, sometimes pageant judge, and scholar, Friedman explores how pageants became so deeply embedded in American life from their origins as a P.T. Barnum spectacle at the birth of the suffrage movement, through Miss Universe's bathing beauties to the talent- and achievement-based competitions of today. She looks at how pageantry has morphed into culture everywhere from The Bachelor and RuPaul's Drag Race to cheer and specialized contests like those for children, Indigenous women, and contestants with disabilities. Friedman also acknowledges the damaging and unrealistic expectations pageants place on women in society and discusses the controversies, including Miss America's ableist and racist history, Trump's ownership of the Miss Universe Organization, and the death of child pageant-winner JonBent Ramsey.

Presenting a more complex narrative than what's been previously portrayed, Here She Is shows that as American women continue to evolve, so too will beauty pageants.
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