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Phyllis George, Miss America, 1971 Phyllis George, Miss America, 1971.

I was there, cheering her on. Well, not there in Atlantic City, but there in our living room, caught up in all the excitement. I was riveted to the pageant that year, fascinated that such a lovely creature could be named Phyllis, same as me. It was inspiring, I think. Or not. I didn’t really know what to feel. I knew I could never be as beautiful as Phyllis George, but I was relieved that someone not my grandmother’s age could represent the name Phyllis with style. I struggled with my name, too, in case you didn’t pick that up. (Why couldn’t I be a Debbie, or a Julie? I really liked the name Julie.)

I was mesmerized by Phyllis George. Another perfect creature, and I couldn’t help feeling envious as well as a little proud.

Sometime during her reign, I read a mini-interview with her in a magazine. During the interview she admitted she often felt awkward about her appearance, saying she really hated her nose, and often wished it were different.

I was stunned. Incredulous. Phyllis George had just been crowned the most beautiful woman in the country, and she couldn’t be satisfied with her appearance.

I knew then that if Phyllis George couldn’t feel beautiful, there was very little hope for the rest of us.

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