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  • ‘Miss California’ Personal Branding Winners and Losers

    I live in Los Angeles and I’m a native Californian.  I love living here – I was born in Southern California, where I live now.  I’ve also lived in San Francisco – what a magnificent city!  As a Californian, my ears perked up when I saw out of the corner of my eye last week a cast of characters playing out a Beauty Queen scandal centered around Miss California.

    Personal branding thoughts

    I’m not a beauty pageant follower, but you’d be living under a rock if you haven’t also seen some of the Miss California / gay marriage controversy that’s been playing out in the news in the past few days.  Let’s look at it from a Personal Branding standpoint:

    • Carrie Prejean -Miss California Ultimately,  Carrie Prejean is a loser in that she lost the battle for the Miss USA crown.  Afterall, that’s what she was fighting for, and she lost.  And she may lose her Miss California title as well, from the news reports today.  Here’s Fox’s John Tantillo calling  for Miss California USA, to turn in her crown or get fired.  “I might get some heat for this statement, since Miss Prejean has garnered quite a bit of sympathy from one side of the political/social spectrum.  But I mean no personal insult and the marketing point here is simply too important for me to pass it up.”  He goes on to discuss this from a brand perspective, “Let me start by saying that Miss Prejean deserved to lose the Miss USA contest.  Not because of her pro-marriage views, but because choosing to air those views showed that she was not Miss USA material – her brand characteristics simply did not match the job description.” http://foxforum.blogs.foxnews.com/2009/05/02/miss_california_usa-2/

    3250162990_5afe048cbeFrom a personal branding standpoint, though, it’s a bit trickier. On the one hand, she’s being true to her brand position.  On the other hand, let’s keep our eyes on her from a marketing standpoint, because it could go either way.  This is actually a good lesson for new brands….you may find yourself suddenly in the spotlight, which is great.  The downside is- Are You Ready?  The pressure is on to see how the brand (and the girl) stands up under the heat. Also, if she looks like she’s shirking her responsibilities to the pageant that put her in the spotlight, it will hurt her brand.  On the other hand, if she’s got political ambitions for herself or to be on a team, she could turn out to be the winner.  She is forever immortalized on YouTube for this statement:

    “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage,” Prejean said. “And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”  Some in the audience cheered, others booed.

    • Kristen Dalton – Miss USA, formerly Miss North Carolina US Clearly, she’s a winner from the standpoint of coming from behind and winning the Miss USA title.  However, we don’t really know much about what her brand stands for at this point, which makes her a loser.  She’s lost the spotlight battle to Miss CA and may have lost valuable time in defining her message and position.  Who is she and what does she stand for?  If we’re asking that question at this point in the news cycle, she’s a loser in terms of personal branding.  She seems smart, though, and very ambitious.  Let’s see what she does to further define her brand in the next few days and weeks.
    • Perez Hilton – Say what you will about Perez Hilton, but I’ll declare him a winner in terms of brand messaging and positioning.  He has been true, true, TRUE to his brand from the beginning of this – starting with the question that sparked the whole controversy.  Some won’t like him or agree with him, but he is fulfilling his brand promise to his legions of fans.

    • Donald TrumpDonald Trump is a winner, too.  His personal brand takes much bigger hits than this and he keeps bouncing back.  What great free publicity for him and his Miss Universe pageant franchise!  Afterall, it’s said that the allure of pageants is on the wane, but here we are still talking about it over a week later.  Not bad in today’s news cycle.

    2615141333_b7799f2296His personal rand dictates that he be the consummate executive and “stay above the fray”.  He’s done that quite well (all he had to do was get out of the way…).  He finally endorsed the winner, Kristen Dalton, on May 1 by saying this, “”I am very honored that she won. She really did a fantastic job … She was doing well on every single card and she really did answer also a very, very tough question very well,” said Trump.

    He even defended Prejean by disagreeing with Hilton’s assertion that it was the worst answer in the history of the Miss USA pageant.”  More brand reinforcement for Mr. Trump.

    • Shanna Moakler, co-executive director of Miss California USA Sorry, Shanna, but you’re losing the brand battle right now.  Recently, Shanna admitted to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush that the pageant did in fact pay for Miss California’s breast enhancements.  Worse, though, is that Miss California is apparently not heeding Shanna’s calls to “get back on the Miss California itinerary”.  This makes it look like the Miss California folks are in disarray and can’t control their representative.  Unfortunately for Shanna, it’s her brand taking the hit.

    For more information on Beauty Queen scandals click here.


    Beverly Macy is the Managing Partner of Y&M Partners and teaches a social media class at the UCLA Extension.  She also co-hosts Gravity Summit events.


    Beverly is an instructor at the UCLA Business and Management Extension Program. She is one of the few educators who has a class offered by a university on Social Media Marketing. She’s also the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Y&M Partners and before that she spent 14 years at Xerox Corporation in a series of increasingly demanding sales and marketing management positions where she was awarded eight consecutive President’s Club honors. Macy began her career at Wang Laboratories in software development.

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    5 comments on “‘Miss California’ Personal Branding Winners and Losers
    1. avatar
      S Blair says:

      Interesting application of brand. I wonder though – doesn’t everything that you said in the bullet point on Perez Hilton apply to Carrie Prejean? But your conclusion on each is different.

      Also, Perez did change his opinion and then changed back ( I apologize, oh no I dont). So, he was inconsistent with his brand to boot.

    2. avatar
      Candice says:

      Given what’s been going on in the state of California recently, it’s ironic that she drew Perez Hilton’s name instead of someone else’s.

    3. avatar

      I think Miss CA did well in the branding wars with her constituency. This controversy will make her more money than winning the title ever would have. It has set a path for her future.

    4. avatar
      Beverly Macy says:

      S Blair, great point on my observations. I will say that this controversy seems not to be over just yet – yesterday I saw that pics of Carrie have been ‘unearthed’ with yet another twist on the story! Who the brand winners and losers are isn’t over yet!

    5. avatar
      @JoshHurlock says:

      Beverly, thanks for the post. I did not think what Carrie said was wrong at all. She just said that she thought marriage was between a man and woman, nothing derogatory. On the other hand, Perez Hilton came across as a complete jack*** and I think he should have been more diplomatic about the situation. I agree with Carrie and I have gay relatives. Perez Hilton is just on an ego trip and gives the gay population a terrible brand.

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