She's a beauty: Lynda Carter

Question: I just saw Lynda Carter from the old TV show Wonder Woman in both Sky High and The Dukes of Hazzard (don't ask why I saw both those movies!) and my friend and I got to arguing about whether or not she was really Miss USA in the '70s? He says no, but I'm sure I've read that she was. Or maybe she just made it up to make herself stand out — can you clear it up?

Answer: I don't know where the blame lies for the confusion about Lynda Carter's pageant career, but I think a combination of careless reporting and lack of information about the finer points of pageantry are more likely culprits than out-and-out deception on Carter's part. First, the facts: Carter did win the Miss World USA pageant in 1972, having previously won the titles Miss Phoenix and Miss Arizona. She did not win the Miss USA Pageant, which is an entirely different beauty contest whose winner goes on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. Miss World USA winners go on to compete in the Miss World Pageant. I'm sure you're already seeing the problem: There are a lot of beauty pageants out there — the very informative Pageant Directory website lists literally hundreds, from Miss Apple Blossom, Glamour Dolls and Miss Teen Spirit Plus to ethnically defined contests like Miss Black America USA, Miss India New York and Miss Asia Arizona — and many of them have confusingly similar names. Some are sponsored by local chambers of commerce or talent agencies; others are run by entertainment conglomerates or commercial entities. The Hawaiian Tropic pageants, for example, exist for the sole purpose of promoting the self-proclaimed "prestigious sun care provider." In any event, it's a relatively easy mistake to confuse "Miss USA" and "Miss World USA," but it's not one journalists should be making and repeating.