Origins of beauty pageants are found in Greek mythology. The Judgment of Paris, the story about the dispute between goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, which Paris resolved, is considered to be the first example of beauty competitions.
Another event in history, which possibly led to the birth of the modern beauty pageant, is the medieval European festival, also known as May Day. The celebration usually included the selection of a young woman, who was crowned, which symbolized beauty and fertility. It was not until the twentieth century that modern-day beauty pageants gained popularity.
At this point, competitions featured young women who displayed beauty, charm, talent, eloquence and personality at local, national, and international levels. Pageants aimed to promote young, self-confident women, who would be role models, and who would represent their community with charm and dignity.
Beauty pageants gained popularity in San Diego County in the 1960’s when numerous districts organized small local contests. Local pageants mainly focused on community service, public speaking, networking and interview skills. Contestants’ scores were based on a speech; a personal interview; poise; personality; evening gown wear; and responses to on-stage impromptu questions.
The Miss Clairemont Pageant is one of numerous local beauty pageants in San Diego County. The Miss Clairemont Pageant began in 1965, and was organized by The Clairemont Women’s Club, which was hosted in the Clairemont High School Auditorium. The Clairemont Women’s Club (C.W.C.) was a non-profit organization, founded in 1954 and dedicated to the improvement of the community. Some of these efforts included raising funds for various local centers and organizations, such as local libraries, the Make a Wish Foundation, the Clairemont Boys and Girls Club, and providing scholarships to the Miss Clairemont Pageant. The C.W.C chairman Ruth Johnson and her daughter Maureen Atwell, organized the Miss Clairemont Pageant. The women emphasized the importance of the contest because it promoted women’s empowerment, encouraged self-confidence and leadership in the contestants. The annual competition was canceled twice, once in 1996 (due to teacher strikes) and in the other in 2000.
While each local pageant had its own competition, The Fairest of the Fair was organized from 1936 through 2004 for all pageant winners to compete.
It was eventually discontinued due to high costs. The winner was originally called the Queen of the Fair, but the title was changed to Fairest of the Fair in 1947. The pageant was part of the events of the annual San Diego County Fair (previously known as the Del Mar Fair), which originated in 1880 as an agricultural fair.
The object of the Fairest of the Fair contest was to select a winner who would be the female opposite of Don Diego, the fairs’ official host as portrayed by Spanish actor Tommy Hernandez from 1947 until his death in 1984. The pageant’s winner was featured in public appearances during the fair and elsewhere throughout the year.
The most famous Fairest of the Fair winner was La Jolla High School student Rachel Tajeda, fair winner in 1958. Tejeda became an actress and is better known as Rachel Welch.
The prize for the winner of the first post-war competition was a $25 war bond. Over the years, the prize money rose up to over $20,000 in scholarships and prizes.