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It’s odd when someone shows up to a party in a crown.

Caroline Weinroth is the front woman of the excellent three-piece rock band Cinema Hearts. We’ve premiered singles and booked the band for BYT events.

Caroling Weinroth was one of the women in the Women in E exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum, an exhibit that played with the idea of beauty, music and femininity.

Caroline Weinroth is Miss Mountain Laurel 2017. She has a crown and a sash.

We spoke to Miss Mountain Laurel in the summer, in the midst of her reign. Between a visit at the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach and speaking to middle schoolers in Newport News, the 23-year-old was in the midst of a busy day of not-exactly-campaigning. We had to know why. Why would anyone want to be a beauty queen? For Weinroth, it was all in the family. “I wanted to do it because my mom had done pageants when she was a teenager. She placed like fourth runner-up in a Miss Fresno, California. And because she was a runner up she got to go on to Miss California, but her mother wouldn’t let her.”

Last weekend’s Miss America pageant shined a light on the power of beauty queens. Miss Texas, Margana Wood, was asked about Charlottesville. She responded, “I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should’ve made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and in making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.” Miss Texas did not win the 2017 Miss America pageant (congratulations Miss North Dakota), but her statement is what people will remember.

Miss America isn’t thought of as a force for good. But it can be. And has been. One of the women that inspired Weinroth to become a beauty queen is Miss America 1998 Kate Shindle (recently seen in the touring production of Fun Home). Weinroth informed us, “When she won Miss America she got to go into Southern elementary schools where they wouldn’t let AIDS activists in. But they’ll let Miss America in and then she talked to kids about safer sex.”

Most every rock band in every major American city isn’t afraid to speak out against the president. Most every rock band is sex positive. Many don’t think the same of Miss America.

Weinroth’s experience in both the music world and the pageant world have benefited each other. The booking for bands and beauty queens isn’t that different. Both acts reach out to the venues and organizations to schedule appearances. Sometimes Weinroth emails about playing a show in an all-ages club. Sometimes Weinroth is reaching out about playing a show in a retirement home. Weinroth told us, “Everything you’ve seen online has been me emailing people and asking them, ‘Hey can I show up tonight and be involved. Can I volunteer?’”

Weinroth’s experience with Cinema Hearts has made reaching out to strangers much easier. “Worst they do is say no or not respond to my email.”

Before this year, our biggest connection to beauty pageants was Hole’s “Miss World” from 1994’s Live Through This. Weinroth was born in 1994. She’s literally a beauty queen in a rock and roll band. She’s also cognizant of the similarities between herself, her art and Courtney Love.

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“Sometimes I joke like I’m doing the pageant as performance art, but it’s also like the more I did it, the more I experienced it, the more I realized like it is like an activity that’s meant for me and that I’m meant for. Because that was a big concern and a worry at first was like ‘is everyone in the pageant community going to think I’m dangerous’ because I play in a rock band or that I’m like, you know, like a rough and tough kind of girl or something. And they all love it. They have been the most supportive people and they’re really encouraging, all of the adult volunteers and they just really do a lot to support the young women going through the program.”

Love is great front woman. Weinroth is also front woman that’s participating in music therapy classes with intellectual and physical disabilities. It’s difficult to imagine Love or any other lead singer doing that. The props, the crown and sash, open unexpected doors. It’s why you might have seen Weinroth wearing it more often. “Sometimes I wonder am I going out too much am I wearing this too much, but it’s the thing where people don’t know who Caroline Weinroth is, people don’t know who Cinema Hearts is, but they know what Miss America is and they know what that stands for. Which is a perk for me too because I used to get really nervous. I would never perform in a retirement home because I was just too nervous and I wouldn’t know what to do in a music therapy program until I decided, you know, if a Miss America can do this, I could do this.”

Miss Weinroth will be Miss Mountain Laurel until December. She’ll still be in Cinema Hearts in 2018. The crown and sash won’t be worn (Weinroth informed us it’s disrespectful to the current queen to wear your crown and sash longer than your reign) but she’ll still have the connections she’s made with hospitals and schools and community centers. She’ll still be able to do good work because doors were opened while wearing a crown.

Courtney Love is great. Miss America 1998, Miss Texas 2017 and Miss Mountain Laurel 2017 are educating kids about safe sex, calling out the leader of the free world and teaching developmentally disabled kids about music. The reality of beauty queens may be better than the perception.

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