Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 19 2018 01:00PM

It’s been almost four years since we had a reason to put “Jane Austen” and “beauty pageant” in the same sentence. Frankly, we were overdue.

Back in September 2014, you’ll recall, the future Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev proclaimed herself a Janeite via a much-ridiculed on-screen caption proclaiming that she “loves anything Jane Austin [sic].”

Luckily, our current Austen-in-a-tiara moment includes no such embarrassing blooper. Instead, we are free to bask happily in the knowledge that the first black Miss Universe Great Britain, a 25-year-old Anguillan-born trainee barrister named Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, is an Austen fan.

Kentish-Rogers was crowned at a pageant held in Wales last Saturday, where she came tops in a field of 32. She will compete for the sixty-six-year-old Miss Universe title – never before won by a British woman, as far as I can tell – in the Philippines in December.

As seems de rigueur for pageants these days, Miss Universe is an uneasy combination of appallingly retro – swimsuit competition, anyone? – and determinedly feminist: Kentish-Rogers’ fellow contestants included one who wants to conduct cancer research, a second who participates in equestrian show jumping, and a third who recently launched a swimwear business. Kentish-Rogers herself has competed internationally in the heptathlon.

For our purposes, however, it’s her literary taste that really matters. “My love for Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice spurred me to move to the United Kingdom in 2013 to study law at the University of Birmingham,” she told the UK’s Daily Star in a story that ran on the day of the pageant.

Given that the Star’s package featured headlines referring to the pageant competitors as “STUNNING babes” and “drop dead gorgeous” alongside a slideshow with many, many swimsuit shots, it is reasonable to wonder how much their readers cared about the future Miss Universe GB’s taste in books. But never mind. We care.

By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 25 2014 08:17PM

It hasn’t quite been Ten Days that Rocked the Jane Austen World, but this past week or so has brought us several memorable Janeite teapot storms:

–On September 13, the Jane Austen Festival of Bath, England, assembled enough fans in Regency costume to break the record set just last summer by the Jane Austen Festival of Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville snatched the title from Bath in the first place, so it’s pretty clearly Game On for next year. Once again, national honor is at stake.

–On September 14, en route to her crowning as Miss America 2015, Kira Kazantsev let the world know that she’s a Janeite. Unfortunately, this great news – Jane Austen, tiaras and swimsuits! Perfect together! – was drowned out by the derision heaped upon the typo in the on-screen tagline announcing that Kazantsev “loves anything Jane Austin.” Whoever was responsible had probably used up all his/her mental bandwith making sure “Kira Kazantsev” was spelled right.

–And today the long-delayed, eagerly-anticipated-though-not-by-me movie version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is due to start filming at last. The big news du jour is that two stars of the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones" – Charles Dance, who plays the ruthless and cruel Tywin Lannister, and Lena Headey, who plays his equally ruthless and cruel daughter, Cersei – have been cast in as-yet-unannounced roles. (I’m guessing Mr. Bennet and Lady Catherine – no reason Lady C has to be a wrinkled old crone, given that her daughter is at most thirty.)

I’m hoping this doesn’t mean we’re in for scenes in which the complexities of the entail are explained while a couple of naked women mud-wrestle in the background.

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