Pageantry and Politics with Tally Bevis, The Future of Florida, How the Emergency Ends
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In just the past two days, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a huge package of anti-immigration legislation for the state, and we entered a world where COVID-19 is no longer an official public health emergency. V breaks down all the big changes these decisions will bring. Then, they talk to a champion of change, courage, and civic engagement: former Miss Tennessee Tally Bevis. Tally pulls back the curtain on what it was like to represent her state on a national stage, and all the ways she fought for progress in the process.
All images of Tally Bevis in crown or sash are from 2021-2022 as Miss Tennessee 2021. Her opinions are her own and not a reflection or a representation of the Miss America or Miss Tennessee scholarship organizations.
Follow Tally at @thenashvilleblondie on Instagram and at @tallybevis on TikTok.
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V Spehar, Tally Bevis
V Spehar 00:01
Hey friends, it’s Friday, May 12 2023. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V Spehar. And today, what’s inside the monstrous anti-immigrant legislation becoming law in Florida? We’re going to talk about it. Plus how older government officials present a sticky situation for voters and what some people are suggesting we do about it. Then we’re joined by Tally Bevis, a former Miss Tennessee and forever advocate for voting rights and civic engagement. We’ll talk about the ins and outs of pageantry including all the value you might not realize that it brings all that more on today’s be interesting from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is known for his anti-immigration reputation. But he’s recently taken it to a whole new level. At the time of this recording, he had literally just signed SB 1718 into law, and it contains a massive package of restrictions and regulations against undocumented people in his state. Here are some of the things this legislation does. It makes unemployment requirements a lot stricter for immigrants, and allows state law enforcement officials to do random audits of businesses that are thought to have hired undocumented workers. People can be charged with a felony if they drive into Florida while knowingly transporting someone who’s undocumented. So like DACA kids from Georgia driving their parents to maybe visit some family in Florida. That’s now a crime. And it does not stop there. Florida hospitals will now be required to track how much money their emergency rooms spend on undocumented immigrants, which means yes, staff will have to ask patients about their citizenship status, which will probably deter a ton of people from seeking care. Undocumented immigrants will no longer be allowed to practice law in Florida, even though they’ve been able to for the last nine years. If a non-citizen legally obtained a driver’s license in another state, it will now be invalid in Florida. This legislation also gives money to something called the unauthorized alien transport program. Y’all remember back in September when DeSantis lied to a group of people and sent them to Martha’s Vineyard without their knowledge? Well, this measure would direct 12 million taxpayer dollars to future six stunts just like that. An article from the Tallahassee Democrat noted that Republicans did draw the line somewhere. For one, they turned out a request from DeSantis to repeal a law that gives in state tuition to undocumented students who grew up in Florida. But they included nearly everything else that DeSantis wanted. And now it is set to go into effect on July 1 2023. Analysts say that these extreme moves may be in service of a potential presidential bid from DeSantis. Immigration is a huge topic of interest for Republicans, particularly because it’s been used to stir up emotions and fear in the absence of actual facts. For example, it wasn’t that long ago that Donald Trump was accusing undocumented immigrants of quote, stealing jobs from citizens. But immigrants are out here documenting their job sites and basically saying, look, if there really are enough other people who could fill these jobs, then show them to me, show me 300 People who can be here tomorrow and actually do this work well. Those are the facts. Those are the firsthand accounts, but it’s easy enough to skip over them. It’s easy enough to skip over national employment numbers, and to accuse immigrants of things they are not doing, and then watch fear take over the minds of constituents. DeSantis in particular appears to see this as a perfect strategy for his political ambitions.
V Spehar 04:04
Ron DeSantis is not alone in capitalizing on fear. It is a tried and true method. And it is especially helpful when someone doesn’t have data to back up their stance. Because when people are activated enough by concern or disgust, they don’t care about the facts. Late last year, Scientific American published an opinion piece discussing this phenomenon, and it traces a long history of people getting on board with bigotry. People might gin up hate by accusing others of participating in certain activities, like pedophilia or beast reality, they might like in people to wild dirty creatures like vermin or apes. And with such outlandish baseless statements, how can anyone even begin to argue. Their intrinsic disgust response has already kicked in, and there’s no room for logical thought. This Disgust is an effective motivator for causing harm. Statistically the likelihood of coming Violence goes up after hearing hate speech that suggests someone is crossing a moral boundary. Look no further than the man who attacked Paul Pelosi. He is said to have broken into the Pelosi is home and committed the attack because he was told that certain politicians were satanic pedophiles, which, as wild as it sounds, is actually the main pillar of the Q anon conspiracy theory. This disgust to violence pipeline is called stochastic terrorism. The practice often takes traces of facts and distorts them. At that point, they’re no longer true, but they are gross. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t even matter if it’s bullshit, because it’s effective. Disgust has a place. But in these cases, it’s being taken advantage of and weaponized. Humans have evolved over time to have a strong disgust instinct, since it protects us from harm often, maybe that harm was coming in the form of poisonous food or maybe something detrimental to evolution like incest. But now people who find themselves wanting to tear down another person are using disgust to cause harm to humanity, not prevent it, and there is nothing natural about. Friends, wouldn’t the world be a little bit better if we could use some critical thinking? I mean, if we could really appreciate nuance, I mean, we could really use it when it comes to another debate in the political sphere, how to handle our aging government. I mean, Joe Biden is the oldest sitting president at 80 years old, and he just announced that he is running for reelection. The median age the median age of US House lawmakers is 50 years old, and the median age of US Senators is 65. Most people are retiring at 65. The 89 year old Senator Dianne Feinstein has only just now returned to her Senate duties after being out on medical leave for two months. And sure, we’re glad to have that seat filled, so we can confirm a slate of judges. But I was hoping it wouldn’t be with a Senator who is serving very much Weekend at Bernie’s vibes. Let’s be real about it, we all die. But as people get older, there is a greater likelihood that someone could die in office, which throws party balances and election timelines into a tailspin. The work to die approach might be normalized in the Supreme Court. But it doesn’t have to be the way that we conduct our whole government. Maybe death is an extreme place to jump. But even prolonged absences affect a party’s ability to do its job. If an elected official is out indefinitely, because they’re sick or losing stamina, they could delay crucial votes. We know that Dianne Feinstein did during her time away.
V Spehar 07:40
Analysts have been debating potential ways to regulate an ageing government. None of them are super great. One idea is that politicians take cognitive tests, which at the very least, would be a mess for folks who don’t perform well on standardized tests, and could also disadvantage neurodivergent leaders. Another option is to simply set an age limit for holding office. But that’s a pretty blunt instrument that could rule out some really great leaders and for sure violates some constitutional protections. Personally, I think all of these proposals are a little too general as they stand, we need to assess individual officials. And before there’s any kind of legislation to enforce this kind of thing. Or in case there isn’t any legislation at all. We as voters can make those assessments ourselves. We should be considering age as a factor when choosing whether or not to elect folks in the first place. And additionally, we should be pushing back on organizations like the DNC or the RNC who financially prop up their aging pals. I’m talking about Charlie Crist who lost the Florida governorship to DeSantis and was only there because Pelosi hand picked him and then dumped a ton of money into his campaign. At the end of the day, if the reason that we’re not thinking critically about ages, because it’s disrespectful of our elders. Well, that just doesn’t serve democracy. I get that we’ve been taught that talking about somebody’s age isn’t polite, but as the Wall Street Journal put it once, Washington will never be confused with polite society. So to our dear President, Joe Biden, who recently said that he’s not old, he’s wise. Listen, my guy. We are so grateful that you’re wise, but you are both. You are wise. And you are old. So how about you pass that baton to the next generation? We promise that we’ll still visit you for ice cream and advice. Well, while di fi was returning to Capitol Hill this week, the COVID emergency team was packing their bags in the White House. The Federal Public Health Emergency officially ended yesterday, roughly three years after it was declared. In that time, roughly 1.1 million Americans died. 6 million were hospitalized, and the daily lives of everyone were up ended around the globe. The end of the world Since it is largely symbolic, it’s not like people are no longer getting COVID Or getting really very sick from it or even dying from complications caused by COVID. But the chief medical official of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials told NPR that emergencies just can’t go on forever. And that we’re now living in a place where we’re treating COVID Similar to the flu. So what changes? First off, the feds will no longer pick up the tab when it comes to vaccines and tests, no more drive through vaccine sites and no more eight free tests a month that many of us got used to. The good news is that COVID vaccines and boosters will remain free for practically everyone, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And the White House promises that even people without insurance will still be able to get free vaccines and free treatments like Paxlovid through 2024. Another major change has to do with data. The CDC says that it’s going to end most of its tracking efforts, including reporting new infections. Now that said, they’re not turning a total blind eye. They will continue to track hospitalizations and deaths. They’re going to monitor the emergence of new variants, and they’re still going to keep an eye on spread of COVID through our wastewater. We’re also going to see some changes to access to Medicaid. When the emergency started, anyone enrolled in Medicaid just got to stay on Medicaid, no questions asked. And now that courtesy is over, and folks will have to fill out brand new paperwork to re qualify for the program which you’ll if you’re on Medicaid, last thing you need to be doing is trying to fill out government paperwork and risk your care lapsing. Most of the folks on Medicaid are low income and now the government wants them to just like have a laptop. But what if COVID rears its ugly head again? What if we find ourselves in another emergency? Are we going to be prepared? Outgoing White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha told our pal Andy host of Lemonada’s in the bubble not to worry, though his team is dismantling he said the White House will have a permanent office called the Office of pandemic preparedness and response. There’ll be in charge of continuing to coordinate around COVID and be a direct IR to the president if any other troubling virus emerges. I’m personally happy to turn the page on this life altering chapter as long as people can still get the care they need at the price they can afford. Okay, that is enough of that this was a heavy episode and I am so excited to introduce you to today’s guest because amidst all of this darkness, there is a bright light and it’s coming from a place you might not expect the Miss America organization. When we get back we are joined by Miss Tennessee 2021 Tally Bevis. She’s coming to speak to us about the importance of activism voting and putting powerful people in their place all that right after the break.
V Spehar 13:06
Until recently, it could be argued that when you think of the state of Tennessee you first thought of Dolly Parton or Elvis or the rest of Nashville’s music scene. Or maybe you thought of the Great Smoky Mountains, or maybe you knew Tennessee as the birthplace of iconic American brands like Mountain Dew, moon pies, and even cotton candy. And don’t forget that Tennessee whiskey, of course. But these days when you say Tennessee, a different vision is coming forward. It’s the vision of voters suppressing abortion banning anti LGBTQ legislation. It’s the recent expulsion hearing for the Tennessee three Democratic lawmakers who were put on trial for protesting and advocating for gun control alongside their constituents just days after a mass shooting at an elementary school. Tennessee has been many things. And my next guest tally, Bevis has had to face questions on all of it. She represented the state of Tennessee as Miss Tennessee from 2021 to 2022. She’s a Nashville resident and a Belmont School of Music graduate. She describes herself as a connector of people a lover of Election Day and believer in the American dream. I just love her so much. Tally Welcome to the show.
Tally Bevis 14:21
Thank you so much. She it’s seriously so great to be here. It’s such an honor to get to hang out with you.
V Spehar 14:26
Yes, I think we’re going to have such a great fun time. It’s always fun hanging out with the pageant girls.
Tally Bevis 14:30
Absolutely. And honestly, I was not one for very long before I became a student see, so I definitely still feel a little new to the pageant world, even myself did not grow up in it, but excited to be considered it now.
V Spehar 14:44
Yeah, I wanted to ask like before we get into all the like political stuff you’re doing and representing the state. Just take me back to like 20 years ago growing up as a kid in Tennessee. What was it like?
Tally Bevis 14:55
Gosh, yeah, well, I am the child of two Yankees who got to the south as fast as they can. So I grew up in Robertson County just north of Nashville. It is one of the most well-known counties for Dark Fire tobacco in the country. And, and honestly, it was kind of like To Kill a Mockingbird vibes, honestly, you know, watching my mom be an attorney and go to the old courthouse and, you know, literally practice one of the oldest working courthouses in the country. Like it really is, you know, kind of picturesque, but also, you know, there’s those conversations around just segregation in schools and how the Obama administration literally had to investigate Robertson County Schools in 2000. I think I was 10 or 11. So there was always that undertone, but I absolutely loved being a Tennessee and I grew up in rural Tennessee, but then got to Nashville pretty quickly to go to Belmont. So I just yeah, really, truly watching my family. In a small town. It really is small town in USA for sure.
V Spehar 15:59
When I lived in Tennessee, it was 2006. And I was working at Dollywood, which is the crown jewel of Tennessee. In my mind.
Tally Bevis 16:06
We absolutely love Dolly Parton actually saying Dolly Parton’s here you come again at Miss Tennessee and Miss America. And she sent me a good luck video at Miss America. And I was sobbing in this convention center at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. I was literally sobbing. It was like I had one Miss America.
V Spehar 16:26
It’s this thing that when we talk about Tennessee when we think about it, and then when you’ve lived there, and you’ve been a part of it, it’s so hard to sort of reconcile those two sides of things. And that’s a lot of what we’re going to talk about today. Yeah. Now on your website. You also say that you were a tomboy who went to Miss America. How did you decide to get into pageants in the first place?
Tally Bevis 16:41
Well, I really never thought it was for me. I grew up with a bunch of boys. I was a competitive dancer. So I wasn’t afraid of the stage. But I definitely was on a pageant girl. You know, I think I was also coming of age during this time where there was the Toddlers and Tiaras era, and there was a lot of pushback, especially in the deep sell against pageantry. And I think a lot of people have misconceptions about pageantry as a whole. And so a lot of my job is Miss Tennessee was to break down misconceptions that honestly I had as a kid. And it wasn’t until I was 18 that I was even introduced really to the Miss Tennessee program. I was cornered at a nail salon, in my hometown, like literally cornered like I thought this lady was stalking me. I was like, What is she doing? And she came up to me she’s like to pageants. I was like, Absolutely not. And I always say that I just did not know what I was saying no to. And what I was saying no to at the time that I didn’t realize for a couple of years really was scholarship opportunities and being able to pay off my undergraduate degree, which I now have done at Belmont University, because Miss America, you know, there were so many reasons why I needed Miss America. And I didn’t actually know at the time. And so I was cornered. And I did compete in a couple of local competitions. But I needed to grow up a little bit. I wanted to see, you know, I wanted to start to see why I needed the organization. Couple years later, I went back and I’ve competed three times at the Miss Tennessee level before I was chosen. And the organization changed a lot during those years. You know, my first time at Miss Tennessee and 2018 I competed in the swimsuit competition. And that was a whole host of its own issues and concerns. You know, I think a lot of people have a lot of concerns about swimsuit competitions when you’re trying to compete for scholarships, right. And then when we removed the swimsuit competition, being 511, flat footed and a size 10. I was like, wow, there’s space for me here. And I immediately, you know, found my place in it. And by my second time around in the new systems rules, I was chosen. And it was a big journey and a lot of changes within the national organization and in myself in the meantime,
V Spehar 18:43
Do you think that Miss America is reflective of changes that women were making and standards they were resetting for themselves at that time, like, just about five years or so post Donald Trump election where we’re out right now?
Tally Bevis 18:55
Absolutely. I absolutely think that the Miss America organization over and over in the past have kind of led some of these conversations, you know, there’s most pageants still have swimsuit competition. Now, Miss America has re-invited wellness and fitness back into the competition this year, which has definitely been met with both encouragement and also dissent, which I think anything will. And they felt a partnership with American Heart Association. You know, they’re trying to rebrand what a wellness form of competition would look like. But I do think Miss America in the past has kind of been a proactive response. It’s reflected a lot of what’s needed to change for women. There were protests in the 60s about Miss America, people were burning bras in trash cans outside of it. And a lot of what I did as Mr. Dempsey was research the history of Miss America, and I’ve done a couple of speeches on it because I think people don’t realize that, like any organization, Miss America has had to change. If Miss America was what it was today, what it was 102 years ago, we would not Allow people of color to compete, we would not be a scholarship organization, we would not have a talent competition. Like literally it went from the golden mermaid in Atlantic City, to now one of the biggest scholarship providers for women in the US. And it’s changed in good ways and bad throughout those years, it’s been behind. It’s been ahead. And I think it’s definitely a reflection that women in leadership and former Miss America themselves saw that women didn’t need to pray in a swimsuit to earn scholarship dollars. So I’m interested to see where it goes from here. Honestly,
V Spehar 20:30
Sam, and I know a lot of folks when they think of pageants, they’re not always thinking of power. But there is a ton of power in the circuit. And there’s a lot of politics in the circuit. So I wanted to get into how social causes play a role in the Miss America competition. And how you selected your social cause, like how much weight does your being a good person weigh in when it comes to winning?
Tally Bevis 20:53
Yeah, I think a lot of pageantry misconceptions are related to the Mean Girl, the pageant, Patti, you’ve heard it, like we’ve all heard it. And a lot of my job was genuinely just proving through action. And through speaking, that I wasn’t that person. What I think Miss America has going for it, even to this day is that as a whole, the social impact, or now called community service initiative, platform, if you will, has become a massive element to the Miss America competition. When I competed at Miss America, we actually did a social impact pitch on stage. And to win Miss Tennessee, I had to have a social impact pitch on stage. And what that means is that it forces young women across the country, you know, almost 1000, local title holders on any year. And it really forces them to get really serious about something that matters to them, right. And I think it’s all about sincerity in anything, there’s going to be people who are there for a crowd, and there’s going to be a lot more who are there for the community impact they’re gonna make. And so for me, one of the things that I was a total nerd about growing up was, you think government and intercollegiate state legislature. I mean, I was like, talking about passing legislation, and I was, you know, 16 years old, and everyone else is talking about what color their Camaro is going to be, you know, or something, or what their you know, what party they’re going to do on the weekend. And I was like, well, actually, I am, you know, writing legislation right now. But I was that person.
V Spehar 22:16
Tell you about parties, your political party?
Tally Bevis 22:20
Parties, let’s talk about the real parties that matter. But yeah, I mean, for me, I absolutely loved learning about respectful debate and dialogue, the Tennessee Center for Civic Engagement through the YMCA, led by Susan and Elise, they are incredible women, they mentored being and I remember coming into the program as a sophomore in high school, and not really understanding the process of legislation and understanding the houses, you know, that our Congress is made up of? Right. You know, I couldn’t even really tell you for sure why the Senate had a different number of representatives in it than the House of Representatives. Yeah, right. Like, I think, unfortunately, it’s a miss fall of the education system, especially in Tennessee, where we’re not really getting a good handle on it. And a lot of what I’m seeing now is, we have to be demystifying the process. And what the legislature does, after kids are leaving high school. And so programs like you think government was my bread and butter, honestly. And then heading into intercollegiate state legislature in college, it was something that really mattered a lot to me. And so when I started competing in the Miss America program, I started looking for women who were working on voter registration, and civic literacy education. And there was like, no one talking about it. And so I realized that there was a gap in in it. And I think a lot of people thought, especially over time, now we’ve seen that the conversation around voting, when I started competing in Miss America didn’t feel political at all. And I started out as the power of citizenship, which is just sounded so inflated and crazy, and like, what did I think I was doing at 18 with the power of citizenship, but it continued, and it grew into an organization called vote with a vision, because I think it’s not necessarily about who you vote for. It’s about the fact that you show up and you know, what your vision is, you know, who are you voting for, not necessarily regarding party lines, but knowing and taking ownership over the process of voting and understanding who’s actually up for those roles. I’ve also found that a lot of local elections, including my hometown, are chosen and are selected and are one by a matter of handful of votes. And what my biggest impetus was, and the biggest catalyst for vote with a vision was the fact that the first female mayor of my hometown north of Nashville, won by 14 votes, and my family was four of them in my first election when I was 18 years old. And that’s really powerful.
V Spehar 25:05
Right now there are so many laws in Tennessee trying to rewrite history and in much of the South trying to rewrite history trying to soften some of the less favorable things that different states acted on. How are you helping catch folks up on that civic literacy? Like you said to, to get these kids who aren’t getting it in the classroom that education they so greatly need so that you don’t get blindsided? When you go to college, honestly, you go to college, and all these people come in from other states, and they know more than you. And you’re like, how, why? Why did the state abandoned me here? Why didn’t they tell me this kind of stuff? I want to know.
Tally Bevis 25:40
It’s really troubling. And you know, one of the things that I had to really balance as Miss Tennessee and as a local title holder, was my responsibility to the organization and representing every Tennessee in whether I agree with them or not, and also trying with Notwithstanding that, to make an impact that mattered to me. And so one of the things that I think is really important to know is that being this Tennessee, you are contractually bound to represent every Tennessee in. And so obviously, all my opinions were my own, I was able to have my own opinions as Mr. Tennessee, but the work that I did with voter registration had to be uniquely nonpartisan. And that I think, came with its own host of trouble, right, because, you know, what I found myself doing was building relationships and partnerships with people that I probably would never have worked with outside of this. While that is a great thing, because I was proving respectful debate, respectful dialogue, and collaboration. It was also a really difficult feeling, because I knew that some of the people that I was partnering with and some of the things that I was trying to accomplish, I had to work with people that I didn’t agree with. And so as to see, again, it’s that balance. So doing work within voter registration. I was a, you know, a partner with the Secretary of State’s office, I worked with Secretary of State trade target on his and Dallas deadly award program, which was to encourage high school senior classes, to have 85% to 100%, voter registration and all of their seniors. And so I traveled with him, and we awarded many schools with that honor. And a lot of seniors were registering across Tennessee, that’s an incredible opportunity to see the next generation of voters, right. But the way in which I speak to them had to be uniquely nonpartisan. Right. And so that is the balance. And, you know, I don’t agree with everything that comes out of the Secretary of State’s office, I would like to see more happening to protect the vote and to expand the vote. And obviously, that is something I’m continuing to work on as Tally far beyond being Miss Tennessee. But you know, I addressed the State Senate, and I had to send a script in to my board to get approved. And that makes sense, right? Because they’re going to protect their organization. But I’m also trying to say what I really want to say, and I’m trying to get this five minutes I have in front of senators that do actually hold the keys to this kind of legislation. And so it’s how do you find that balance? And it was a it was a really tough year? I
V Spehar 28:32
Being within that role. You came into this role at a very unique time and like the political I don’t know pendulum swing of where things are. Yeah, cut, like you said, coming into it voting shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it became one and who gets to vote and where we’re going to put the boxes and how often it’s going to be open. When you were going to schools. What was the reaction from high school kids towards your initiative?
Tally Bevis 28:59
Honestly, I think I had the most response from elementary and middle school children. It’s funny, because I think a lot of high schoolers, unfortunately, in the state are being underserved. And they’re being undereducated in this area. And so, oftentimes, when I was speaking directly to high schoolers, I found myself creating accountability with their educators. So I remember I was on Fort Campbell the installation in Clarksville, Hopkinsville area. My time on the installation was eye opening. And I’ll share just a story with you. I spoke to some government classes. They were seniors in high school and they were on installation and they were going to school at Fort Campbell High School. And first of all, no, I had an absolutely amazing experience and like any high school class, it is hard to get them to really give a single crap about anything right because they are forced to be there and I think it was a couple months before they graduated like they were in their last month of actual classes. They’re headed out, there were seniors and they were they were on their way up, right. And what I found was that what my expectation was when I walked in the door was drastically different than the reality. I thought that military children would be the best educated people, when it came to civic literacy, that they would understand the process that they would feel uniquely equipped with the information that their parents or their guardians, at least one of them, right, if you’re on the installation, was in directly controlling and protecting our freedoms by being in the military, right. That’s the premise. And so my understanding going on with going in was going to be I’m talking to the experts, what I found was the exact opposite. So many military families feel so disenfranchised because they move so much, most of their families don’t actually vote, I found that a lot of military children had never been to the polls with their family, because families move so much. They become disassociated with the process. They’re not updating their registration, their kids don’t even really know, you know, where are you listed? Where’s your home address? It’s probably not where you’re at right now. Right? So I found that the government class is one month away from exams, about to head out into the world, and many of them join the military had some of the worst understanding from a civic literacy perspective of what was going on in our state. Number one, wow, scary. Right? I remember seeing the look of horror on the government teachers face standing next to the principal of Fort Campbell High School. It was like they were looking at each other thinking, who’s who fell who fell on this, whose child was this? And I remember the government teacher saying, well, we’re getting to that. That’s like our next chapter. And I thought to myself, how can military children get to the last month of their high school education, and not have a framework of foundational understanding. And that’s not a testament to it being a bad education system, Fort Campbell, high school was an incredible school, incredible resources, beautiful facilities. Amazing principle, I absolutely loved her. But there’s this gap that’s missing. And I think it’s just a microcosm example of a larger issue from a civic literacy education standpoint, across the entire state, and honestly, across the nation.
V Spehar 32:21
You have really like given me pause in the way that I’ve even thought about who is disenfranchised, and how, because oftentimes, we think about, like, maybe a district is gerrymandered, or there’s just not enough time to get to the polls, but you’re bringing up such an interesting point here about how if we don’t even know how the process works, then we’re being robbed of our desire and our connection to feeling like we have a responsibility to vote, and it’s important. Did you see a lot more of this? As you were on tour with this voter registration platform?
Tally Bevis 32:52
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think also one of the really, most important things to remember is that children are absolutely just parents, right? They’re going to repeat absolutely everything that you say at home. I remember I was in a second grade classroom in western Tennessee, in a very rural community. And again, as Miss Tennessee, I go in, and I talk about voter registration. And I also talked about women’s right to vote, I talked about how Tennessee was the 36th. And final state needed to ratify the 19th amendment. Right, I talked about how Tennessee has previously been on the right side of history, and how it’s an it’s something to celebrate. And that’s something I tried to really hold on to because, thankfully, we’re still in a position where that’s not drastically politicized. And it’s something that feels nonpartisan. And it feels like it connects all of us as women. And as anyone who identifies as a woman. And so it’s really important to me that I lead with that, especially with younger kids. But I was in a second grade classroom. And I was reading a Dr. Seuss book about voting, because when you’re talking to second graders, we’re not going to talk about you know, the executive branch and the judicial branch, we’re probably going to talk about it from a position that they understand. And I would say writing is a great way to do that. And so I loved working with this Dr. Seuss book. And in the middle of the book, we got to the president section and what does the President do? And a little boy from second grade, I asked who is our president? And at the time, that was Joe Biden, of course, it was last year, and a kid in the back of the class started chanting Trump. And second grade, second grade.
Tally Bevis 34:34
And I remember thinking, he didn’t make this up. He’s not the first person that did this. He’s just in a community where it’s all around him. And I just think that it’s when you saturate anything, anyone with enough of something, you’re going to believe it, and that is I think, where we’ve come from, you know, and we’ve gone so far down these rabbit holes of these silos through so Social media algorithms and news outlets, right you hear enough of something enough times you’re going to believe it. It’s just how it works. And so on any side of the spectrum, if you are within a tunnel, and you have only this information and social media platforms are built to keep you there, by putting you deeper into that tunnel, you are going to believe it. And again, kids or parents, I remember, he was chanting Trump and chanting Trump. And there was a sweet little girl, Sweet Little black girl in the front row. And I remember looking at her and just thinking, like, I’m so sorry, like, I’m just so sorry. Because I don’t look like you. And you don’t see yourself in me. And a kid in the back row is screaming Trump. And we’re eight years old here. And I’m just reading you a Dr. Seuss book. And it’s a testament to how pervasive this all becomes so fast, and where we’re at as a state. It’s not to say that that kid is at fault at all. Nor is it to say that I am in a position that I should apologize to a little girl in the front row, who knows that women of color didn’t use to have a vote like she already knew her reality? And so did he. And that’s where we’re at in Tennessee.
V Spehar 36:22
A big question that’s been coming up is, what is a woman? How do you qualify to be in these in these pageants? And of course, the Miss America organization celebrates young women talks a lot about women. And now we have all these questions from I struggled to find a word for the people who asked this question. So I’m just gonna say people who are like, well, what is a woman and what should qualify? And I know that some other potentially less legitimate pageants are saying that to be a woman, you have to be a biological women. They’re not accepting trans women. And I wanted to kind of get your take on that. Do you think that Miss America will stand by the idea of excluding trans women? Or has that issue not come up for this organization? So far?
Tally Bevis 37:05
It’s definitely come up. It’s actually a really big topic of conversation right now, especially because the Miss Universe program is now owned by a trans Thai woman, and is becoming more and more inclusive. And therefore, well, that’s important in its own right. It’s also great for business. So it’s growing like as an organization hugely. And unfortunately, you know, first I want to mention that, obviously, these are my opinions. And it’s, I truly think that like, these conversations are so helpful, because they have to happen. And these changes have been happening now after my tenure. But I’ve seen a real push back. The Miss America program, when I started, contractually, it said born female. And we did say that when I first started competing in the organization, you know, and we’re talking multiple years ago, and during my tenure, I watched it changed to be female. And contract aside. Inclusion is drastically important. It is valuable as a society and contracts aside, in my opinion, there should be no conversation, this if you identify as a woman, I think you should be welcome. And I don’t I don’t even know how we’re having this conversation, enjoy three. But as Miss America has continued to change, it just changed ownership to a woman with a background in the Miss USA program for what I understand, you’d think we would continue to evolve in that direction. And unfortunately, we’re not seeing that we’re actually seeing a transition away from inclusion. And there’s definitely been some concerns. You know, one of my friends in that has had a long standing history and former first runner up to miss Connecticut, Leah Juliet. They are a non-binary femme person who is in the LGBTQ community. And Leah has been a representative for progress and has held that mantle for years since they were a teen candidate running with the, you know, gay rights platform before they came out as non-binary. And I’ve watched Leah and been an advocate for Leah in their journey in the organization for multiple years. I watched them be first went up to miss Connecticut last this last year. And I’ve had, you know, tough conversations with Leah about the trajectory that Miss America is on. And it’s a little scary. You know, I think there’s concern about if you right now, if a transgender or non-binary candidate is chosen at the state level, if they will be able to compete at Miss America. It’s almost like a state’s right seat kind of vibe. Like everyone’s just trying to put it on the states but then there’s pressure and obviously I’m not an expert in this when it comes to the new contracts and Miss America. I’m on the other side now. But I think all this to be said there has to be protection. There has to be inclusivity. And I think if there’s concerns about insincerity in this organization, it is not for people who want to compete in the organization and are identifying as women. I think insincerity comes from a lot of different places. And I think being a transgender candidate in this organization puts you behind, it does not set you ahead. And I think also there’s a conversation about, again, like, what’s the science behind it? Should we wait to hear what the Supreme Court says it’s exhausting, right. And I think there needs to be national education from the top down with serious Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conversations so that Miss America doesn’t get left behind.
V Spehar 40:42
Exactly. And Miss America didn’t just have their first openly gay candidate crowned and Miss Nevada, which was just last year, which was, you know, fantastic. But to this point, you have the product, right? The public’s perception of what it is to be Miss America miss, whichever state you’re from, and then where oftentimes these young candidates want to see America going. So it’s like, what will Miss America 2060 look like, versus who she can be today, that potential gap is still so wide. And that’s, that’s one of the unfortunate realities.
Tally Bevis 41:14
Yeah, and I do think that there’s a lot of good that comes out of Miss America, you know, Miss America is built to provide you interview skills and scholarships and build you connections. And I mean, you know, I’ve been able to build incredible partnerships and do some really amazing things. But it’s important also to hold organizations that you believe in accountable, it is so important to lead with empathy as an example of what the organization should be doing. And I feel like I come from an I know, I come from a large amount of innate opportunity. And I recognize that I am an ally, I am not a member of the LGBTQ community, but that you have to be as I like to, say, a fly in the ointment. And you, you know, what I watched Lea do for years was be that, and as someone who, you know, is diverse in size, on my end, I walked into Miss America, and I was, I think, the largest woman there, Tally. And I looked around and I was like, okay, okay. And I thought to myself, we have so much work to do. And while I have earned over 35,000 in college scholarships, and while the organization has drastically changed since it was started, right, as a bathing Review, I’m so thankful for what I have had, and I am so it is so important to me that people like me who have worn that kind of sash and had that platform, pay attention and ask and demand for inclusion when we didn’t have to fight for it.
V Spehar 42:58
Exactly. And I have had the pleasure of meeting so many different Mrs. from different states. One of my very best friends of the whole world is Amy Palumbo, former Miss New Jersey, and just being in her company. I want to tell folks, if you are worried about doing a pageant, or maybe you’re thinking is this right for your daughter, it is really fun. The girls are overall really nice. There’s a lot of good opportunity, you get to see a lot of the state you get to meet so many people, like you said it’s great for a scholarship. Every organization has issues. But there is this like continued sisterhood that happens even after the pageant. And that’s what I kind of want to talk to you about now since handing over your crown, you’ve been able to be a little bit more yourself because you don’t have to, like you said, send your speeches and to be totally approved all the time. And you can kind of show up for the things that really mean something to you and something that I saw on your Instagram that I was like damn, yeah, Tally get them. You were at the gun violence protests in Nashville, Tennessee, the same ones that the Tennessee three we’re all a part of standing up and demanding gun reform in the wake of the mass shooting at the elementary school. You don’t have to do the sash and the Crown anymore. You get to show up. It’s just Tally. What was that day like for you?
Tally Bevis 44:07
We always talk about how like, oh, well when it happens in your backyard. Like it means so much more. I think I’ve been really, really angry for a while about the state that we’re in as a country when we look at gun violence and specifically school shootings. You know, I have family members who own a lot of guns and I have family members who have never touched one. And as someone who has been on a military installation and has shot an assault rifle within a gun range with Green Berets, it is so powerful. It is literally almost knocks you backwards. And I have had more training than most people who hold an own assault rifles in that one day. That being said, I live four and a half miles from covenant school and my boyfriend lives a mile and a half away, my roommate and best friend works two miles away and was outside when the helicopters started swirling. And that being said, it wasn’t our backyard. And it felt like what else am I supposed to do other than show up? So I just started looking around, I was like, well, there’s got to be a protest, there’s got to be a protest, I started asking friends, you know, within 48 or 72 hours, we were at the Capitol. And I just started creating resources. I started posting on Instagram, I lost a lot of followers that I must have gained during this Tennessee when I wasn’t speaking as much on my social platforms. And I felt like that was okay. Because I was starting to really talk about it and built some resources and tried to connect with community leaders and youth, you know, organizers and I just showed up, you know, it’s all about showing up and action looks different for everyone, right. And that day was incredible. We were given a list of songs ahead of time that they were planning to sing in, you know, in the Capitol building. And we were given, you know, a parameter of where we wanted to meet, we met on legislative plaza with a couple, you know, a couple speakers. And then we marched to the Capitol, which was, you know, 200 steps away. And most of us never made it inside, right. And I didn’t make it inside the Capitol. But it was one of the most empowering things I have ever participated in. I’ve been to protests before, but this was over half children. It was peaceful, it was so empowering. And I remember just thinking to myself, like, this is what democracy looks like. We are allowed to peacefully protest. This is our right, and I was so honored to just be a part of it, and to be one of many, and just to start a conversation, obviously, with the Tennessee three that it all escalated really fast. But that first day, that first morning, it felt like people were really paying attention.
V Spehar 46:59
And you said that the protests was over half children, what were you like, how old are they? What were they doing there? You don’t often see kids at protests. I mean, you did at the Women’s March in DC.
Tally Bevis 47:10
Yeah, it was a lot of middle school and high schoolers. And there was also a separate school walkout a couple days later, that was 1000s of high school students that left school and marched to the Capitol, which was empowering for sure. And just so encouraging to see that next generation, right, the people that I last year would have been in classrooms talking to. And, you know, I saw a lot of families, I have never really realized how powerful family advocacy can be until that moment. I do remember growing up, you know, my dad would carry me in his arms, and my mom and dad would take me to the polls, and he’d let me press that big red cast your vote button. And those were little things that my family did little moments of advocacy and activism, you know, to teach me the power of my vote and my voice even if it’s just one, right. And I just remember a lot of parents pull their kids from daycares or pull their kids from school and the kids truly like the high schoolers, the middle schoolers, they were the ones holding the signs. They were the ones leading the chants. It was really inspiring. And I think also it hit home for families. Because these were elementary school children. These were kids.
V Spehar 48:21
Does it worry you the national perception that the rest of the states have about Tennessee right now as far as like major news outlets and the way that Tennessee is being represented right now. Like it’s not that rosy. We love Dolly Parton Nashville music scene. Have your bachelorette here. Everything is Great Smoky Mountains and moon pies. It’s not that right now. Does that worry you that the that the reputation of the volunteer state one of the greatest states in the nation historically, for so many reasons, is now being you know, sort of muddied and damaged by this legislation that attacks the LGBTQ community. That disenfranchises people that protects guns over gun regulation.
Tally Bevis 49:05
100% I mean, it’s sad because I love Tennessee. I am from here. I grew up here. I cut my teeth on this state like I love Dollywood like I am oh my gosh, I’m like Dollywood fanatic, but I also know that we’ve got to be realistic. And unfortunately right now Tennessee is in the news for not great reasons. You know, we’re expelling members of our own house of representatives because they are literally echoing the gallery of hundreds of people begging and chanting peacefully for change. I mean, I have been in the well in the House of Representatives. I was the keynote speaker at youth and governments, you know, one of the US government conferences as Miss Tennessee 600 high school students were in that room and we’re more capable of listening and having respectful debate and dialogue than our current House of Representatives is and it’s a testament to the fact that I understand Robert’s Rules of Order. I understand You know the power of decorum and how you are meant to have decorum, right. And if the speaker asked for that, I recognize that they were outside of their typical expectations as representatives. But I also know that constitutionally it is protected, to peacefully protest and have that documented in the journals of the House of Representatives. And I think that’s what they were doing. And I think that unfortunately, we are in the news, but we should not be looked at like we are in a silo. This is a precedence that is built on polarization on fear on partisanship on racial lines, potentially, this is just a precedents, this is not the only place this is going to happen. Unless we have a massive shift. This is not going to stop in Tennessee, it’s almost like we’ve now given permission to other people to act in this way, in small or large examples. And it’s scary,
V Spehar 51:00
It is difficult, because it’s like this horrible shooting happened, right? This awful thing, there’s a national mourning for it, there’s this opportunity to change or to recognize the things have just gone too far. Even if it hadn’t gone too far for you before it maybe now it has right. And it’s guns, I’m just gonna say it’s the guns. And if there’s something that we could do to support responsible gun ownership and at least limit gun ownership, I think that we’d be a lot further along into your point, I have a lot less hate between us and a lot less. Anyone feeling like any kind of regulation is losing, as opposed to any kind of regulation is like gaining more freedom, gaining more peace?
Tally Bevis 51:35
I agree. And I will say, you know, I think there’s definitely a lot of concern. You know, we had representatives who at first were answering their phones, and we’re willing to have conversations and then about a week and a half ago, they stopped answering their phones. And in Tennessee, like you can’t even reach your representative right now. I mean, and they’ll cite whatever they want to cite, but I don’t really care what political party you’re in. I need you to answer your phones. It’s part of your responsibility to your constituents. Right. And so, you know, and I will say, Governor, we did put out an executive order regarding additional and improved background checks, he has called for an extreme risk protection orders. There’s also pushback, though, from his own political party that don’t want to hear it, you know, we’ve watched our House of Representatives rush session to end in five days with hundreds of bills left, you know, I mean, they were rushing through it, because they didn’t want to have to address legislation that we were calling for that Tennesseans overwhelmingly want. I think being in Tennessee, it’s just not all. It’s not all rosy anymore. And unfortunately, it is drastically affecting people’s perception of our state. And it looks bad on an even an international scale as to what’s happening in our country.
V Spehar 52:53
What do you want people to know about the people of Tennessee that they’re not getting to see in the news right now? Like, who is Tennessee? What is Tennessee? For real?
Tally Bevis 53:02
That’s a tough question. Because I think like anywhere else, we have been divided. And we are not really that united anymore. I do want to say, though, that when it comes down to it, Tennessee and did get the volunteer state title for a reason. I think as a whole Tennesseans are really helpful as a whole, we really do want people to be safe. I know the people that I’m closest to that own the most guns, also understand the importance of protecting them, and also getting trained to use them, you know, people I know, in my family who are have military background, like, I don’t think that many people in Tennessee are actually arguing over these weapons of mass casualty, right. And I just think there’s a lot of red herrings, and I think that any outlet is going to tell the story their way. And as something I did, as Miss Tennessee is I just tried to find something to connect to. And I think a lot of Tennesseans still are connecting really well. My concerns at this point are obviously safety from gun violence. Friends of mine in the LGBTQ community, we’re seeing a lot of concern around, you know, the criminalization of drag in certain communities or in with anyone that could possibly see it under 18 years old. It’s, it’s affecting business, it’s affecting tourism, it’s affecting people. It’s a sad place, you know, for some of those reasons. But also, there are so many good things about Tennessee and I feel like if we can reconnect to that, as a state, we’re not so different. In the end.
V Spehar 54:32
I love that Tally. It is always so great chatting with you. And I appreciate you taking the time with us today to just give us a little bit of a different look at Tennessee and hear some stories about your time on the road and hopefully get folks inspired to maybe do a pageant in their in their world or to have take up some advocacy in the world. Is there anything else that we didn’t get to talk about that you want to talk about today?
Tally Bevis 54:53
Oh my gosh. Well, I think I just think it’s a testament to like it’s okay to have hard conversations. You know, I also hope that it’s a testament that people in the Miss America program do believe in a lot of things and whether or not they’re going to show that with a sash and crown on or if their actions are going to look different. Every single woman who competes in the Miss America program or in pageantry in general, they’re going to leave being better advocates for things that matter to them. And everyone’s going to take action in ways that matters most to them. And I hope that it’s that what you know, people hear through this conversation is that Tennessee has a long way to go, you know, the country deserves a bit of a culture shift, and it needs it. But that also, pageantry is equipping you with skills for life. And that, above and beyond all the things that could change in pageantry or Miss America or things that I think could change. It’s also such an amazing organization that has been the foundation and the platform for so many women to be so successful. And I would not be where I am with Ole Miss America. And, you know, that is a door opener, right? I would say to anyone find something that allows you to open a new door, figure out what that is manifest it get in front of the right people and just be okay with the word no, because you’re gonna get a lot of noise in your life. But it will lead you to a yes. And my Yes, was being chosen for Miss Tennessee, which not a lot of women get. And it was truly one of my greatest honors, but it’s not where it ends for me. And it’s a stepping stone. And it’s a place for building skills and building relationships and getting to do things like this because of that door that opened for me and hopefully, lead some important conversations. And I am just one of many incredible Miss Tennessee that have come before me and that will come after me. So I just really appreciate your time V. And thank you for everything you’re doing. You’re really elevating a lot of important conversations with some really cool people and you do it with a lot of grace. So I appreciate that.
V Spehar 56:51
Did I get called graceful by Miss Tennessee, y’all, I am blushing that is high praise. I’m gonna take that with me through the rest of the week. Tally, thank you so much. tell folks where they can find you. What’s your what’s all your socials?
Tally Bevis 57:04
Well, y’all know I love Tennessee. And I absolutely love my city, Nashville. So I am @theNashvilleBlondie on Instagram. And I would love to connect and have additional conversations or just have some fun and socials. And yeah, I would love that.
V Spehar 57:22
If you’ve never wanted to get involved with pageants before, I bet you’re thinking about it now. I mean, there’s so much good work happening on these platforms, and we just scratched the surface. So be sure to check out Tally’s ongoing advocacy as well as all the other progress coming out of the Miss America organization. As always, be sure to tune into next Friday’s episode where we explore the stories you care most about. Leave us a five star rating on whatever platform you’re listening on. Follow me at @underthedesknews on TikTok Instagram and YouTube. And guess what friends? There’s even more V INTERESTING with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like spiritual coach Kevin Garcia on what the future of spirituality might be, and why it should look like a crowded table. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.