‘Miss Subways’ contest returns to NYC for first time since 2019

April 11, 2023

2018 Miss Subways. Photo courtesy of Phil Buehler

After years of hiatus due to the pandemic, the Miss Subways contest is returning to New York City. Hosted by the City Reliquary Museum, the event is an adaptation of the historic beauty contest hosted by the city from 1941 to 1976, and a rejection of traditional beauty standards associated with the original competition. Taking place in Coney Island this year, the event features underground talent who will present a performance portraying their relationship with the NYC subway system. The pageant will take place at Coney Island USA’s Sideshows by the Seashore Theater on Friday, April 28.

This year’s contest will be emceed by current reigning Miss Coney Island and local burlesque performer Maggie McMuffin. A panel of local celebrity judges will decide who takes home the “transit tiara,” with this year’s panel including a selection of NYC’s best artists, performers, historians, and “daily documentarians.”

The panel includes performance artist and Miss Subways 2017 Lisa Levy, the “unofficial talent scout of New York” New York Nico, Greg Young of the Bowery Boys, Instagram sensation Maxine the Fluffy Corgi, and Lower East Side art star Reverend Jen Miller.

Contestants must present an original performance that captures their relationship with the NYC subway. The word “performance” may be interpreted broadly, with the contest welcoming song, dance, poetry, and any other kind of talent to compete for the crown.

Past performances include an experimental soundscape inspired by the Q train, an ode to the G train, an appearance by the Wicked Witch of the Upper East Side and an immigrant from Oz.

Photo by Wcnghj on Wikimedia

Reinvented by the City Reliquary, the Miss Subways contest is inspired by the historic “Miss Subways” beauty pageant held in NYC from 1941 to 1976. The original competition included posters of women on subway cars along with descriptions of them. According to Atlas Obscura, a new queen was crowned every month, selected first by the advertising company that ran the contest and later, by the public.

For that time period, the pageant was considered forward-thinking, becoming one of the first beauty contests in the country to become integrated. The first African American was crowned Miss Subways in 1948 and the first Asian-American woman won in 1949.

City Reliquary’s contest, which is not affiliated with the MTA, builds upon the pageant’s progressive history.The contest is open to contestants ages 18 or older of any gender identity or body type.

Performers who wish to compete in this year’s contest can submit applications until April 18 here.

Tickets start at $25 per person and can be purchased here. All proceeds go towards The City Reliquary and Coney Island USA.


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