As her health continued to decline, Jennie’s friend Dixie Evans came out to help. And when Jennie passed in 1990, Dixie stayed on to work with Jennie’s husband to manage the collection. A canny marketer and promoter, Dixie was eager to draw attention to the museum. Knowing that people love a competition, she initiated the first ‘Miss Exotic World’ Pageant in 1991. It has been suggested that the pageant was a satire, but I never heard Dixie say so. It was a straight-up competition, the kind that gets folks fired up, and may the best stripper win! Her first press release reported a bevy of stars had been ‘invited’ to perform (although she carefully omitted the fact that none had actually confirmed). Dixie always knew that clever ballyhoo was part of the appeal of showbiz.
Judges are chosen each year by members of the BHoF team, in consultation with staff members, community members, Legends, burlesque experts and former title holders. There are seven judges, including a Legend, a former title holder, an academic (such as Rachel Shteir, Robert C. Allen, and Judith Lynne Hanna), an entertainment professional not necessarily involved in burlesque, and a friend of the museum. They are vetted for conflicts of interest and required to recuse themselves from voting on competitors with whom they have significant personal or professional relationships. The number of judges is sufficient to assure a quorum is maintained in the event of recusals.