The Bullying of Marissa Powell (Miss Utah)

Imagine for a moment: you’re on stage in front of thousands of people. Hot lights are shining down on you. Around three million people around the world are watching you on their televisions. Put yourself in that position. You’re in it to win it. Put yourself there.

Now answer a random question read to you by Nene Leakes.

How are you feeling?

This is where Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, found herself on June 16th during the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas. She fumbled, tried to recover, and did the best she could. Now she’s a YouTube sensation for all the wrong reasons (watch video).

325382-miss-utah-marissa-powell                               Image Source

Now, I will be honest. I wasn’t watching; I didn’t know it was on, and I could have cared less. Last time I enjoyed watching a beauty pageant- Sandra Bullock and William Shatner were involved and it was hilarious.

Moving on.

I knew nothing about the pageant or Miss Utah’s fumble until the following day when I spotted a video on the YouTube home page. I didn’t give it a second thought. Then it appeared on the Daily Show, Jimmy Fallon, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr…it was viral.

I caved. I watched it. Frankly, I’m ashamed.

Being on stage is not the easiest thing in the world. I’ve been in front of hundreds of audience across this country ranging in attendance from 20-4,000. It’s nerve-wracking and I already know what I’m going to say. I can’t imagine being put in front of MILLIONS of people.

Marissa was first in line for the questions and she didn’t do so hot. She knew what she wanted to say but nerves took over and she fumbled, did her best to recover, and quit while she was ahead. I have nothing but respect for that.

What I’m ashamed of are the thousands of commentators out there bashing this young woman for her fumble. This is bullying at its worst. Isn’t this what we’ve been telling our kids is wrong?

On one YouTube video alone there are comments like “This is the reason why men make more than women” and “I am now dumber for having listened to this.” Others went on to comment on what she should have said. Of course you can do better; you’re sitting at home on the computer with no one watching.

This is a prime example that bullying isn’t just happening with kids. Bullying is an epidemic in schools, workplaces and all over the cyber world. In this instance we have thousands of strangers making fun of someone who was in a stressful situation.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is how our words can affect others. While Marissa has been able to laugh about her flub and make fun of herself, I can’t imagine these mean-spirited comments calling her “un-American” and “an example of why women will never be better than men” aren’t taking an effect on her.

It’s easy for us to judge from afar. But I want you to close your eyes. Imagine those spotlights. Put yourself in her shoes.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

4 thoughts on “The Bullying of Marissa Powell (Miss Utah)

  1. I am with you 100% on this one. I was in a little community beauty pageant ‘back in the day’ and I completely bombed my question. I was a smart little thing and I knew the answer and I had done public speaking before BUT when you’re put on the spot, you can easily turn into a deer in the headlights. Bullying is hateful and computers make it so much easier for people to be nasty.

  2. Pingback: Breaking Down Digital Walls | ABC Family’s ‘The Fosters’

  3. The only problem i have with this article is that there is no mention nor link to what she said. Well written and interesting but doesn’t have all the facts and information present.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s