Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Life

Five Quotes From Bess Myerson, The Only Jewish Miss America

Ed Koch, Bess Myerson, and Henry Kissinger at Stephen S. Wise Award Dinner, 1977 via flickr

Bess Myerson, who died last month at the age of 90, was once described as ”the closest thing to a bona fide intellectual ever to cross a stage in a bathing suit.” The first (and only) Jewish Miss America, Myerson, parlayed her win into a television career and achieved local and national political influence. Myerson ultimately lost her public standing in the 1980s after a highly publicized scandal referred to as the “Bess Mess.” A woman of many lives, Myerson’s one constant was her quick wit. Here are five of her more memorable comebacks.

On changing her name: “I said, ‘I live in a cooperative with 250 other families, all of them Jewish. If I win, they’ll feel very, very good, but if I change my name, they won’t even know it’s me.”

On the press: “I’m glad you’re attractive, because I have had such trouble with fat, ugly reporters. They hate me.”

Her controversial love life: I am not the type of person to go after men. Men go after me. And I choose among them.”

Her beauty “God gave it to me and I’m grateful. I don’t question it.”

Her tough exterior: “A lot of the poignant parts of me have to do with my height. I had to protect myself because other people wouldn’t protect me. Even today, I’m always amazed at how people observe me. There’s always great strength attributed to me. But inside there’s a little girl trying to get out.”

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.