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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.”

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