For the past 50 years, the Miss Navajo Nation pageant has celebrated Navajo women and traditional values, language and inner beauty. Held over a five-day period at the annual Navajo Nation Fair, contestants are required to showcase skills that are crucial to Navajo daily life, including sheep butchering, fry-bread making and rug weaving. Through interviews with new and previous pageant contestants, MISS NAVAJO reveals the importance of cultural preservation and the meaning of being a woman in Navajo culture.
Crystal Frazier, a twenty-one-year-old Navajo woman, lives on the reservation in Table Mesa, New Mexico. Living in a house without running water, Crystal helps care for her family’s livestock, makes a weekly trip to the well for water and does a share of the cooking. A tomboy and former high school basketball champ, Crystal is confronted with a new set of challenges when she decides to compete in the 2005–06 Miss Navajo pageant. She acknowledges her own shyness and says that participating in the Miss Navajo contest would probably be a good experience. MISS NAVAJO follows Crystal’s journey leading up to the competition, while former Miss Navajos share their own memories of the pageant and what it meant to them. Each previously crowned “queen” also experienced life on the reservation and faced the challenges of working as a leader in the preservation of their culture.
Conceived as a “celebration of womanhood” by filmmaker Billy Luther—whose mother, Sarah Johnson Luther, was Miss Navajo Nation 1966–67—MISS NAVAJO offers a different take on what it means to be beautiful, exploring tradition in Diné, or Navajo, culture through one woman’s quest for the Miss Navajo Nation crown.
Update"A year ago I would have never thought I would be running for Miss Navajo Nation Pageant. I’m not a very social person. Actually I’m very introverted in a lot of ways and this is something that I really struggle with." —Crystal Frazier
In October, 2007, Director Billy Luther reported on what Crystal has been doing since filming ended:
Crystal continues to live on the reservation. She plans on returning to college in 2008 and getting into Aeronautics or Aerospace. She continues to use the Navajo language more and also feels more confident speaking the language in public.
People usually ask her how the film has changed her. She says that although she doesn't feel she changed dramatically, she did get more confident and it helped her social skills.
During a recent screening of MISS NAVAJO, she announced that running for Navajo Nation president was in the distant future.