New docuseries explores complicated nature of girlhood in America

The Competition is a docuseries exploring the dreams of young women, America’s promise, and what it takes to survive being a teen girl today.

From Audacy’s Pineapple Street Studios and Wondery, new six-part miniseries is presented and reported veteran podcast host and producer Shima Oliaee.

Every summer for the past seven decades, 50 high school seniors—one from every state—descend on Mobile, Alabama to take part in one of the country’s most lucrative scholarship competitions for teen girls.

The Competition goes behind the scenes of the Distinguished Young Women programme and follows seven girls as they experience the highs and lows of competing for two weeks, away from home and under the most high-stress circumstances.

Some girls enter for the money, some for prestige. All of them are used to being the best and the brightest, but only one will walk away with the top prize. The series asks, what can two weeks with 50 of the country’s most ambitious teens tell us about girlhood in America?

Host Shima Oliaee was Nevada’s contestant in 2001, and more than 20 years later, she returns to Alabama as a judge.

While documenting her new role in the competition, Shima’s producers were fully embedded with the girls on-the-ground on the other side, recording everything that went down, from the silliest to most vulnerable moments.

After the competition Shima travelled across the country, interviewing the competitors over the following year—unpacking just what happened those two weeks in Mobile.

Oliaee is the founder of Shirazad Productions. Before creating The Competition, she was the executive producer and creator of Pink Card for ESPN 30 for 30, a series that follows three generations of Iranian women who risk their lives for the simple right to watch a soccer game.

She received a Murrow Award, a National Headliner Award, two Gracies, and honors from the Overseas Press Club. She co-created, produced, and reported Dolly Parton’s America, winning a Peabody and several national honours, and her documentary The Flag and the Fury won a duPont-Columbia Award and Best in Show at the National Headliner Awards. As an independent producer, she also created The Vanishing of Harry Pace and UnErased.

The Competition is the second series in a trilogy from her company about surviving as a woman in the world. Before working in audio, Oliaee worked in comedy television, including on the Golden Globe-winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

The Competition will be released exclusively on Wondery+ and Amazon Music on 15 April, and will be available on all podcast platforms from 29 April.

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