Are beauty pageants being Miss Represented?

Whether or not you are a fan of beauty pageants, they play a huge role in society. But in recent years, issues of race and ethnicity have taken center stage in what should be events that unite people of different walks of life.

This week, controversy was sparked by the crowning of the new Miss Japan, Ariana Miyamoto. She is bi-racial, born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father. But why does this matter? To many, she is not an accurate representation of the country, where 98% are ethnic Japanese. Some who oppose Miyamoto’s crowning have even commented that she does not “look Japanese enough”.

The question is: Should a country’s pageant committee only crown women and men who fulfill the national identity?

If the answer is yes, we must then examine the many countries who have not abided by this policy.

Let’s take a look at South Africa. Black Africans make up about 80% of the country’s population and whites, about 8%. In 2011, Melinda Bam, who is Caucasian was crowned Miss South Africa. Her “look” was a definite departure from the appearance of most of the country, that of which identifies as being black and everything that comes along with it – dark skin, kinky hair, etc. Yet, Miss Bam was made to represent the entire country.

Melinda Bam crowned Miss South Africa 2011
Melinda Bam crowned Miss South Africa 2011

Last year, there was Nina Davuluri, the first woman of Asian-Indian descent to be crowned Miss America, but her victory was met with much criticism. Some people felt that she did not typify the characterization of America, that constitutes Caucasians serving as 77% of the population.

Nina Davuluri crowned Miss America last year
Nina Davuluri crowned Miss America last year

There is validity to the point of pageant competitors representing a national identity. And I believe this argument will continue to manifest if we do not change our definition of beauty.

As a black woman, I am sometimes saddened by society’s downplay and mischaracterization of blackness. The truth is that everyone wants to be called “beautiful”.

The standard of beauty looks a lot like blonde hair and blue eyes. But if your beauty looks a lot like dark skin and kinky hair, what then does that make you? According to society……….ugly.

So it does not take much to understand the frustration of the thousands of black South African woman who are passed over for the white South African, who represents less than a tenth of the country’s population.

Call me naïve, but I never saw these contests as a way for countries to show how much better they are than another, but rather serve as catalysts in uniting people and giving a glimpse into what “other beauty” looked like. There are many factors that make us different – the languages we speak, the foods we eat, the ways in which we live. But I always saw pageants bringing people together, a way to show our pride, and find the things that make us the same.

Beauty is not just for one race or one country. Beauty is everything and everyone. If you make an effort to step outside society’s standards, you just might see it!

Do you think that beauty pageants should enforce a stricter code of national identity?


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