Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

By Paula Burkett
25th May 2012

In recent times there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Beauty Pageant circuit, which is often criticised for putting enormous pressure on women, (and children), to conform to stereotypical views of perceived physical beauty.

The first  beauty pageant took place as early as 1854 in the U.S.A., but they became international events with the “big four” originating respectively; with Miss World in 1951, Miss Universe in 1952, Miss International in 1960 and more recently Miss Earth in 2001, with Miss Earth claiming to be environmentally aware.

A demure NZ Adrienne Russell,Miss Golden Coast,w Bleriot Type Aircraft At Paraparaumu Airport 1970 Bruce McMillan Collection, KCDC Libraries HP1718

In 1926 our first Miss New Zealand, Thelma McMillan was crowned; but not to the delight of everybody.  National newspaper NZ Truth slammed the competition saying the girls had been commercialised and exploited for profit.

When pageants first began there was little pressure on contestants to appear scholarly or well versed on political issues,  but in more recent times not only do contestants need to be well educated and articulate, but also to be  socially well rounded and fluent in several languages.

Miss Universe Canada 2012 Jenna Talackova recently added another facet to the competition winning the right to compete as a transgender woman sparking a rule change to be implemented 2013 allowing transgender women to become participants.

Miss World 2006 18 year old Zuleyka  Rivera from Puerto Rico created a stir when it was revealed she had undergone six cosmetic surgery operations (including a scar removal procedure) before entering the competition, take a look at the site here to get an experts opinion on the same. This can act as refuelling the argument these competitions are damaging and degrading to women.

Another furore broke out after the disqualification of the 16 year old Miss World,  Fiji Torika Watters,  due to her age. The competition was labelled a “fiasco” and has drawn more criticism and speculation regarding  transparency and professionalism.

The USA is well known for it`s over -zealous exploitation of children in pageants, with over 250,000 children participating each year competing for scholarships and money.

The child circuits are demanding and stressful with immense effort put into appearance, dance routines and speaking ability.

Participation in these competitions can be a rewarding experience for some and may lead to something further.  But the key to it is balance as it can lead to poor self esteem and competitors developing unnecessary worries about their bodies.

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