Monday, January 26, 2015

When Beauty Matters

Shattering the mold of beauty in beauty pageants and other contests

I thought about not watching the Miss Universe pageant because I knew there would hardly be any black female contestants in the final lineup.  I knew the final contestants would be Latinas and they would throw a few other ethnicities in the mix just to say the contest was fair and just.  To be fair, Miss Nigeria was voted Miss Congeniality, I guess, if that counts?  I would’ve even settled for an Asian woman in the final line up just to prove this was truly about representing the beauty of all ethnicities.  But once again, the European standard of beauty prevails and Miss Colombia was crowned Miss Universe 2015.

I love my Latina sisters and I think they are blessed with beautiful looks and beautiful hourglass figures.   However, let’s not forget about our beautiful African sisters with dark, mocha or caramel skin, beautiful curly hair and full lips.  Or our beautiful Asian sisters with their beautiful long, luscious locks of hair and ivory porcelain skin.  And who can forget our beautiful naturally red-haired sisters who probably have to dye their hair just to make it on stage.  If we’re going to judge on beauty, let’s make sure we have an all-inclusive view on beauty from many different perspectives.

Let’s move on to the size of the contestants.  As most of us who have seen beauty pageants know by now, the girls are usually a size 0-2 as this seems to be the standard.  Interestingly enough, women from many of the other countries do not adhere to this standard because their body frames were not made to be thin sized women.  It’s the opposite in other countries where the more weight (healthy of course) the woman has on her body, the more beautiful.  According to the book, “Survival of the Prettiest” by Nancy Etcoff, there are some African countries where girls are encouraged to gain weight in preparation for child bearing.  These women come from very poor countries where they don’t know where their next meal will come from one day to the next one.  Now, as a newly certified fitness coach, I’m certainly not advocating obesity or being overweight but that these women have a different level of healthiness based on their size and we should learn to respect those differences.

What about a woman’s hair?  Well, as you can tell from past year’s contestants, the hair is usually long and straight with a few spiral curls as an added bonus.  Virtually, no contestants go “au-naturale”.  In fact, I can only guess most of them wear extensions, lashes and other enhancements to achieve what is believed to be the perfect Eurocentric look that wins beauty pageants.  And who can blame them, of course?  As the old saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do!”

So why should we care about a beauty contest?  Well, first I believe that beauty contests set the stage for beauty around the world, even if it’s an unintended consequence.  In fact, Etcoff states in her book that, “every woman finds herself, without her consent, entered into a beauty contest with every other woman…no matter how irrelevant to her goals, how inappropriate to her talents and endowments or how ridiculous the comparison.”  We find ourselves buying fake hair, fake breasts and nowadays even fake buttocks just to look like the girls on TV even when that mold doesn’t really fit us. 

And secondly, these are the images our kids subscribe to in finding role models with which to look up to in beauty pageants and other contests.  Maybe little Myra doesn’t look like Miss Colombia or Brazil but she is a curly-haired, brown-skinned angel that has the cutest smile you’ve ever seen.  She sees the beauty in these ladies on stage but could never see winning the competition because she doesn’t see anyone who looks like her. 

We live in this world together.  Our differences are what makes us unique.  If we all looked alike, think about what a boring world this would be.  Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  As a former pageant queen and fitness model, I know the pressure to try to conform and fit into the European standards imposed upon us by society.  Whether it’s our hair type, skin complexion or body type, it’s tough to break that mold of what society sees as beautiful.  But that we must.  We must stand up and tell the world that each and every woman of every ethnicity is beautiful and that every little girl has a chance to win the crown she’s always dreamed of!

And while this change isn’t going to happen overnight.  I believe it will come someday.  I have a dream.

Thanks for reading!

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