Beauty Pageants: Platforms For Positivity, Or Just Prettiness?

beauty-pageants

When most people talk about beauty pageants, there’s usually a lot of negativity and eye-rolling involved in the conversation. The girls are so fake, “world peace” is so boring, and some of the contestants’ awkward answers on stage to judges’ questions have made for some funny viral videos. But from what I have seen lately, there is a slight shift happening in the way contestants are picked, and the way they are portrayed.

A quick search on “beauty pageants” right here on GTHQ will give you a whole list of different types of events that we’re used to seeing. These pageants involve disabled girls, Arab-American women who want to promote confidence in their own community by holding their own pageant, and girls from all corners of the world who have a lot to say about issues such as bullying, self-esteem, and being role models, to name a few.

Just last week we saw Nevada girl Nia Sanchez win the Miss USA 2014 crown and she made headlines because of her statement about sexual assault. The question she received from celeb judge Rumer Willis was related to the issue of sexual assault on US college campuses and her thoughts on the topic.

Nia answered that she wishes for all women to learn self-defense. Keeping in mind she only had 30 seconds to answer a question, it was a pretty darn good attempt at saying something bold and cohesive. Many women and critics are saying her answer sent a damaging message because it implies that the sole responsibility of rape and sexual assault falls on women.

She later clarified her response and stood by it vehemently, stating: “We have 30 seconds to answer a question. I feel like all you can do up on that stage on national television is answer the best you personally know how, so I answered with something that I know. I always believe in women empowerment and women’s encouragement and for me, in my life, that’s self defense,” she explained.

Nia-sanchez-Miss-USA-2014

While I personally wish she could’ve included something about men being taught to protect women and treat them as equals, her message focused on women having power to protect themselves, and I don’t believe it negated any male responsibility as perpetrators.

Across the pond in the UK, the Brit girls are gearing up for the Miss England finals, before Miss Universe happens later this year. They too have seen some wonderful and inspiring women speak up about personal issues that they have faced, rather than just focus on the physical beauty aspect.

Lauren Lovejoy, 24, from Nottingham has Aspergers and entered the competition on a whim to improve her self-esteem. She was bullied for being “weird” as child and even considered committing suicide. The fact that she is able to embrace her syndrome without apologies, now that she has made the finals of Miss England makes a pretty big statement to all the other girls and boys who suffer in the same way. It also encourages parents with kids who have Aspergers that although they are known for obsessive behavior and having difficulties in social interactions, they too can achieve something great in life and nothing should hinder their success.

Hollie Robinson, 22, from West Lancashire has also reached the Miss England finals and has become somewhat of a poster girl for combating bullying. During her school years she was bullied relentlessly for being “ugly” to the point where 200 of her school mates signed a petition saying she should kill herself. Can you imagine having something like that happen to you as an 11 year old girl?!!

She started entering local beauty pageants as a way to get revenge on her former school bullies and in the process found a platform to boost her self-confidence and inspire others. She started her own online pageant called ‘Miss Anti-Bullying‘ which raises awareness and money for the UK charity Beat Bullying.

“Bullying is something I feel very strongly about and I feel like I’ve conquered the bullies. Taking part in beauty contests has proved to me I can do it, and it has given me that confidence to make me feel comfortable with being me. I would like to go into schools at some point and talk to girls about my experience of bullying and show them you can be a good, positive role model,” she said.

Hollie-Robsinson-Miss-England-Contestant

Not only do these girls represent a new generation of pageant contestants who enter because they stand for something, but they are also showing a change in the pageant definition of “beauty”, which is what I am truly excited to see. Beauty is no longer just a physical aspect, it is about embracing all the flaws and quirks of each person, and using it as a source of empowerment to audiences everywhere, especially young girls.

The fact is young girls are still looking to the traditional “beauty” models as they grow up: Disney princesses, beauty contestants, and female celebs like Selena Gomez and Demi Moore. So if at least beauty pageants are being used as a platform to make a different and speak messages of power and positivity, isn’t that a good thing?

If anything, it will encourage more diversity in the female entrants who want to copy the girls who have previously made media headlines for what they had to say.

I certainly get a little excited to see how much more power us women have in public forums these days, thanks to social media, blogging, and other opportunities where we can speak our minds and be heard. I don’t think its helpful for the media or society in general to continue to stereotype beauty pageants, because if they looked a little deeper, there is definitely more than meets the eye.

Whenever I have asked facebook friends what they think of beauty pageants or certain models that I have blogged about, there are usually one or two women who say something negative. It saddens me that the good messages still don’t have as much of a loud noise as the negative ones. The only thing I can do is try to be part of the beauty revolution by choosing to promote the positive role models and messages, in the hope that our eyes are opened to the change. In turn, I hope it will inspire all the women reading this that you too can be part of a female revolution.

This revolution has shown women from all different backgrounds and ethnicities that beauty does not exclude them, that they are now a vital part of the conversation globally. It’s about time!

 

Asha-dahya

 

Asha signature

3 Comments

  1. My name Shant’e Williams and I am the founder of Beaut’e Within a self-empowerment organization for young Girls. I run self-Empowerment Pageants. I am having a Pageant March 29, 2017 at Emlen Elementary School in Philadelphia PA. MY CONTACT is Inwardbeauty79@gmail.com or 267-980-1001. Thank you!

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