“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the prettiest of them all”- Of course, that young, thin girl with spotless skin which is so fair, has rosy lips and luscious hair.
Beauty pageants with their centuries-old traditions have somehow managed to hold their position of esteem even in 2020. Why are these contests so glamorous? From what we see of Gal Gadot and Aishwarya Rai, millions of girls enter beauty pageants aspiring to win the golden ticket to a showbiz opportunity. This promise of recognition and fame is what aggrandizes these beauty contests.
These contests do provide a huge platform to the candidates to present themselves in front of the world and help them become leaders of tomorrow but they do more damage than welfare. These contests set unrealistic beauty standards for women and often promote stereotypes. Many women who aspire to participate and win in these beauty pageants starve themselves everyday to become thin and look pretty like their ideals who won the beauty contest. Development of eating disorders like bulimia has become very common. These contests have eligibility restrictions on age, marriage and pregnancy.
Are Women who are married, have kids or have passed their early 20s not beautiful enough? Not to mention, the height bar set by these contests. What is a 5’8 feet woman doing representing a country like India, in an international beauty contest, where the average height of a woman is 5 feet?
Titles like ‘miss sparkling eyes’, ‘miss beautiful smile’ and ‘miss flawless skin’ define how every physical feature should look like. A big number of women develop low self-esteem, give up loving themselves and so many even become a victim of body shaming that also leads to poor mental health just because of these irrational quests to pedestalize a certain body type.
Not just this, these contests unknowingly also promote classism. With the top aspirants working out day and night with personal trainers, nutritionists and other diet experts, spending hours in the gym and having expensive skin-care routines, people who cannot afford these luxuries often wonder if beauty is meant only for the rich since natural, god gifted bodies are seldom appreciated.
With beauty contests being introduced at the level of kids too, people are brainwashed with beauty stereotypes at an extremely impressionable age. It is very hard to take rejection so early in life. While adults have a choice of walking around in a swimsuit on the stage ‘displaying’ their confidence and sporting fake tans, children are too young to make these decisions independently. Unhealthy competition and a notion of beauty which undervalues intelligence are promoted. Some pageants do include one or two rounds of questioning but that doesn’t really take a person’s intellect into account. As if this wasn’t enough there are schools and institutes which train men, women and children to become pageant ready. People are taught to behave in certain manners and look a certain way so that they fit into the beauty frame designed by these pageants.
Sometimes, these pageants look like a façade of good talk. When contestants are asked ‘what do they want the most in the world?’, they usually say something which is supposed to be good, like world peace. Later, with an exception of a few, these same, kind beauty queens can be spotted in the glamour industry trying to make it big instead of working for a cause they were so passionate about. Where did that compassion go?
Who actually benefits from these beauty pageants because it is certainly not the masses. Beauty contests work like money-making factories for the organisers. High-end fashion labels, make-up brands are promoted by an endorsement through candidates. Nobody cares about the indigenous beauties, the masses are just seen as a huge market for these international companies to sell their products to in exchange for a title given to a woman who matches their ideals and makes their products look desirable after winning.
Although beauty pageants are slowly changing their track with racial diversity slowly becoming a part of mainstream beauty, we still have a long way to go. Justine Clarke, a beauty queen competing in the pageant sitting on a wheelchair was an inclusive move which was well appreciated. We must do away with children’s beauty pageants, we should allow them to become mature adults and let them decide for themselves if they want to become a part of such contests.
Redefining beauty is the need of the hour, we don’t need girls starving themselves to fit in size zero dresses to look beautiful. If beauty pageants become more acceptant of people of all sizes, it would be a revolutionary move bringing a pleasant change in society. In the end, we should always remember that beauty is meant for everyone and not just a particular race, class or body type. Beauty being one of the foremost parameters of self-worth should not be limited and should be more inclusive for a happy and healthy society.