Mad about beauty

This is my column today.

Since I am still recovering from surgery, I was able to watch the live telecast of the 2007 Miss Universe pageant from Mexico City yesterday. I think the last time I actually sat through a whole Miss Universe pageant—and it was the primetime telecast that I caught—was when Miriam Quiambao won as first runner-up. It was the last time the Philippines came close to winning the international beauty contest.

Crowned Miss Universe was 20-year- old Riyo Mori from Japan.

And no, Binibining Pilipinas Anna Theresa Licaros did not make it. Four Asians were among the 15 semifinalists: Thailand, Korea, Japan, and India. The two other candidates with Filipino blood in them, Miss Germany (whose father is 100 percent Filipino) and Miss Finland (whose mother is Filipino), did not make it too. Why do I know these obscure facts about Mesdames Germany and Finland? Because ABS-CBN, the station that bagged the franchise to telecast this year’s Miss Universe pageant, went to town with that information, as if their victory, if ever, would be credited to the Philippines.

In fairness to ABS-CBN, the telecast was mercifully short. I think the telecast was done in two hours and the advertisement load was not very heavy. I remember how RPN’s telecast of the pageant would often last four or five hours in the past.

A number of things struck me while watching the 2007 Miss Universe pageant yesterday.

First, either there is some cloning factory somewhere in the world that we haven’t heard about yet or the standards for beauty has really become global. I wonder what happened to celebrating diversity and natural beauty?

The five finalists, regardless of race and skin color, looked the same. The final five included an African-American (Miss USA), two Latin Americans (Brazil and Venezuela), and two Asians (Japan and Korea) but except for a slight difference in the shape of their eyes, they could come from the same super human gene pool. They had the same body and facial structure, the same gait and bearing, even the same way of smiling and waving. In short, these people did not fit the common and ordinary definition of what comprises beauty.

Perhaps it is really true: Beauty contests do represent a kind of beauty trap. More and more today, it promotes a specific standard of beauty, one that is heavily biased in favor of the Western or Caucasian model. One has to have flawless skin, a well-sculpted nose, a perfect chin, a wide forehead, luscious hair, and a whistle-bait figure. For a while there, I thought Miss Tanzania, the only finalist who was from an African country and the only one who challenged the generic definition of beauty (she was bald to begin with) would get into the magic five, but alas, she did not make the final cut. So much for appreciating diversity.

If the finalists were made to wear the same gowns, it would have been really difficult distinguishing one from the other.

So this we know: There is a specific requirement, a specific set of criteria used to choose winners of international beauty titles. I am not saying winning international beauty titles is that important, but if we join these contests we might as well do so with the expressed intent to win.

Let’s stop this crap about joining these contests to promote world peace and international unity and friendship. Let’s please stop this nonsense about how the results are secondary, that win or lose, the candidates are already winners in their own right. We know these are wimpy excuses for losers.

Let’s join these contests to win! And the best way is to pick contestants who fit the global standard of beauty. The other countries who always land in the magic five (Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, etc.) make no bones about the fact that they re-sculpt the faces and bodies of their contestants through cosmetic surgery to fit the global standards. If we have qualms about using science to enhance our chances of winning, if we want to take the higher moral ground and insist on competing using high ethical standards, then let’s stop joining these contests altogether. There is simply no point in joining a contest if we do not want to win.

I was once asked what I thought of the country’s bid to bag certain titles such as this or that capital of the world. I remember what I said, and I still hold the same opinion. I think there is nothing inherently wrong with being called Call Center Capital of the World, or Entertainment Capital of the World, or even Beauty Capital of the World as long as we don’t stop there. We must seek to be renowned for a number of distinctions, the more the better. Of course I am against titles that paint a derogatory image of the country; I do not write for newspapers that make a fortune doing that every day.

Anyway. Going back to the Miss Universe pageant. Since beauty contests are popular and no amount of pointing out how socially irrelevant they are seem successful in making them obsolete, I hope that organizers of these contests really make an effort to make these contests more politically correct. I have always wondered why these beauty contests insist on asking the candidates the same trite and staid questions. Variations of the same questions were asked this year: What powerful lesson can you share with the world, what kind of man will you choose, what superpower will you pick, etc. Yawn.

I wish they would ask real, controversial questions such as: “Why is USA having difficulty electing a black or a woman president?” Or “Should there be a separate contest for those who have had surgical enhancements to distinguish those who are natural and artificial?” Or perhaps even “What can you say about atrocities against women in Afghanistan or Pakistan?”

Another observation I made was that Mexicans take losing in beauty contests more seriously than they do in boxing. Their bet got into the final 10, but failed to make it to the final five. Thereupon, the audience chanted “Me-hi-co!, Me-hi-co!” almost all throughout the pageant, their chanting almost drowned out the questions and answers during the interview portion.

But then, I know a number of countries are crazy over beauty contests, they are not just as rabidly fanatical as Mexico. Let’s face it, even the Philippines is crazy over beauty contests—our candidate, Anna Theresa Licaros, won as Miss Photogenic once again. And in case you still do not know, the selection for this particular award is done through voting in the Internet. So once again, Filipinos from all over the world seemed to have rallied behind Miss Philippines. If only we can generate the same level of support for other causes.


Anonymous said…
It was Miss Norway, Kirby Ann Baskin. Not Miss Finland.
JorgeGildardo said…

Love your thinking, I stumble upon your article in the "Manila Standard Today" and I could not help but agree wiht you... Where is the diversity yada-yada? They all virtually look the same! I guess all Plastic Surgeons around the world follow rigorous standards... LOL

Being a Mexican myself I sadly recongnize that we (well some people over here) give too much attention to this pageants instead of focussing in more important issues. Tell me about those worn-out questions... It would be great if organizers (perhaps Mr. Trump...:-) ) picked a couple of your proposed questions, loved the one about:“Should there be a separate contest for those who have had surgical enhancements to distinguish those who are natural and artificial?”.

Furthermore, as you said, if we (Mexicans) would take other issues more seriously than what we do when we lose in beauty contests, this would certainly be a different -and better- country...

From now on I have become one of your blog readers (by the way, I could not find any way to leave a comment for you in newspaper page, so I had to look for your blog, since I was sure you had one.

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