The Problem with Beauty Pageants

Beauty pageants in the modern times have been a rage with people in countries across the world ever since 1950s. In India, the idea of a beauty contest caught popular imagination in 1994. I clearly recall that as a curious pre-teenager with an infinitely impressionable mind, I had rejoiced at the news of Sushmita Sen becoming the first Indian woman to clinch the coveted Ms Universe title in 1994. The country was still riding the joy wave of the tall and elegant Ms Sen’s victory when later that year, another Indian girl Aishwarya Rai ‘beat’ contestants from as many as 87 countries to take home the Miss World title. Many more ‘Miss Indias’ followed suit. In short, in the period from mid till late 90s, India became the new ‘Venezuela’ of beauty pageants. The Indian beauty, long neglected by the western world, had finally ‘arrived’.
Time shatters many-a-reassuring illusions. As I grew up, I became increasingly aware of the unfair nature of these contests and the insidious effect they have upon society in general and young women in particular. Firstly, while most contemporary, struggling-to-be-politically-correct organizers of beauty contests might shout at the top of their voices that these contests are as much about ‘brains’ as they are about ‘external appearances’, the truth remains that these contests are open to only those women who possess a certain ‘look’. This means that you might be the author of a Nobel- nominated book, winner of an international Sudoku contest, and have an IQ of 169, unless you are tall, slim, and ‘sharp-featured’, you cannot come even remotely close to being considered a potential beauty contestant. And as nearly all beauty contestants are almost equally tall, slim and sharp-featured, they appear to the layperson’s eyes, not a group of individuals with distinct identities of their own, but a bunch of identical clones whose only claim to individuality are their finger print reports. To make matters worse, once a girl enters the contest, she is made to undergo a rigorous ‘grooming’ session by the end of which, she acquires the walk, smile and accent of a kind which is common to thousands of girls besotted with the idea of wearing a silly tiara and an even sillier smile, and waving to a crowd which is wondering,” is this Ms Armenia, or Ms Albania, or just a big Mis(s) take?”
Another worrying aspect of beauty pageants is the shockingly systematic way in which they label a certain look ‘perfect’ for the entire womankind. If the winner of a ‘beauty’ contest is tall, fair, thin and sharp- featured, then the winner of an ‘ugly’ contest will invariably be a woman who is short, fat, dark and, (for want of a better adjective) blunt- featured. This clear demarcation between good and bad looks is reinforced by a certain enormously powerful and influential section of the media, which gets paid in millions by cosmetic companies, weight-reduction and other appearance- enhancing clinics. The average woman finds it hard to remain indifferent to such an overwhelmingly influential marketing propaganda, and develops a sense of dissatisfaction regarding her appearance. Those who don’t boast of the perfect 34-24-36 vital stats are often pushed, consciously or unconsciously, into indiscriminate fasting, excessive and unplanned exercising, or even taking weight reduction pills. Such desperate measures often take a toll on their health, and weaken their bodies’ ability to resist diseases, cause anorexia, fatigue, anxiety and even depression in the long run.
The solution to this problem of course lies in our minds. While it might be easier said than done, we should ensure that our desire to remain healthy takes precedence over the longing to possess thin (mal- nourished?) bodies. Starving yourself to death might ensure you a beauty contest title today, but eating a proper, healthy diet promises a better tomorrow. Also, one must also take heart from the fact that even in today’s materialistic world intelligence, manners, and most importantly, kindness and compassion are respected much more than fair complexions, tall stature, large eyes and sharp noses. You can, even today, choose between Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta on the one hand, and Mother Teresa and Dr.Kiran Bedi on the other as your role models.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Take your pick.

2 thoughts on “The Problem with Beauty Pageants

  1. am i at the echo point? i, like many thinking women…agree that the obsession with a certain parameter of describing beauty is as meaningless as saying that only the rose is a beautiful flower and none else….the projection of the perfect bod, the hype about the zero figure seems like such vanity and waste of time…but still propelled by the media and the in-flow of cash…such hysteria do envelope us from all sides…but true confidence still remains in the one's belief in self.And beauty can never be measured by the angles of your features but by the way you influence people around you…We need not turn ourselves into mal-nutritioned zombies balmed with botox and what-nots… but be the best human beings we can…be healthy… and surely the beholder will most definitely find the beauty in us….


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