Na­dine Higgins

Bikini ban but beauty is still skin deep to pageants

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

Ifind there’s some­thing mes­meris­ing about the an­nual Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret run­way show, with its bright lights, barely-there out­fits, fa­mous mu­si­cians and, oc­ca­sion­ally, a stiletto calamity.

It’s not ex­actly the pin­na­cle event on the fe­male em­pow­er­ment cal­en­dar, but at least there are no il­lu­sions about what it’s about.

The Miss Amer­ica fran­chise, mean­while, is hav­ing an iden­tity cri­sis.

It an­nounced this week it was ditch­ing the swim­suit sec­tion be­cause ‘‘We’re not go­ing to judge you on your ap­pear­ance ... we’re in­ter­ested in what makes you, you’’.

You might well say ‘‘Fi­nally, It’s about time we stopped judg­ing girls on how much of them jig­gles when they strut about in a bikini!’’.

But if a com­pe­ti­tion ex­clu­sively made up of un­com­monly good look­ing girls with PhDs in the fine arts of pos­ing and diplo­mat­i­cally (some­times non­sen­si­cally) answering ques­tions is NOT a beauty pageant, what ex­actly is it – a spell­ing bee?

‘‘It’s what comes out of their mouths that we care about’’ Miss Amer­ica claims. Cool – I look for­ward to lis­ten­ing to ‘‘Miss Amer­ica, the podcast’’.

The Miss Uni­verse NZ pageant ditched the com­pul­sory swim­suit sec­tion sev­eral years ago.

It in­cor­po­rates an en­tre­pre­neur­ial chal­lenge and many of its con­tenders have im­pres­sive CVs.

But let’s not kid our­selves here. On the en­try form the very first thing it asks for is three pho­tos.

If you’re se­lected, you go off to ‘‘stiletto camp’’, hone your pos­ing skills and have more pho­tos taken. The au­di­tion – yet more pho­tos. The whole com­pe­ti­tion cul­mi­nates in a de­light­fully cringey tele­vised pageant, com­plete with all the fake tan, false eye­lashes and fake ‘‘I’m so happy for you!’’ re­ac­tions you can shake a tiara at.

The pageant busi­ness is in­dulging in some top-shelf virtue sig­nalling if it thinks it’s any­thing other than an eval­u­a­tion of what your mama gave you. You can be as in­tel­li­gent and ac­com­plished as you like – if you ain’t pretty, you ain’t win­ning.

It’s never been about world peace, char­ity, busi­ness skills or spe­cial tal­ents. Even if it was, the world of re­al­ity TV has those bases pretty well cov­ered these days.

Want to show the world how well you screech along to Adele? Hit up The Voice,

Idol or Got Talent fran­chises.

If you want a com­pe­ti­tion for en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills, there’s The

Ap­pren­tice or Dragon’s Den. If you want the body you built, bought or were born with to be judged by all and sundry, the up­com­ing Love Is­land prob­a­bly has you cov­ered.

Or just, like, chuck a pic up on In­sta­gram and eval­u­ate your suc­cess in likes.

So come on – surely it’s high time to can the cha­rade and let those girls go back to what­ever it was they were do­ing to bring about world peace.

The pageant busi­ness is in­dulging in some top­shelf virtue sig­nalling if it thinks it’s any­thing other than an eval­u­a­tion of what your mama gave you.

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