At this point, the people of Japan are still basking in the afterglow of 20 year-old Riyo Mori’s victory during yesterday’s Miss Universe pageant. The svelte dancer from Shizouka bested 77 other candidates from around the world for the right to be crowned by last year’s winner Zuleyka Rivera from Puerto Rico. Interestingly, Rivera bested Riyo’s predecessor, Kurara Chibana, last year. This marks the second time that a woman from Japan will be donning the crown, but we have to travel all the way back to 1959 to recall Akiko Kojima’s triumph as the first Miss Universe from Asia.
Now more than ever though, something else other than the pomp and pageantry has grabbed headlines around the world.
Isabel Lestapier Winqvist’s of Sweden dropped out of the competition after popular opinion in her home country showed that most people don’t think that the pageant promotes the rightful image of a modern woman. In the Miss Universe pageant, candidates parade around the catwalk in their swim suits and evening gowns as well as answer a token question for the crown. For most Swedes, this sort of treatment trivializes what a woman is and how a woman should be viewed by society.
Prior to the pageant, a handful of protestors in downtown Mexico City also held a mock competition that featured the ‘candidates’ wearing sashes that said “Miss Sexual Health” and “Miss Marijuana”. Just like the Swedes, some Mexicans also feel that the Miss Universe pageant misrepresents the essence of being a woman by making them fit into a specific stereotype of beauty and perfection. Even if the Miss Universe organization has partner charities, the focus is still on the candidate’s physical attributes and whatever efforts are done for those in need are reduced for a few seconds during the pageant itself.
The biggest story of them all is of course the copious booing that Miss USA Rachel Smith got after she tripped and fell during her evening gown walk. The jeering intensified when Miss USA was named into the top five over Mexico’s Rosa Maria Ojeda. Miss Universe’s co-owner Donald Trump said that the people were more likely booing US policy rather than booing Rachel Smith due to personal disdain or similar reasons.
With those controversies plaguing Miss Universe this year, is it safe to say that the legitimacy of beauty pageants was strongly contested? Is the pageant really just parading slabs of meat across the runway wearing swim wear without a pool in sight? What’s your take on this?