Hey Beauty & Race,
As we were preparing to frame and lead tomorrow’s class on beauty pageants with readings from The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity by Sarah Benet-Weiser and Ain’t I a Beauty Queen? by Maxine Leeds Craig, we wanted to provide you guys with some outside media that sprang from our thoughts and research. The readings are complex and we know that there is so much to say, so here are some extras we’d like to share with you all here. Have a look and let us know what you think!
-Lilly, Olivia, Katherine, Elena, Mo
The Miss America Beauty Pageant
Biracial Lesbian Contestant a Trailblazer in Miss South Carolina Beauty Pageant We were particularly interested in the undercurrent of heteronormativity within these beauty pageants. A quick Google search made clear that sexuality is still a touchy subject when it comes to beauty pageants. This article above is on a biracial, lesbian contestant currently running for Miss South Carolina, hoping to head to the Miss America Pageant if all goes well. The article was posted on the 11th of this month.
The Miss America Beauty Pageant For anyone interested in learning more about Miss America, this is the official website for Miss America since 1921. Detailed information can be found here including the year women were crowned, their names, the city and state they were from, as well as their pictures.
Pop Culture & Beauty Pageants
Miss Congeniality Who has not seen this comedy? (We love it.) This film stars Sandra Bullock as an undercover agent who undergoes a beauty makeover in order to compete in the Miss Congeniality beauty pageant. The audience views the shift in attractiveness that radiates from Bullock’s character, as her mentor becomes impressed with her rather than repulsed by her before, and even her colleague becomes romantically engaged. But also, the movie touches comically on the standard beauty pageant format with the swimsuit portion, talent show, questionnaire, hand wave, smile, the “Oh my God, thank you so much!” reaction, etc.
Ain’t I a Beauty Queen touched on some of the ways in which contestants were, in a sense, screened for their answers to particular questions, especially since white women were considered to be apolitical. During the questionnaire scene in this movie, the question asked to each contestant was, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?” to which ALL of the women answered, “World peace.” Bullock’s character goes, “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.” Silence. But then, she realizes she has to conform and says, “And, world peace.” Applause.
Children & Beauty Pageants
Little Miss Sunshine An entertaining, bittersweet story about a young girl named Olive who receives a call telling her that she is eligible to participate in the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant. When seeing the character of Olive, there is a silent understanding between her family members that she is not pretty enough or cut out to be in a beauty pageant, but no one tells her. Her punchy father does not want her to give up on what she wants, so the entire family takes a road trip to the event. But, once they reach the beauty pageant location, they realize that the other contestants are… crazy… and Olive’s family does not want her to be a part of this culture.
Olive is also challenged with the idea of “what is beautiful,” especially in a poignant diner scene where she and her family stop on the road to eat breakfast. She orders a meal that comes with ice cream, and though she is very excited about her treat, her father doesn’t fail to tell her, “So, if you have ice cream, you might become fat, and if you don’t, you’re going to stay nice and skinny, sweetie… Those women in Miss America, are they skinny or are they fat?… I guess they don’t eat a lot of ice cream.” All to which makes Olive sad and want to give up her ice cream.
Toddlers & Tiaras One of the most infamous and controversial reality shows on television. Have you heard of Honey Boo Boo? This show draws much attention and publicity to itself as mothers are seen turning their children into beauty pageant queens at such a young age. The girls are extremely primped, pampered, and competitive while also possessing high amounts of energy. If one is to Google search the title of this show, the first thing to come up is not their advertisements, but of the several photos of contestants who look as though they are real-life ceramic dolls. (But, is that more the work of airbrushing and photoshopping?) What is beauty in their eyes? How far can we take beauty when it comes to girls at such a young age?
Men & Beauty Pageants
The following two grabbed our attention the most. We finally see men!
A Brief History of Mister Universe Whilst not as common as female beauty pageants, men also have their own pageants, the most well-known being Mister World and Mister Universe. Mister Universe was created in 1947 and is a competition for men to show off their muscles. Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most famous title holders, winning Mister Universe four times. Interestingly, the female equivalent is Miss Physique and Ms. Figure, stating that the winner should have a “feminine shape and proportion while retaining a ‘trained look’ and low body-fat levels, but not carrying development nor definition to an extreme.”
Mr. World Mr. World on the other hand markets itself as “The Search for the World’s Most Desirable Man,” focusing more on the all-around character of the man rather than just on his physical appearance. Contestants are judged and compete in four areas: Talent, Sports, Multimedia, and Fashion & Style. Mr. World is part of the Miss World contest. However, what is so interesting is that the United States does not have a contestant for 2013, yet always has a contestant in Mister Universe.
Comparing the male pageants with female pageants, we see polarized views of masculinity and femininity, highlighting men as masculine and females as feminine. The two pageants also leave little room for deviation away from heterosexuality.
Therefore, as our readings have shown pageants can be both empowering and hurtful for women, in what ways do you think men are subjected to similar feelings? How do these pageants shape men’s views of beauty and manliness?