Inclusive Beauty Pageants

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Dixya Poudel

The Miss Universe 2023 was unlike any other prominent beauty pageants in history as it broke the glass ceiling through its inclusivity. As such, Nepal’s contestant for Miss Universe 2023 reached the top 20. What was unique was that she was the first plus-sized contestant. Similarly, this year, there were two transgender contestants, a first in the history of Miss Universe. Further, Pakistan competed in this year’s Miss Universe for the first time. Another contestant, Miss Colombia happened to be the both married and a mother to compete. In the beauty world that has strict demarcations, Miss Universe 2023 was a welcome change. Perhaps, the rest of the beauty pageants will follow suit when it comes to inclusivity and diversity.  

Beauty is a highly sought-after quality. People are naturally inclined towards beautiful people who with attractive features garner much attention. It isn’t thus surprising that there are contests for beauty where judges evaluate the appearance of contestants. However, even though they are also rated for their intelligence, the bulk of the ratings go towards outer appearance. As the name itself suggests, beauty contests revolve around the beauty of the participants where their personalities take a backseat. As such, if one is to go through the Miss Universe history since its inception in 1950s, one would find a dearth of inclusivity. 

All the Miss Universe winners throughout history have had a tall height, toned physique, beautiful face, and an ability to walk the ramp. They may be from various parts of the world but they have one thing in common: They are shockingly beautiful. Feminists have been decrying this objectification of women in beauty pageants. Contestants are expected to dress to their nines, wear makeup, and conduct themselves gracefully under rigid standards. Although, there are talent competitions within such pageants, they aren’t greatly highlighted. It isn’t surprising that these pageants are slammed in controversial debates over ethical concerns. 

As a result, in beauty contests such as Miss World or Miss Universe, backlashes often ensue due to their objectification of female attributes. Women are half the sky and can bring a lot to the table. They are much more than their outer appearances and their natural beauty is but one aspect of their personality. Sadly, they have always been objectified through a male gaze, which follows suit in beauty contests as well where contestants are largely judged by their appearances. There should instead be pageants where women can contest not just according to their appearances but also according to their innate qualities, emotional intelligence, entrepreneurship, leadership skills, qualifications, aptitude, and so on. 

This year’s Miss Universe certainly fostered a new record by hosting a plus-sized woman and two transgender contestants, making a history in the pageant community. It is a positive and encouraging sign which attests that the standards of beauty are evolving according to the changing world. One hopes for further changes which could add to and promote the concept of female empowerment as well.  Hopefully, the pageant world will turn a new leaf out of the chapter of inclusivity on a par with the changing times. Miss Universe 2023 has shown the world that beauty can come in many shapes, sizes, and traits. It has thus offered a priceless message that there are many different ways to be beautiful.  

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