Pageants: The Past, Present and the Future
Who doesn’t want to be called the most beautiful in the world? Everyone wants and aspires to be known as the most beautiful. But how would anyone judge when there are so many vying for the prestigious title? The answer: A beauty pageant, a contest to select the most beautiful woman on the planet.
THE GLORIOUS PAST (1951-2000)
The humble beginnings
National Beauty pageants existed in the mid 19th century but International pageants only began starting at the dawn of the 20th century like ‘International Pageant of Pulchritude’, ‘Bathing Girl Revue’ etc. These pageants served as a model for the best international pageants today which started in the mid 20th century i.e. Miss World (UK) and Miss Universe (USA) which began is 1951 and 1952 respectively.
In the early days, multiple contestants would take part from the pageant’s country of origin (in case of Miss World) and the International pageant would be held in conjunction with the national pageant (in case of Miss Universe). This changed as more and more countries started taking part in these two major pageants. Pageants changed the whole beauty concept and girls would apply for the pageants to gain international fame. Its success fueled it being telecasted first time with Miss Universe in 1955 and Miss World followed suit in 1959.
The success of these two pageants sparked the birth of other international pageants and amongst them Miss International, a pageant originated in the US and later shifted to Japan.
The countries that did well during these early years were hometown girls and if not them, then the Europeans, who dominated the pageant scene with their serene beauty and eloquence.
These 50’s and the 60’s were quite subtle, the contestant would be judged on evening gown, swimsuit and Interview scores and the coronation would happen with contestants adorning the swimsuits and the winner would get a crown, a sash, a robe and a scepter. These pageants also had logos and tag lines which would be easier for the general audiences to distinguish the said pageants.
Emergence of Powerhouses:
The late 70’s , 80’s and 90’s saw the breakthrough of some countries which performed very well in all the aforementioned beauty pageants and also in other minor pageants and they were The United States, Venezuela, South Africa, India, Puerto Rico and The United Kingdom. The aforementioned countries proved that its just not mere luck they placed over and over again, its pure hard work and months of intense preparation which made them stand out from the rest. Consistency was the key, it wasn’t just one win or runner up and then disappearance from the pageant scene altogether. These countries placed consistently throughout.
Pageants marred by controversies
Anything that is famous will have its own share of troubled waters and pageants were no exception. The success of pageantry drew criticism on the feminist front and called pageants as degrading to women and objectifying them. Beauty queens were targeted as mere beautiful on the outside and lacking any knowledge or intelligence. Within pageants also there were allegations that the pageant would cater to only certain types of beauties. Earlier, Europeans would dominate and then later shifting focus to Latin countries. Contestants of dark complexion would almost never made the cut even if they were deserving. Miss World even had two contestants for South Africa during the apartheid rule which put off many countries which subsequently led to their withdrawal. Winners would also get tangled in political battles like when Miss Universe 1971 from Lebanon was forbidden to crown her successor citing tensions between Lebanon and Israel.
Transcending into a new Era
In spite of the criticisms pouring in all from directions, beauty pageants did not cease to exist. Moreover, this phase made pageants to take a new direction. Beauty pageants were earlier just a measurement of beauty but in the late 80’s and mid 90’s pageants transcended into a new era which sort of redefined the definition of beauty. It wasn’t just the exterior that mattered, in case of Miss World the introduction of Beauty with a purpose segment which aimed at uplifting the society. It gave a new life to Miss World and helped it steer away from rival pageants and in the bargain helped it shut all criticisms from various anti-pageant organizations. Miss Universe also followed suit and adopted AIDS awareness as its cause.
THE PULSATING PRESENT (2001 to this day)
Booming age of pageants
At the beginning of the 21st century saw the emergence of many beauty pageants starting with Miss Earth which quickly became part of the elite circle of pageants. It also took a relevant “Beauties for a cause” tagline with contestants engaging in activities which involved protection of the environment. This led to flooding of many other beauty pageants in various countries like Miss Tourism Queen International in China, Miss Supranational in Poland and Miss Grand International in Thailand. Each of these beauty pageants offered something different with lavish productions, relevant causes and in return boost its countries tourism.
Rigging, Politics and Racism
Beauty pageants again today are in a realm of rigging, politics and racism which mars the contest every now and then. Contests today are a parameter to judge which race produces superior beauties. More than that, the fairness of judging in today’s pageants is always in a question. Undeserving home town victories and crowns being bought have stirred pageants today. One really seemed to have not got the formula or it is that countries which shows interest in pageants seemed to do well (again even if the contestant from that country is deserving or not). Politics has always carved its niche in pageants and in current era it seems to be making more noise than ever before.
Survival of the fittest
From the time onwards, it will be a race where each pageant will try to be the best and the most popular. Miss World with its new system of selecting the winner (challenge events), Miss Universe with a on the edge, nail biting high production event, Miss Earth with its relevant cause etc will try to lure more audience as the trps will drop if the pageant gets boring. Also the reign after coronation has to be eventful or else the pageant would be just reduced to a coronation night event which would mean nothing.
THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE (2020 and beyond)
Completion of a Circle
Pageants as progress will see a different type of beauty take over as the standard of beauty and it clearly will be the dark skin tone. Having being obsessed about Caucasians, The sultry Latinas, the intelligent Indians and the passionate East Orient, the focus will shift to exotic dark skin, providing a new breeding ground for pageants to remain relevant and catering to all kinds of beauties and thus it will complete the circle of ethnicities and another circle may start which will go back to Caucasians, then Latinas, Indians and Orient and again back to dark beauties.
Desperate Need of Revival
Pageants will find another era where it will have to redefine itself. There will be things which will question the existence of pageants and its relevance in the society. The future age which will involve crunch of resources, and advanced technology will make pageants come up with new ideas and a desperate need to evolve will be felt. Also, every pageant will try to outsmart the other to stay the best and most relevant pageant as most will not survive.
Death of Pageants
According to my speculation, survival of pageants in the long run will be next to negligible. Constant evolution and progress will cripple pageants as it may not be able to move hand in hand with technology of the future. Age of robotics will be the future and possible inclusion of robots as contestants could be seen which will clearly blur the lines of reality and futurism. Pageants may also fuel wars (over enthusiastic fans) which might put an absolute end to pageants.
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