Do Beauty Pageants need an advocacy to justify their existences?
Recently I saw a post in a popular Facebook group where someone bashed the popular “Miss Supranational” pageant for not having an “advocacy”. In recent years, some of the popular beauty pageants have adopted advocacy and at times even highlight them as the most important aspect of their work. For example, conservation of environment is the advocacy of the notorious Miss Earth pageant. “Beauty With A Purpose” is the soul of Miss World and a lot of social work is claimed to be done as per of it every year. Miss Grand International aims to stop wars. Miss Universe winners often work to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS and breast cancer. However, Miss Universe pageant never flaunts these as their official advocacy. In this article, our point of discussion is – Do beauty pageants need advocacy at the first place?
First let us talk about reasons why it is not a good idea to associate pageants with advocacy in a strong manner. It is said that charity should be done silently. If you give money from one hand, the other hand mustn’t know about it. The practice of doing charity work and then giving an award to yourself about it in grand finale (sorry Julia Morley, but you did it in Miss World 2014) doesn’t really go with that adage. Beauty pageants have always been about beauty and glamor. The entertainment aspect of the pageants has always been important. That is the reason why people still remember (fondly) about Miss Universe & Miss World pageants of 1990s. However, with the introduction of “social work” element, slowly the pageants (read “Miss World”) are becoming less fun. They are becoming boring. At times it seems that pageants have advocacy just for the sake of it. Former Miss Earth winners post pictures of themselves in fancy gowns standing in jungles and claiming to be “saving the planet” even after their reigns are over. Miss America pageant has been bashed for making false claims about giving huge scholarships. We are not really sure how much sincerity is there in the social work activities done as part of these pageants. Insincere work may actually become a mockery of those who are doing good without flaunting it. As part of the pageant, the contestants are making videos and submitting them to organizers to prove how much good they have done for the world until that moment. How can the authenticity of these works be known? How can they be judged in a fair manner? Even if the organizers manage to judge fairly, how can this process be transparent to the viewers? What is the surety that money raised by contestants and beauty queens is actually going to those who need it? Miss Universe pageant, even without flaunting the “advocacy” side, is considered the most entertaining and fun pageant at the moment. Perhaps it can be better to be honest and “yourself” than being fake and pretentious. Thus, there are many reasons to believe that beauty pageants don’t really need to have an “advocacy” to justify their existence. At times, this whole “advocacy” thing just seems to be a pure hogwash.
Now let us ponder on what the supporters of “advocacy” element in beauty pageants may say. Having an advocacy for sure adds relevance to the pageant. Pageants can provide a platform to the winners for having a voice that is heard and raising money through good influence. Even if the girls are doing social work just to get brownie points from organizers or win the crown, it is still social work. If not all, at least some of them may carry the spirit with them for the rest of their lives. We don’t know till what extent, but the work done by beauty pageant contestants definitely has an impact. They do influence youths, increase awareness about important issues and raise money for charity. Advocacy concept even keeps the feminists happy. Those who claimed that pageants are degrading to women can now find peace in the fact that they have good causes and it’s not just skin show (at least not “on your face”).
Thus, considering both sides, we would conclude it is nice that pageants are having advocacy these days. They should ensure that sincere work is done as part of these advocacy and of course, the entertainment element of the pageants is also preserved. It is possible to strike a balance between “being holy” and “being fun”.
Images: Global Beauties, Miss World Facebook Page, Miss Earth Facebook Page