Putting Down the Beauty Pageant Rulebook
“I know that I've got big ears and a big forehead and that my hair sticks up. But I'm happy with myself. I'm not necessarily trying to win a beauty pageant here.” -Clay Aikem
I was watching this show the other day. A popular one I’ve seen over the years, yet I hadn’t even thought about this particular show in a while. Turned on the television to see women parading themselves in bathing suits. It seemed trivial, yet I couldn’t help but notice that every curve, bump, and inch of their skin was being judged by everyone else but them. It seemed like their bodies belonged to anyone but the women involved. But the show goes on. In this case, the show was called Nuestra Belleza Latina, which translates to “Our Beautiful Latina.” Judging by the name, I could already infer that these women held no ownership in their own bodies, but were strategically placed in that position as eye-candy for the viewers.
Looking around the silent room, my eyes hovered over each one of my family members, asking for answers. My uncle salivated at the nudity of these women with a menacing stare, hungry for something he couldn’t have. My aunt crunched her eyes at the women, yet couldn’t keep her gaze on anything else. “She’s too fat,” she remarked, crouching her arms in envy. “Why is her nose so big?” my grandfather wondered arrogantly. I couldn’t quite understand the judgement that had erupted from their minds.
Looking at the seemingly similar bodies of these women, I was left to take a painstaking vacation to the bottomless pit of envy my brain wandered into. Every women pictured looked so different, but it seemed as though each of them had been bred to be equally beautiful. I stared at the effortless sway of their voluptuous bodies and couldn’t help but wonder—What was wrong with my own? I pawed at the curves hidden under my rolls and let the question sting my brain, to later rupture all over my own consciousness and seep through my trained logic. Suddenly, my body didn’t feel like a blessing, but rather a curse I couldn’t escape. Where was the beautiful woman in me? I had been able to pride myself on my quirks simply because no one else had them, yet now it made me an alien in a world of beauty. For example, I always hated the abstractness of my own nose. Spent hours in the mirror wishing for configuration, and couldn’t shake my own feeling of insecurity One day, I was able to learn that my nose was beautiful because not many people had it. But now, those parasitic insecurities that lingered in my brain had relapse in the cracks of my own innocence.
A Broken Beauty
The love I had embraced within myself subtly vanished in a single broadcast, and I could only imagine how other women might have been feeling, too. In a society based on sexist judgement, seeing such an objective, close-minded representation of women can be catastrophic to the young women forming their own judgement of what it really means to be beautiful. I also grew up with these preconceived notions and felt the side effects in my own perception of myself. Women shouldn’t have to feel like their individuality is disastrous, but instead a beautifully balanced equation of imperfections.
While I watched this show, I couldn’t help but imagine the million ways that I’d make it better if I were a producer. Maybe it’s my blatant ego, or even my inner feminist lighting a match at the injustices in our society, however, I’d like to see a change in this system. I propose an idea for a new kind of beauty pageant—one that values women for who they are, not what they don’t have. To start, I would set up an environment competition is based off of skills and talents, not the beauty standards created by society. Instead of pitting women against each other based on their features, we should praise them for their talents, strengths, and individuality.
Creating a system such as this can form a healthy, symbiotic relationship between the women on stage and the ones watching through television screens. The modern beauty pageant industry views objects as canvases that are never quite finished. There’s always something you can improve on. This constant, painstaking evolution can create an unhealthy body image for the women involved in this industry. Simultaneously, the women shaping their bodies in an effort to please others also negatively affect those same women watching from a jealous stage. ‘Why can’t look as curvy as her?’ ‘My breasts aren’t as big as contestant number 9’s are, does that mean they’re ugly?’ We should create an atmosphere where every woman can feel as though their bodies are meant to be appreciated, not torn apart under the depth of a microscope.
A New Beauty
I want to suggest a modification of the typical beauty pageant standards that make girls feel like their beauty depends on majority appeal or the desires of a man. Instead, I propose three simple “beauty” rules:
Worry about the inside, not the outside.
Tese TV pageants tend to show women projecting an idealized body type when that figure is often very hard to get or maintain. It can take pounds off the mental health of a person to go through this rigor every single day of their lives. In my opinion, the rules should be twisted to show the beauty that makes these women unique, not carbon copies of the “ideal” woman. This can inspire other women to see their beauty in themselves, flawed or not. Simply stated, you can’t build a house without the foundation. So without a steady flow of positive energy radiating from your soul, you will never feel beautiful on the outside.
Value the beauty inside your brain.
Many times, beauty pageant culture seems to disregard the brain of a women all together. Give them the infamous “question” that is meant to show their intelligence but can instead come off as scripted and fake. I would set up scenarios where contestants participate in activities where they have to use their minds to work out challengings problems, be creative with their actions, and be leaders. Creating an environment that values female wisdom can inspire other girls to learn what truly is important about being a woman.
Beauty will be judged on strength, individuality, and spirit.
When watching beauty pageants, I wish I could learn about the things that made the contestants resilient, hard-working, and even talented. Every woman has their own story of what they overcame, and it can be a part of the definition of what makes them a women. Highlighting this would inspire other young girls to see their insecurities, trauma, and adversities as something they can overcome and would shine a positive light on the industry as a whole by showcasing women for their realness.
This kind of beauty is exactly the type I’d love to see on a beauty pageant show, highlighting the stories of women overcoming the insecurities, bullying, and even harassment that left themselves in a toxic state. These changes would help create a symbiotic relationship between both the women on television and the ones watching at home.
Likewise, it’s important to learn from people who can inspire others. If these women could show young girls what is truly important in life, they could help other girls immensely on their path to womanhood. Showing girls doing charity work in their communities, being kind to their loved ones, or taking on leadership roles should be the main focuses. We should create an environments that propels women for who they are—beautifully strong.