Are beauty pageants really more about social responsibility? Miss World seems to think so

Published: July 5, 2019
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PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/VANESSA PONCE DE LEON

PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/VANESSA PONCE DE LEON

Model Vanessa Ponce created history by becoming the first Mexican to be crowned Miss World. Her social media has been buzzing and she is noticeably gaining popularity in South Asia after her recent trip to India.

But, Miss World has something to say about beauty pageants. According to Vanessa, they are more about social responsibility now, reported Pinkvilla.

Asked if she has already gotten bored of the cliché question of ‘beauty with brains’, Vanessa shed light on the controversial topic of beauty pageants like Miss World which have been criticised for degrading women.

“I see beauty with a purpose has transformed over countries as we go to. It’s not beauty pageants anymore. It’s about social responsibility. It’s about taking care of your own people, and that’s something that is changing across,” she said during an interview.

Beauty pageants have been around for decades and have been the centre of heated debates among women—feminists and non-feminists—for just as long.

In a bid to become ‘more inclusive’, women from minority groups and different backgrounds have started making their mark in the competitive industry.

We can’t forget the first hijabi-wearing contestant, Sara Iftekhar, who made it to the final round of Miss England. Her family hails from Pakistan.

American-Somali sensation Halima Aden, who is regularly breaking barriers in the fashion world for wearing hijab on the catwalk, was also the first the wear a burkini in the swimsuit competition of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant 2016.

As for the newest Miss World, India’s Manushi Chhillar passed on the crown last year to Vanessa.  The Mexican model shared her struggles by comparing herself to others before winning the title. “You wake up and see they are taller than you, some of them are gorgeous. It takes a while to understand and explain it to self: how can you compare yourself with them when you have such different lives.”

Muslim model becomes first to wear burkini on cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’

Vanessa continued, “Thus, one day, I promised myself I wouldn’t be distracted by comparison if I am captivated by purpose.”

Her words come after the Miss India pageant show came under heavy backlash on Twitter in May for all 30 of the finalists appearing to have the same hairstyle and fair skin.

“Miss India contestants: they all have the same hair, and the same skin color, and I’m going to hazard a guess that their heights and vital stats will also be similar,” the Twitter user wrote. “So much for India being a ‘diverse’ country.”

Miss World, which is broadcast to more then 120 countries and is in its 69th year, has regularly attracted criticism for being a “degrading” contest.

Protests have taken place at the event in previous years, such as in 2011 when about 100 demonstrators turned up to object to what they saw as a “human cattle market”.

In 1970, when the contest was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall, feminist activists stormed the stage.

But organisers say the pageants “empower” women, yet some competitions have questionable rules that base a woman’s worth on her ability to model “proper femininity.” For example, to compete in the Miss Universe and Miss Earth pageants, candidates must never have been married or pregnant.

In 2018, Miss Ukraine was famously stripped from her crown after organisers discovered Veronkia Didusenko was previously married and has a child.

For the current Miss World, she shies away from discussing these issues and asserts that the platform is used for social work. “Most importantly, when I was in Mexico, I was a Mexico girl working with a non-profit.  Working as the Miss World comes with its pros. It’s altruistic to see that the projects you work upon have a heart. It’s aimed at transforming lives in every country we visit.”

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