As America Forgets It, the Rest of the World Embraces the Beauty Pageant
Is there a more iconic piece of Americana? The sashes and tiaras, canned responses about world peace, and of course the not-so-genuine hug between the champion and runner-up. But the beauty pageant is fading in the rearview mirror of American pop culture. Surprisingly, the rest of the world is suddenly embracing beauty pageants as an empowering tool.
The history of the beauty pageant practically parallels the history of the last American century. First presented in 1921, the Miss America pageant has long been the mother of all pageants, inspiring a song that is among America’s most instantly-recognizable anthems. But recent history hasn’t been so kind. With Miss America relegated in recent years to the CMT channel and currently without a broadcast home after two years on TLC, the pageant is approaching irrelevancy. It has made some headlines in years past, but mostly for the controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh’s appearance as a judge and the public spectacle made of topless photos of last year’s runner-up, Carrie Prejean.
The rest of the world, on the other hand, is discovering pageants. They've gained considerable popularity in China over the past decade, a country that once railed against Western decadence. With Guangzhou hosting more than 10 pageants in 2002, they've become a symbol of development in the country.
The traditional American pageant dwindled under numerous controversies over the past decade, most notably former Miss USA Tara Conner’s drug- and alcohol-fueled bender. But the Czech Republic, whose people certainly weren’t privy to beauty pageants during the Cold War, is suddenly experiencing something of a pageant boom. While pageant contestants have been portrayed as vapid starlets in North America, former Miss Czech Republic Michaela Malacova has become known as a Czech political campaigner. Some of Eastern Europe’s most isolated enclaves, including Siberian prisons, are even discovering the wonderment of the pageant.
Meanwhile, Western European beauty pageants have suddenly become a divisive topic among women, with competitors pointing out that pageants and feminism are not mutually exclusive. With these pageants now piercing some of England’s elite academic institutions, beauty contests are suddenly becoming hailed as empowering of all things. In 2006, a Miss Teen Australia competition became much more than a beauty contest when Ayten Ahmet’s inclusion in the contest inspired great debate in the Muslim world. With applicants now welcome for the 2010 Miss Earth competition, a contest seeking “eco-warring young women,” beauty pageants may have become relevant around the world at a time when they are considered a joke in the country that invented them.
You might not be able to find Miss America on your television next year, but for what it’s worth, the beauty pageant may be, against all odds, doing some good in other parts of the world.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.
- When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
- Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
- Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.
- Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
- When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
- Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.
- The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
- Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
- Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.