It’s that time of the year again…Beauty Pageant Season…..
As a young girl, I vividly remember watching all kinds of pageantries on television. Every year, together with my mother and younger sister, we would make ourselves comfortable in the hall and watch one beauty queen or another walk and try to win the envious Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Ghana or Miss Malaika Africa Crowns.
With each passing year, I would come to realize how these pageants were not just about being beautiful or having a slender figure but more about how one lady could defy the odds and be more than just a pretty face. Maybe one’s figure did matter, but the point is, beauty pageants were a test of a ladies ability to adapt, achieve and be ambitious. A showcase of being the whole package – beauty, brains and ambition.
In 2001, whilst watching the Miss World Finale, I asked my mother why beauty pageants for women were a bigger deal than those organized for men. She explained that for many years women were made to believe that the only good thing about them was their looks, and it got into their heads, so they were not very ambitious. They only aspired to be well groomed and married off to rich men. Some worked in factories or became midwives but the main goal was to keep a family. With the creation of pageants, young girls gradually aspired to be more. They would see girls like themselves representing their country and work towards being lawyers, doctors, journalists, teachers etc. One could not enter pageantry without a level of education.This shifted the focus of many girls all over the world. It was that same year that a Black African won the title helping the world embrace African beauty a bit more. Beauty pageants in Ghana saw a great boost right after Miss Nigeria, Agbani Darego won the Miss World crown in 2001.
During the pageants, it was obvious that it was never the most beautiful girl that took the crown. In fact, the most important part of the pageant was always the question and answer segment proving that they were all about finding an intelligent woman bold enough to embrace her feminity and the opportunities placed before her. The past few years have seen all sorts of pageants spring up with great packages. With these come along various scandals and court cases every now and then. Whilst Miss Ghana is the oldest pageant in Ghana, many other pageants have come to cause a steer among young hopeful ladies wanting to wear a crown.
My main argument, however, is that Beauty Pageants have lost a lot of credibility in the country and have become more of a popularity contest focusing mainly on physical beauty and appearance. Correct me if I am wrong here, but I have always known that pageantries aim at finding ladies with potential in order to groom them and give them a platform to reach their goals no matter the choice of career. Beauty queens were exclusive to certain kinds of campaigns and audience and winning the crown elevated a lady to a very high status which made her seem harder to reach, just like a queen should be. A lady never went out of a pageantry acting the same. These days, it’s a very different story. There are many pageants in the country without a correct aim, focus or reason. Many of them are in fact set up as a business opportunity to make a profit.
Today, it seems the majority of beauty queens are being pushed into working in media and the creative art industry. Or is it that only girls interested in that career path are the ones going for these contests? Social media has made it easier for many to follow and see the daily activities and process in finding a Queen as well as following the progress of a lady who is crowned. While there is absolutely no wrong in that, it has however turned pageants into a form of popularity contest and made Queens easily accessible. Unfortunately, many pageantry organizers are buying into these social media ideas.
I have never been in agreement with social media helping in the selection process of ladies that are selected for any kind of pageant. Social media is biased to a certain kind of “beauty “and would push just anyone who fits into its trending category. Ladies with a higher following on social media also stand a chance in these pageants. What is this teaching younger generation? That to stand a chance in a pageant one needs to be a “social media queen” or popular? Unfortunately, we live in a social media era where many would go extreme lengths just to get a good following.
No matter how advanced society and social media get, a pageant should always go through the old fashioned process of getting girls to stand before very stern judges to get through. Maybe the use of social media should be used in other ways like helping promote the projects run by the contestants and queens or soliciting for funds for their humanitarian projects but it should in no way be used in the selection process.
It seems that Beauty Queens are used as beauty trophies only gracing the red carpets and ad campaigns. Beauty pageant organizers really need to sit and refocus their brands before pageants lose more spark than they already have. Give contestants opportunities that would make a difference, entrepreneurial training, team up with startups for them to intern with, short courses in coding, languages etc. In my opinion, this is the time when beauty pageants and queens should have more impact and positive effect on society due to the fact that women rights and equality are having a huge spotlight and taking centre stage in society. We need to hear their voices and feel their impact not just recognize them as beautiful ladies.
Beauty Pageants affect the lives of the many girls that watch and follow these pageants maybe even more than the few girls selected to be a part of the yearly event or the lucky lady crowned. If my mother was right about why pageantries were set up, there has been a major drift and something needs to be done!
WRITER: Lizz Johnson