• Reading Level 5
Geography | Design & Technology | Art & Design | Citizenship | PSHE

Record as five black women win beauty crowns

Is this progress? Five black women now hold all the world’s top beauty titles, a development which is being hailed despite the troubled histories and controversial values of pageants. Grandiose music, a blingy crown and rivers of sequins - crowning a new Miss World is quite the cliche. But beneath the extravagance is a less frivolous story. Toni-Ann Singh's win this weekend means that the titles of Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss America, Miss Universe and Miss World are currently all held by black women, for the very first time. Toni-Ann, from Jamaica, stated that "representation is a beautiful thing". Earlier this month, Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, shared a similar sentiment, noting the positive impact of diversity, with examples of girls seeing her and shouting, "You look like me. She looks like me." It wasn't always like this. Until 1970, women of colour were banned from Miss USA and Miss America. For the latter, this was even codified in a rule stating that all contestants had to be "of the white race". In addition to issues of racism, critics see beauty contests as typifying the objectification and oppression of women. As early as 1968, this became a big issue for the women's liberation movement. And despite increased racial representation, pageants still showcase certain body types - the famous five fit the "tall, slim and able" mould. "Body positivity" is today's zeitgeistA German word meaning "spirit of the age".. Thus from clouds of hairspray and taffeta, a "rebranding" of relevance has emerged from beauty contests. By enabling successful contestants to share their views and support charities, "empowerment" is used as justification for what is often seen as an industry with questionable values. The 2019 Miss Universe finals saw statements on climate change, protests and social media, while the 2015 winner, Pia Wurtzbach, promoted HIV awareness amongst Filipinos. Yet, for some, this is just window dressing. Rather than making women more confident, contests still objectify and control them through restrictive "morality clauses" dictating competitor's behaviour. Columnist Jessica Valenti sees pageants as "antiquated reminders of exactly what we don't want for women that should have no place in our future". So, is this recent story really progress? A beautiful future? Yes! This is a very positive sign that the beauty industry is becoming increasingly colour blind and moving to become more representative. The world of pageants is doing more to have a wider impact. So much news has been dominated by gloom and politics recently - let's celebrate this and what we can take from it! Not really. It is important that these women have won, but their victories can't disguise the deeper issues. Pageants ultimately promote shallow and outmoded views and values. The fact these contests continue to exist at all means that you can't argue progress is being made for women, of any colour. KeywordsZeitgeist - A German word meaning "spirit of the age".

Continue Reading

The Day is an independent, online, subscription-based news publication for schools, focusing on the big global issues beneath the headlines. Our dedicated newsroom writes news, features, polls, quizzes, translations… activities to bring the wider world into the classroom. Through the news we help children and teachers develop the thinking, speaking and writing skills to build a better world. Our stories are a proven cross-curricular resource published at five different reading levels for ages 5 to 19. The Day has a loyal and growing membership in over 70 countries and its effectiveness is supported by case studies and teacher endorsements.

Start your free trial Already have an account? Log in / register