Record as five black women win beauty crowns

Role models: ‘More than beauty,’ argues latest Miss World winner, Toni-Ann Singh. © Getty

Is this progress? Five black women now hold all the international 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 cliché.

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.”

“Body positivity” is today’s zeitgeist. Thus from clouds of hairspray and taffeta, a “rebranding” of relevance has emerged from beauty contests.

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 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.

You Decide

  1. Should employers ever have the right to dictate how people behave whilst they are working for them?

Activities

  1. Pick a charity that you would support if you had an international platform to promote it. Design a poster that would persuade other people to back it too.

Some People Say...

“It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

Socrates (470-399 BC), ancient Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Western philosophy

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
That beauty pageants are still popular. There were over 20,000 applications to Miss England this year — a record high. This is happening alongside the belief that we are currently in the “third wave” of “body positivity” focussed on targeting unrealistic standards of beauty.
What do we not know?
Whether winning these competitions has any long-lasting impact on these women’s lives, or the causes which they choose to support. For example, whilst the organisers of Miss America claim to provide major scholarships for women, they only really offer a small grant.

Word Watch

Cliché
An expression or idea that has been so overused that it ends up unoriginal and irritating.
Zeitgeist
The defining spirit of the age.
Outmoded
Old fashioned.

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