Are we moving towards a change in the modern day beauty pageants? Are modern day beauty queens more than just surface?
In the efforts to modernize and re-brand modern day beauty pageants, four of the biggest pageants around have updated their pageant to reflect changes in times. All four Alpha pageants have an advocacy to speak of: Miss Earth has the environment and climate change advocacy, Miss International has the Japanese Tourism Board pushing for cultural understanding among nations, Miss World has the Beauty with a Purpose ethos and Miss Universe has HIV-AIDS, Women Empowerment and various other children’s social welfare programs to support.
In order to ride together with the times, each pageant has upgraded how they select their winners. Miss Earth has always had the ground breaking no-make up rounds and close door interviews, and now they have added the public transparency of judging the girls in several areas of the competition. Miss International has adapted the Women’s Forum as a gauge to see how candidates perform in public speaking. Miss World recently has adapted the head to head challenge which is much more likened to a death match between candidates. Then Miss Universe earlier this year emphasized the closed door interviews having the biggest weight to make it to semis. With these changes, we can also see how the winners selected are evolving. The recent winners of Miss USA is proof the change as women with diverse background and meaty resumes are crowned winners: a US Army officer and a Nuclear Scientist. Miss Philippines Earth also is seen with its revolutionary winner, Karen Ibasco, who is a multi-hyphenate winner being a physicist, a medical practitioner, a Latin Honors graduate, a professor and now a beauty queen. She is aiming to succeed reigning Miss Earth Katherine Espin who is a Lawyer by profession. Binibining Pilipinas has crowned a pre-school teacher in the person of Miss International Kylie Verzosa, a strong willed, independent person who happens to also be an events manager in Rachel Peters, an opera singer in Mariel de Leon…and their list goes on. Miss World, whose winners are mostly in their early twenties and yet to achieve much career-wise, have a medical student Rolene Strauss as one of its winners in recent years.
It is not enough to be just beautiful nowadays. Pageant girls who aspire to become full-fledged beauty queens has to have more weight in their resumes and achievements. Substance and surface must go hand-in-hand nowadays, and that is just fitting as pageants have to change with the times. Beauty pageants are still viewed as archaic institutions by majority of the world. But if it is able to redefine itself through its winners to become more relevant, more modern and of more social value, then we can just see a renewed Renaissance for pageantry around the world.
One of the most common beauty pageant requirements is that the participant is single, has not had a child not is pregnant. She should neither been married or annulled/ divorced. Why is that so? Why aren’t single women with child/ children cannot be allowed? With the rise of acceptance in more diverse backgrounds and ethnicity in pageant winners, why couldn’t we have this rule overturned?
This is one of the oldest and most common requirement in most beauty pageants. So let’s break it down bit by bit such rule: 1. Single/ Not Married – this is simple. If the title has a “Miss” attached to it then it should follow that the girls who are participating should be unwed. This shouldn’t be up for much debate. Though those who have a common law partnership without children can easily slither into the loophole/s of this rule. Not the case for those that are legally married. There are a number of “Mrs. pageants” that married women can join. 2. Not Pregnant – another no brainer here. If candidate or even a winner gets pregnant she shouldn’t be allowed to compete or finish her reign. Pageant candidates and winners, specially the 4 Alpha pageants, have strenuous activities like constant public appearances, charity work and sponsor commitments. Add to it are the extensive travels during their reign should they win. Such stress may not be healthy for the mother and child, so it is just natural to have this rule imposed. This also protects the organization from future lawsuits that may arise regarding miscarriages during the pageant proper. 3. Has not given birth or have a child – another no brainer as motherhood is a whole different commitment altogether. Pageant reigns typically lasts 12-16 months. To raise a child while serving the requisite contract period is going to be a challenge. You can take a break from being a Miss but not from being a mother. However, on a personal note, I believe unwed mothers should be given an opportunity to join. They may be able to bring in other life experiences to the title that single candidates could not. Thankfully we have the Miss Global pageant that allows unwed mothers to compete in their contest. 4. Has not been annulled or divorced – this is a gray area because technically, those who are annulled or divorced can be termed single (or at the most single parents). This is where I am a bit on the fence as it can be confusing how to delineate the lines on this part.
Miss Universe Organization President has this to say regarding the topic: “You’re an employee for us for the year, so you have to be able to commit to us. If you have a family, or those commitments, it’s gonna be [difficult]. It was probably pushing the envelope for the Army Reserve [with Barber]. You shouldn’t be raising a family while also having to… there are other events for that.”* While I am open for changes to reverse this “singles only” rule, it should all boil down to commitment. Should the candidate/ winner be able to do her commitments while being pregnant, being a single mother, etc… then she should be able to compete/ finish her reign. But then he old adage “you cannot serve two masters” applies. Somewhere along the line something has to give and they could be forced to face the reality of the situation and stick to one commitment. Everyone can be anything and do it all but not all at once…
I first listed and posted Reasons why the Filipinos are the Best Pageant Fans several months ago. However despite being that, we are also vulnerable to the pitfalls of our own shortcomings. I urge everyone to read this with an open mind, with reflective/ pensive thought. It will not be easy to read (or in my case to write) these as we are all guilty of one or some of it (yes you and I). Here are the six characteristics that Filipino pageant fans’ best traits could be overshadowed by their worst traits.
Quick to Judgement – at times Pinoy pageant fans tends to make judgement without knowing all facts first or without making thorough investigations. We are far more inclined to believe what others say because it is easier that way. Sometimes we do not take context into consideration and only judge by the content. We don’t bother to ask tough questions like: why does she say that? What is her perspective on it? Where is she coming from? Mob Mentality – just because one says a person is a hypocrite/ dumb/ narrow-sighted/ unfit everyone is easy to say the same thing and jump into the bandwagon. Worst of this is how we are quick to make viral other people’s mistakes on social media without taking clear facts first. Worst of it is how we insult other nationalities without realizing that we are just as guilty of flaws as they are. Egoists (When Pinoy Pride Goes Wrong) – ever heard of the old adage “gracious in defeat, humble in victory“? We seem to get the first part right but not the second. This is most evident when arguing with other nationalities with less crowns as the Philippines. We seem to forget that there was a time that we haven’t gotten any major titles in the past. Life is a wheel, we may have passed the bottom and are now back on top…but we have to remember that what goes up has to come down.
Labeled for Life – case in point the matter of Mariel de Leon on the Reproductive Health issue where the country is running out of contraceptives (except for condoms). People are easy to bash her because of her previous ideology on Mocha Uson being fit (or unfit) for a 6-figure salary by the government. People tend to forget the issue was not about Mocha but RH. Then the case of Pia Wurtzbach being on the curvy side when she won Miss Universe Philippines. Of course we all know how she was called a “pig” only to be on top shape come MU. People change and evolve, that simple fact is easily forgotten by most of us.
“Them Vs Us” Mentality – this is the proverbial “if you are not with us, then you must be against us”. For a number of Filipinos, there is no gray area, it’s simply black and white. This is very evident during the national pageants where fan groups seem to delineate those that support their girl against those who doesn’t. And if you happen to support more than one, then you must be a “spy”. Crab Mentality – one of our worst traits as a people. We maybe the ones who would exult our reps to the highest of pedestals but we are also the same ones who would bring her down if she doesn’t suit our taste/ preferences/ ideologies. It should be a simple matter to support anyone that carries the Philippine flag or the Philippine sash because that person/s is a representation of us, collectively as a people.
While no pageant fan can claim to be perfect, it certainly helps to know our own dark side and decide which side do we choose to be. These are all very hard pills to swallow, but we have to know both our good and bad sides to know how to balance.
This blogpost is not meant to insult or invalidate Filipino pageant fan’s contributions to pageantry, far from that. This post is to serve as a reminder that despite our good sides, we also fall prey to our own bad sides… that sometimes our worst enemies are our own selves.
Two major international pageants are currently serenading the Philippines to host their pageant; Miss Universe for the 2017 edition and Miss World for 2018. Why is both pageants serenading the Philippines to host their respective pageants?
Sashes&Scripts tries to uncover why the Philippines is enjoying such attention from both the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants. It all may just boil down to two factors. Here are two of the biggest reasons why… The Filipino Fanbase – the Philippines is perhaps the biggest market for pageants outside Latin America. You cannot go anywhere to have your pageant if there is no such clamor for it. It would be foolish to establish a base where you are not welcome. And the Philippines is very welcoming to pageantry. With Filipino communities spread throughout the world, tapping to the Philippine market would be tapping to a global audience. It is estimated that at least 2.4 million Filipinos* are working outside of the Philippines, this statistic does not take into account their families who are living with them abroad or the Filipinos who are carrying non-Filipino citizenships. That number could possibly double up or more. That is a huge number to cater to and once you get the loyalty of Filipinos, it’s as good as its weight in gold. In addition to that is the power we have over social media. We can make any topic or pageant for that matter the trending topic on any social media platform on a massive worldwide scale. A clear strong point (or weak point, depending on your perspective) among Filipinos is the mob mentality that we could swarm any socmed platform to promote what we love (or the negative side of it, what we dislike or even hate). Such illustrates the power of the Filipino fanbase. Let’s also mention how the Filipinos can support girls from other countries besides the Filipina rep. In fact, any of the Miss Universe candidates are given warm welcome by the Filipino people. Such display of hospitality is second nature to Filipinos, ever wonder why the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan has gotten a supplement line: “When you’re with Filipinos, You’re with Family.” Because of the world renowned Filipino hospitality, there are 100 million reasons why tourists would want to come back to the country. Why do you think the Miss Universe pageant wants to have it again in Manila within the span of less than 12 months? Any pageant candidate is treated like a celebrity. Even the heads of the pageant, pageant officials, judges, are treated as such.
Asia is the new Economic Power – yes you heard it right. Asia is where the money is and you have to follow where the money is. Asia as of the moment is a neutral market (Africa and Europe are MW territories while North & Latin America are dominated by the MU) which makes it a prime demographic to conquer. The Philippines is posed strategically at the entryway of Asia (figuratively and literally) which is ideal to get a foothold of the Asian market. Gaining a strong base in the Philippines would give any pageant an advantage over the Asian Market. Expansion wouldn’t be difficult if you gain a foothold on the Philippines… Thailand, Indonesia, China, India, Vietnam, etc… are easily within reach once you get a foothold in the Philippines. This is possibly why China is such a MW favorite, the only problem is that China is seen more as a political threat to any country rather than an ally. You can possibly survive with China as a major sponsor but it wouldn’t get you so far (long term planning wise) as it can make you hostage to its whims. Which is a far contrast with the friendlier/ pacifist nature of the Philippines in general. Pageants couldn’t acquire more stable grounds if it tries to go the route of Indonesia (which is a hardsell for MU considering the swimsuit competition) despite a bigger population as the pageant system is relatively young. Thailand is a close second possibility next to the Philippines, but the frivolity of hosting a major pageant might still be too close for the mourning period from its late venerable king; though I have reason to believe that soon as a foothold in the Philippines is established, the next possible goldmine would be the Land of Smiles. Far more developed countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Japan are difficult markets to conquer as general interest is relatively low compared to the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia or Vietnam. The Philippines is not a poor country as some may think, never underestimate the 7,107 islands of the country or its 100 million population. And while we are talking about numbers it is said that Php180.3 billion* is remitted back to the Philippines by Overseas Filipino Workers in 2015. There is also a marked growth on the GDP from US$199.6 billion in 2010 to US$292 billion in 2015**. Which says a little bit about Filipinos’ purchasing power. There are also reports of how Filipinos are the “most optimistic spenders” in Southeast Asia***. This means that aside from the basic necessities, Filipinos “would spend on holidays, home improvements, and out-of-home entertainment” as Rappler reports. Domestic tourism increased steadily at 14% over the past 5 years compared to foreign tourism at only an average of 8%****. Which goes to show that Filipinos are a huge potential market to mine. The potential is endless.
Pageants like any other industry follow economic and political trends. You might decry it as unfair but such is the reality in business, after all pageants are part of the entertainment industry. No matter how hard pageantry tries to put ‘charity’ on its face, it still involves a huge amount of money. Hence, it only makes sense to go where the rising economies are and that is in Asia. Couple that with a strong fanbase with a huge market potential and voila! You get the Philippines… a place where potential gains is found with a very open and receptive market. Now you know why the two biggest international pageant rivals, Miss Universe and Miss World, are competing for the affection of the Philippines. Question is who gets to have a stronger foothold?
It is clear by now that the Miss Universe organization is clearly looking for a different kind of winner for Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. With the focus on a more diverse set of semifinalist, more articulate finalists, and more accomplished winners, are we truly ready for what these changes might bring about?
1. Balance between surface beauty and substance – in the debate between facial beauty and intelligence, there will always be gray areas that is gonna be tricky to walk about. Finding a good balance may prove to be difficult as there are always be girls who are more articulate than others or is more regarded as beautiful by pageant fans. Looking for smart, good-looking spokesperson for the MUOrg is tough but doable, just look at former Miss Universe winners Pia Wurtzbach and Gabriela Isler who were among the most hardworking winners in recent years that certainly fit the mold. 2. Changing body ideals – beauty pageants have to promote health and beauty no matter what shape you are. It is fine to be curvy, athletic or skinny if you are naturally that type, but it has to be on the confines of healthy parameters. There is a thin line between promoting positive body image and promoting unhealthy physiques. The pageant cannot be seen to allow obesity and unhealthy living under the guise of the politically correctness of positive body image. Nor be seen promoting winners with unhealthy eating habits or disorders to maintain a certain weight. While we cannot see ourselves supporting an overweight/obese/anorexic winner, we can nevertheless an embracing of women with different body types (top heavy, curvy, skinny, bottom heavy, athletic, etc). Again, there has to be a balance on that aspect. The body can be transformed thru proper diet and workout coupled with discipline and determination.
3. Performance over potential – this poses the question of whether a girl should be selected because of her performance or from her overall potential to be the right fit for the organization. Janine Tugonon and Olivia Culpo is a good illustration of this point. Janine was the runaway winner in terms of her performance during the finals but it was Olivia that had the potential to represent best the organization (as seen on how she handled a tough Russian interview-slash-interrogation). So its not just the finals night that is being judged. This is a grey area as it may not fit a certain criteria in judging and could be very subjective. 4. Diversity – the Miss Universe pageant has to encompass different types of beauty, something that is lost during the Trump era (specifically in the 2000’s). During those days, winners tend to fit only the Caucasian mold of what is considered beautiful: small aquiline noses, almond shaped eyes, prominent jawlines and cheekbones, modelesque proportions. In the 18 years of the Trump leadership, 13* of them were either Latina or Caucasian with only 6 women of color (3 with Asian ancestry and 3 dark skinned winners). Surely there are women who represent different kinds of beauty, it just so happens that the selection of winners was a “one note samba”.
On a personal note, it is highly unlikely that this debate will get a resolution that will appeal to all. At best is that we can hope for a girl that has the perfect balance of facial beauty with a fit and healthy body, oozing with confidence and self-assurance on who she is and who she represents that would fit the bill of becoming the spokesperson of the organization. Quite a tall order of qualifications if you ask me, but this is where the old adage applies one that says: if you are looking hard for something, you are bound to find it.
Footnote: * We included dethroned Miss Universe winner Oxana Fedorova of Russia.
After the recently concluded Miss USA pageant, fans are left wanting more from the pageant. And with the changes in both Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, we ask the question: Has Miss USA/ Miss Universe Lost its Showmanship?
In a report by Variety.com, the Miss USA has suffered a double digit decline in ratings: The 2017 Miss USA pageant saw a significant decline in the broadcast ratings for the second straight year, according to Nielsen overnight data. Airing on Fox from 8-10 p.m., the pageant drew an estimated 0.8 rating in adults 18-49 and 2.9 million viewers. Compared to last year (1.1, 4 million), that is a decline of over 27% in both key measures. Last year’s pageant was down a similar percentage compared to when it last aired on NBC in 2014. We ask, why is that? Sashes&Scripts would like to try what the two pageants this year have missed and why loyal followers of the MU pageant system feel alienated with the changes that the MUOrg is doing.
Miss USA 2017 started out with a very exciting premise yet it was within that premise we all saw the hints of the decline in the entertainment factor. Michael Jackson One gave a major boost in the energy levels with a spectacular opening performance, then went donwhill when the 51 girls weren’t given enough camera time as they only paraded the stage while their states are called. I thought that is was a poor way of not showcasing the ladies as it looked like a cattle-call of livestock before they are butchered. After the first slaughter is done, or rather after the first cut is finished, the 41 girls who did not make top 10 would only have a split second of exposure on the tube during the swimsuit and evening gown performances… that is if they are lucky enough to get caught by the camera. None of them would get a moment to shine onstage as no congeniality or photogenic awards are announced during the live telecast.
Even the top 10 are subjected to the same treatment by not giving enough airtime to the SS and EG portions. Pageant fans know that the org is looking for a spokesperson for their winner, but they shouldn’t be denied to see an actual competition happening onstage. This treatment is nothing short of the Miss World would just parade the girls in their gowns and then just call in the next girls who made the next cut…
Unlike the Miss Universe 2013 pageant in Moscow, the Miss Universe 2016 pageant in Manila (though aired on January of 2017) had only two musical performances that night and was subjected to the same rushed pace from opening to swimsuits and gown. The Moscow edition of the pageant gave something that was decidedly missing in the two MUOrg pageants this year: entertainment with major showmanship. The 2013 edition became memorable because several factors: 1) local flavor on the marvelous stage design which allowed the viewers to “experience” Russia, 2) musical guests (with more than enough airtime if I may add) of international caliber like Panic at the Disco, Emin and Steve Tyler or Aerosmith, and 3) enough stage exposure of the girls while competing in their swimsuits, evening gowns and Q&A.
This is why the 65th Manila edition of the Miss Universe pageant didn’t live up to the Moscow edition in terms of finals night production, it did not have all three elements present from the 2013 pageant. Thankfully the local audiences were able to carry every pre-pageant activity with such energy that coursed through up to the finals… and thankfully Boyz 2 Men had a great following that it saved the musical production of the show.
Then we should also talk about how all those redundant videos and interviews ate up precious airtime. If the MUOrg really wanted to re-brand the pageant to have empowered and outspoken women, then they should just remove the redundant video intro of the candidates during the announcement of the semi-finalists and just do a good ol’ fashioned one-on-one interview. Because having three Q&A segments (even if you rename the final Q&A as the “final word”) doesn’t fool the audiences one bit… you have 3 Q&A’s, we get it…
Miss Universe 2016 finals felt rushed and even more so in Miss USA 2017. While pageant fans may be welcoming of the fact that the MUOrg wants to make the pageant more relevant by selecting smart, empowered and articulate women, the same pageant fans also expect a great show out of the finals. Final word: pageant fans go watch to see the girls onstage and not more of pre-taped videos or a 3-5 second exposure in their swimsuits and gowns. If the production team finds how to incorporate that into their new formula, then all will be good. All we want is simple: A good show with the girls competing for the title.
Beauty of Face – 50% Beauty of Figure – 30% Poise & Personality – 10% Intelligence – 10% For the longest time that has been the criteria of judging for Binibining Pilipinas. That is about to change as was reported during the Bb Pilipinas press presentation. If BPCI is giving a huge importance on speaking and communication skills, we might be seeing a leap in weights of this criteria in this year’s selection of winners.
If the beauty of face, figure and intelligence are equally given 30% weight and poise/ personality at 10%, this might be the ideal equation for the criteria for judging. After all, to be competitive internationally you cannot crown a lady who is all personality but no beauty, nor one who is all beauty but no intelligence. It has to be a combination of these qualities in a balanced equation. Does this mean a return on selecting beauties like Karen Loren Agustin, Teresa Licaros, Lia Andrea Ramos and Nina Ricci Alagao? Not necessarily. It only means that the pageant is looking for one with both surface beauty and substance. And unless BPCI will inform the public of the actual changes, all we can do is speculate… One this is for sure, the next set of winners should be able to talk the talk and not just walk the walk.