The Political Economy of Int'l Beauty Pageants

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 11/11/2013 02:23:00 PM
OK, some qualifiers about the post title here: First, I am not quite attracted to beauty pageant contestants since I generally find them too skinny. Second, I didn't actually watch the Miss Universe 2013 finals in Russia since I didn't bother to figure out what time it was showing. Third, I am probably biased since our country's bet didn't win despite making it to the last five contestants for yet another year without actually winning. (Then again, if you are looking for unbiased commentary from blogs, you are probably looking in the wrong place.) So, with those caveats in mind, here is what the most recent event has taught me about the international political economy of beauty pageants. Excerpts here from the Manila Bulletin:

(1) It often helps if you *can't* speak English, the language of the event:
Fans expressed disappointment when it was announced that [Philippine contestant Ariella] Arida finished third runner-up. They said she was the only candidate who did not use an interpreter in the field of Latina co-semifinalists [from Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, and Venezuela. In 2011, Filipino fans expressed the same sentiments when [Shamcey] Supsup won third runner-up in the beauty contest in which she was the only one in the Top 5 who did not use an interpreter.
The idea is that you are more "exotic" when you cannot speak English. (I'd like to confess that I've been using Google Translate for six years to write this blog, but few of you will believe me.) Some will say that's a nonsense argument since Miss USA won last year, but consider the rarity of straight English answers in the Q&A portions and that the event's promoter is some Yank with a weird hairdo who stands to benefit massively from a ratings jump in the States.

(2) It doesn't help to be smart. This is a beauty contest, not a brains contest.  Ask the Philippine contestant--a chemistry major--who finished fourth:
Born on Nov. 29, 1988, to public school teachers Alresito and Estella, Arida graduated from the University of the Philippines Los Banos [UPLB] in Laguna...
Arida began studying veterinary medicine at UPLB in 2005 but shifted to chemistry on her second year. Her undergraduate thesis entitled “Virtual Binding of Synthetic Nucleoside Analogues and Phyto-brassino steroids to NS5 Dengue Virus mRNA 2’-o-Methyltransferase Domain Using Dock Software” was presented in the 2010 Philippine Chemistry Congress held at Subic Bay in Zambales.
Looks matter, and passable answers will suffice during the Q&A portions--especially if delivered in a language other than English.

(3) So the Latin bloc is not doing so well economically, but hey, they do fantastically well in beauty pageants! 4 out of the top five ain't bad, and the award haul of Latin countries like Venezuela is astounding. I suppose beauty pageants act as the opiate for the masses in an increasingly secularized world--especially in Venezuela, a country run by nutters that has made a successful cottage industry of preparing young women for these events. (And don't speak English for crying out loud.)

Consider that the Philippines was a Spanish colony for over three hundred years and the domination would become even more pronounced. Ah well, roll on 2014; we're bound to win this damn thing sometime soon...