Just over a year prior, Miss Universe finally opened its stage to the LGBTQ+ community as they welcomed Miss Universe Spain, a transgender woman. Ángela Ponce was honored during the beauty pageant despite falling short to making it into top 20 and has made history. Moreover, Miss Universe seems to be campaigning to more than just beauty now — intelligence seems to be the new focal point, along with the candidate’s activities on humanitarian causes.
Although seemingly progressive, a beauty pageant remains to be just that — a beauty competition. Miss Universe is no stranger to such standards. While the rise of inclusivity (following the recent wave of feminism) continues to make its way to Miss Universe, there are things still left to consider. According to Miss Universe, the crowned beauty must have both poise and intelligence, requirements needed to handle the demands of their responsibility. But if we take a look into it, the winner has already been predominantly decided based on her looks. While every single competitor is deemed smart, every single one of them holds an air of societal beauty too. There is no denying it — Miss Universe is all about beauty. Beauty pageants promote beauty, a concept which does not have any established definition. It is a word that caters to many cultural norms, making relative in nature. Its existence, or lack thereof, depends entirely on an individual’s perspective. One argument in favor of beauty pageants is this: beauty pageants promote beauty in variety, because beauty is relative.
The current practices of Miss Universe are far from the concept, however. There are weight limits and height requirements, sometimes sounding unattainable. Looking into its history of thousands of women competing for the crown, most of them look more or less the same — spidery long legs, flawless skin, shiny hair, tiny waists, and slender bodies. The kind of beauty has clearly been defined, one that deviates from its relative nature. Miss Universe represents beautiful people, perfect women. And that’s exactly what makes it still quite problematic.Of course, there is also the attempt of highlighting intellect. In the Miss Universe world, beauty should come with substance and personality. This is evident through the question-and-answer portion, which is allotted to test the contestant’s wits and intellect. For a show that lasts a maximum of three hours, however, only minutes are allotted for the Q& A. There is only one question needed of them. Rehearsed speeches or not, this portion can never attest to a candidate’s intelligence, nor can a single answer showcase their unique personalities. Instead, we are given superficial.
Given all of these, the question of Miss Universe’s impact should continue to be discussed. It is not an ideal pageant, as it encourages society to impose a standard. It feeds into the concept of the “ideal woman”, a vision of which they subtly tell women to reach. Society in general, along with this so-called beauty pageants, should engage a more diverse view of beauty, one that embraces its nature of relativity. If Miss Universe truly wishes to promote diversity and inclusivity, they should go beyond standards. Their current beauty standards, if one looks closely, actually subtly implies a form of inequality and oppression. Because the truth is, there is more to women than just their bodies and faces. There is intellect, strength, and the kind of personality that should be showcased beyond catwalks and photoshoots.
The question of beauty, Miss Universe, and its impact is a social issue. It encompasses social issues that continue to plague humanity — it is only rightful that we continue to talk about it.