Why must currency determine our beauty contest winners?

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Chances are, by now, the readership of TheFilAm has lent some attention or some may have become more than conversant about pageants: beauty and popularity contests, if you will. In some cases, that all-too-familiar yardstick called the trek of currency might possibly have rendered its job.

But, if in the event no judges were invited to participate in the ultimate decision-making, therefore, would money be the one and only criterion that determines the ultimate pageant winner?

As long as remembering has been imbued in me, I was taught: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” However, I do recall how, only a few weeks ago, TheFilAm aired a ‘beauty pageant.’ I do not intend to brush away the praise and accolades due participants of such pageants. The runner-up was unabashed when she opined on her placement had the winner followed the established criteria. That same runner-up deserves congratulatory best wishes for her forthrightness. It should serve as an eye-opener among such contests.

Returning to that extravaganza replete with the Filipina’s well-known terno that can certainly compete with any evening formal wear the world over, nostalgia has helped me return to some such well-remembered pageants.

Pulchritude was at its best (so was national pride) when those who represented the Philippines emerged as top winners when they were unanimous choices through boards of judges not through votes raised through funds. I cannot recall at all any reference to titles won because they were determined by monetary amounts raised. Although the events are far from recent ones, I remember how, as fast as communication could take place, the word spread around quickly when Filipinas won such titles as “Miss Universe,” and “Miss International Beauty Pageant.”

Any reader and observer of such international pageants must have noted how certain qualifications were emphasized among title aspirants: poise; intelligence and talent; contestants’ sense of charity, compassion and immersion in community work when asked to address audiences; exhibiting some fires of wisdom while fashioning dreams for world peace dwelling on educational pursuits and a bevy of what the system strictly demands: the civil status of contestants.

Not too long ago, when titleholders disclosed why their titles had to be taken away from them, it was not difficult to see that the system could be prone to include mostly inexperienced and unsophisticated young women joining fast-track situations they accepted they were ‘not prepared to handle.’

There was the case of Tara Conner, a reigning Miss U.S.A. who became front-page story. Although underage, she was reported to have gone through ‘hard-partying’ in the “whirlwind of New York,” and the NewYork Daily Press’ reportedly carried the deplorable coverage on that same beauty queen: that she had ‘recently tested positive for cocaine,’ among other reasons for her dethronement. However, after a second chance given by the pageant’s powers-that-be, the tearful and repentant winner was allowed to keep her title.

Tragically, not all acclaimed title winners (whose titles were taken away from them) have been branded ‘innocents.’ There is the case of Vanessa Williams, one victim of a Miss U.S.A. dethronement. Proofs surfaced that inappropriate photographs of Williams went public; she was forced to relinquish her title.

Lark Marie Anton, one spokesperson of the Miss Universe Pageant, in reference to what is required of any reigning Miss U.S.A announced: “Miss U.S.A. is considered a role model and must act accordingly.”

There is a nagging question, worrisome to this piece’s writer on beauty and popularity pageants. How about competition coming from the ranks of older women participants befitting their adult status, indeed, as is supposed, indicating their place as role models? Are they allowed to ignore compliance of rules from their end?

Although a few of them, even only one of them would, unbecoming of candidates, refuse to abide by pageant rules and yet, despite what could be flagrant violations, possibly emerge as the top winner?

What seems unjust is the role of funds raised to ensure victory over and beyond set rules and deadlines; can one conclude that the outcome of such pageants hinges on ignoring hard and fast rules?

Should regulations be shunted aside because the final word rests on funds? Does the largest amount of money raised beyond fixed deadlines just to get to the finish line ensure who would be acclaimed winner?

Is there an appropriate answer for obviously proven breaches of rules?

Who makes pageant rules?

Who makes pageant rules?

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