Beauty for what purpose?

  • Miss Nepal may provide a platform for many women, but it cannot claim to be a source of empowerment.

Apr 16, 2019-

A young Miss Nepal aspirant appears for her interview sans make-up and with thick glasses. She is bashed by one of the interviewers for being disrespectful towards the contest. Within minutes, the video went viral with most social media users expressing their outrage at the way one of the judges treated the young participant. The organisers remained unapologetic and chose to justify the incident as a process to bring out the best from the candidates. Now, signature campaigns urging the public to boycott Miss Nepal are making the rounds on social networking sites. But the show goes on and the Miss Nepal beauty pageant continues to entice and allure participants and audiences alike.

This is not the first time that the Miss Nepal beauty pageant has been embroiled in controversy. The fanfare surrounding the pageant exceeds that of any other contest. In comparison, the Nepali women’s football team, returning home victorious for the umpteenth time, has never received the kind of adulation the winners of Miss Nepal get. No wonder many starry-eyed young women vie for a spot each year. Winning the pageant means instant fame, recognition and public adoration. Shrinkhala Khatiwada is a recent example.  

Despite all its controversies and flaws, the Miss Nepal beauty pageant is a much hyped annual event. Corporate houses go out of their way in terms of investing in the pageant; often times more than what they would ever contribute towards any other worthy or deserving cause. Hence, the nonchalant attitude of the organisers comes as no surprise—they will probably not lose sponsors over this. But it is imperative to understand why the organisers feel so brazenly entitles to belittle fellow human beings.

Miss Nepal is supposed to be a platform that promotes and grooms promising young women to take the world in their stride. Claims are made that by the end of their tough training session, the contestants develop into poised, confident, and ‘empowered’ young women. The question is, have these promises ever been delivered? Each year, we witness the contestants struggling to understand and respond to the questions put to them by the sometimes equally confused judges. While I agree that it is not an easy task to stand up and express oneself  in front of a large audience, isn’t building up the self-confidence of young women one of the main selling points of the pageant?  

Furthermore, the question and answer round never fails to exasperate anyone with a little bit of common sense. This is the part that most contradicts Miss Nepal’s quest in its search for a beauty with brains. The organisers, the sponsors who support the show, the media who seldom bring up this topic and the audience who seem to believe that any nonsense rattled in English is fantastic, are all equally to blame for the lack of quality.

If the pageant fails to attract deserving candidates even after more than two decades since its establishment, Miss Nepal is definitely in need of some soul searching.

To be fair to the organisers, it is a little too much to expect drastic changes in young novices in just 4 to 6 weeks. Furthermore, the contestants are trained more on how to look their best, walk and stand proper and prepare a well-rehearsed introduction as opposed to polishing their skills/talents, understanding current issues and discussing their thoughts. Eventually, the few who have that extra spark in them shine bright and get to wear glittery tiaras.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to pursue a career in fashion and glamour, and Miss Nepal is a launching pad for young women interested in pursuing such a career. But one has to be clear about the potentials and limitations attached to it. The problem arises when the adoring mass are led to believe that the Miss Nepal pageant ‘empowers’ women. Being empowered is not about surface-level grooming. It’s an inward journey of self-discovery which cannot be covered within the span of a few weeks. Neither can it be justified by appointing a few women activists as judges to endorse the event.

We have to give the organisers of Miss Nepal credit for daring to host a show of this magnitude year after year.

But they need to evolve with the times and incorporate fresh perspectives. They now have to operate tactfully, equipped with the experience and wisdom of past years. Most importantly, the purpose of the pageant has to shine through and no longer remain hidden.

Yonjan is a creative consultant researching, honouring and documenting the lives of inspirational women from across Nepal.

Published: 16-04-2019 08:28

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