Beauty pageants and obligations

Personally speaking, I am not a big fan of beauty pageants. In fact I’m not a fan at all; I would rather read a book.

And while I do not feel as strongly about them as Courtney E. Martin, author of the book, “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters”, I would not miss them if they no longer happened.

In a recent article on the topic, Ms Martin had this to say: “Beauty pageants should go the way of the corset. They’re outdated and restrictive and perpetuate a damaging link between real world success and a woman’s capacity to cultivate a very specific, stereotypical definition of beauty. Real beauty is about resilience: girls and women who have been through something and come out the other side with an idiosyncratic scar or a hard-earned wrinkle, like the first lines of a powerful story.”

She continued on, “I’ve also heard the argument that the pageant experience builds confidence and community among the participants; so does “nerding out” on the debate team or flashing across a lacrosse field. 

The bottom line is that beauty is an organic process, not a contest. Women deserve and know better.” 

However individuals feel, I do acknowledge that there are people who love all the glitz and glamour, the categories, the settings, the costumes, those nail-biting moments and the emotional reaction of the winner when her name is announced.

Why else would we continue to hold our Miss Samoa and Miss South Pacific contests on a regular basis?

Occasionally, there are complaints about the fairness of it all and the judging but for the most part, the winner gets the prizes, the applause and the few moments of fame and the others presumably resume their normal lives or try their luck elsewhere.

But obviously from the conversations and messages and the space that the media around the world devotes to such events, I may well be in the minority. 

Which is fine.

So it is with some bemusement, I have followed the pointed criticisms from our Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi about Miss Samoa/Miss South Pacific’s to absent herself from the handover of her title to the next winning competitor.

Instead, Latafale Auva’a opted to head off to the Miss World competition in China where there was much more at stake

She was going she said, to promote Samoa.

What first became clear, was that there appeared to be nothing in her contract, as the holder of the Miss South Pacific title, to stop her from doing just that. In fact it was not clear whether there even was a binding contract. Or perhaps she was given the green light by the Miss South Pacific promoters? 

After that it all became less clear.

Was this really a chance to promote Samoa in a much bigger setting, as Latafale suggested?

And how would that be done?

Would the Samoan costume and traditional dance, which was part of the show, be enough to attract tourists or business investors to Samoa? 

Or would it be her actual presence that would pique their interest in learning more about our islands?

Perhaps it would be Latafale’s personality, beauty, talent and skills that would make her stand apart from the other 112 representatives?

Measuring this would of course be near impossible.

But what is clear is that for Latafale herself via her Facebook comments posted soon after the show ended, it has been “a great experience” and there appear to be few, if any regrets.

“Top 5 Sport, Top 5 Talent, Top 10 Beauty with a Purpose. Traditional dance performed at Miss World – tick off Bucket List,” she said.

In fact in terms of her own personal aims and goals, Latafale said she sees her participation in the pageant as “…the beginning of a great journey … and a big life lesson for me!” 

And perhaps that is just what it was, something for her and not so much for Samoa.

And while she has not specified what that “big life lesson” is, it would be interesting to find out what it actually is. 

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