Universe-al Follies

Last Tuesday evening, I was out on a patio in the Distillery District with some friends, minding my own beeswax, when – through my slight sun-and-lemon-tea-beer haze – I glanced up in time to see an enormous group of young women stroll past the patio.

I wouldn’t have paid them any mind if not for the fact (a) they were doing their best “Queen Elizabeth” waves and (b) the lone guy among them said loudly enough for us to hear, “Miss Universe Canada contestants”. You know, in case we were wondering.

Of course, the declaration prompted me to take notice of their white sashes with red lettering.

While I merely half-gazed, my friend chose instead to give the passing contestants some sage advice.

Half-scowling (in a joking sort of way), she repeatedly stage whispered, “Eat something!” while pointing in their direction.

I nearly fell over, clapping my hand over my mouth to hide my grin and muffle my guffaw.

I didn’t look at any of the young women for their reaction. But I’m guessing, if they weren’t pretending not to hear my friend and looking elsewhere, then they might have tried giving her stink-eye (but only half-heartedly, since they were probably worried about wrinkles).

So, yeah. Apparently beauty pageants like this still happen in the 21st century! Who knew?

And the funny thing is, since that chance sighting, they’ve been landing themselves some press coverage. And not the good kind.

June 11: During a talk at an Oshawa high school, one of the beauty queens spoke about body image, explaining that to enter the competition, she actually had to gain weight. Which would have been great. EXCEPT that in trying to convey that pageant organizers didn’t want them looking unhealthy, she stepped in it by saying she didn’t want to look “like some little African child with the ribs going on.”

I’m sure the word she really wanted to use was “anorexic”. Except she … didn’t.

Aaaaaand, it gets better. (By which I mean worse.)

One of her fellow contestants (a) is African-born and (b) had JUST finished describing her experience in a Rwandan refugee camp. So one could understand when she was upset by the remarks and had to be consoled by another contestant.

So having put both dainty size-9s in her mouth, what did the 26-year-old Miss Universe Contestant – a filmmaker who runs her own production company – have to say for herself?

Well, aside from what she meant to say (again, boys and girls, the word is ANOREXIC), she blamed it on being half-asleep, due to having gotten up at 5 a.m. that morning.

Huh.

June 13: A second contestant not only landed herself in hot water, but got her skinny behind bounced from the competition, when it came out that she did some ads for Ashley Madison. The funny thing was, the ads were never broadcast. But someone with either an axe to grind and/or some exemplary investigation skills dug them up.

A lesser woman would have seen the optics of the situation and bowed out. Not this one.

She was asked to quit. She refused. She tried to go to rehearsals, but was blocked from entering, told to go to her hotel room, and pack her bags.

She was then driven to the bus station, where she was offered a paid fare back home. Again, she refused. So they left her at the station with $100.

Um, yeah.

It’s great to have dreams and ambition. But if you’re going to expose yourself in such a public forum as a beauty pageant, remembering, OH WAIT, I was in some racy ads in lingerie, should have you thinking about the scrutiny you could find yourself under, should you decide to enter said competition.

Look, I’ve heard how smart and poised pageant contestants are supposed to be – that they’re not just Barbie dolls in evening wear and swimsuits. Heck, as it turns out, I’ve worked with a couple.

But with a small but growing list of incidents in recent years, the optics make the current crop of hopefuls look pretty bad and the evidence in favour of “beauty and brains”, threadbare.

If you’re a supporter, you’re entitled to defend these girls all you want.

But just remember these two words: beauty fades.

Good looks are great to have, and it’s the first thing people notice. But because there are perceptions and stereotypes that accompany that, you gotta stay ahead of the game and cover your butt, so you don’t continue to feed the long-standing perceptions – that’s part of what “having a brain” means.

‘Cause I shudder at the thought of gaggles of future would-be beauty queens entering competitions and dribbling out stuff like this:

Just. Sayin’.

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