Published On: October 2, 2018 08:30 AM NPT By: Rejina Basnet

BEAUTY PAGEANT: Platform for looks, talent, and business

BEAUTY PAGEANT: Platform for looks, talent, and business

KATHMANDU, Oct 2: What do you think of when you hear the term ‘beauty pageant’? 
The general image that comes to our minds is: conventionally beautiful women, wearing shiny gowns wrapped by sash and sparkling crowns made up of jewels in their heads. They have wide smiles on their faces, alongside glittery makeup, and they are walking with style, with their hands waving to the crowd. 

The first of such events, or beauty pageants, was held in the US circa 1800. Now, after almost 218 years, it is as prevalent as it could ever be. 

Hundreds of beauty pageants are organized across the globe annually. Let alone the world, if we look at the context of Nepal itself, beauty pageants, ranging from local to regional and national, are conducted every year. These pageants started in Nepal with the first ‘Miss Nepal’ contest in 1994. 

It is often a very debatable issue whether beauty pageants are uplifting women or exploiting them in the name of ‘beauty’. We normally fail to imagine the beauty pageants beyond the boundary of beauty and glamour but the ones that have been a part of the national and international beauty pageants have different tales to tell. 

Aairi Tuladhar, second runner-up at International Teen of the Year and a recipient of Asia pacific Princess Award recently, shared: “I personally believe that I wasn’t crowned because of the way I look, but for the positive attitude, alacrity and confidence that I portrayed throughout the pageant.” 

Likewise, Marisha Shrestha of Kathmandu said: “My pageant journey started when I was 12. As a kid, I used to be a shy girl, but after entering into a pageant, I have gained a lot of confidence and have learnt variety of skills. My decision to compete in pageants has honestly been one of the best decisions I have ever made. From being just an ordinary girl to being a known figure, winning a pageant has completely changed my life, if I say so myself.” 

Shrestha has won the ‘Best of the Best’ title at Young Princess of the Universe contest in 2018. Be it national or international-level contests, Nepali girls have been seizing remarkable positions in the pageant world.

“Through my participation in the pageant, I got an opportunity to showcase my talent and learnt to be more positive in life. I have definitely widened the horizon of my thinking abilities”, said Sandhya Sigdel, the winner of Miss Teen SEE 2018.

 With their very general notion, pageants are typically understood as ‘only-for-females’ contests. Looking at their history as well, they were initially started for the women. However, of late, males are increasingly interested toward it. Such interest is seen in Nepal as well. 

While the female beauty pageants are often linked with the idea of beauty and femininity, the male pageants, obviously, are usually concerned with masculinity and strength. 

However, in conventional Nepali society, the idea of men competing in pageants may sometimes be considered bizarre. Critical of such mindset, Abhibind Khaniya, winner of Mr Teen 2017 contest, said: “Pageants are meant to judge the absolute talent present in the individual regardless of their gender. I think, the female pageants are way more prioritized in comparison to the male pageants globally.”

“I always felt confident to share my views in regard to creating social harmony, which further developed an urge in me to become a role model in the society. This belief helped me break the stereotype and compete in the pageant,” Khaniya added.

Talking about the double standards of the society, Phanendra Kaushik Prasai, the winner of Mr National Universe 2017, opined: “I don’t think the double standard relating to physical appearance of males and females exist in the pageant world. These days, personality and inner beauty of a person are given priorities in case of both men and women.” 

Pageants entailing the very key elements, namely talent, intelligence and personality, definitely perpetuate an idea of beauty beyond one’s visual appearance.

In the recent times, the number of beauty pageants existing in Nepal is strikingly high. However, with excessive commercialization of pageants, the very purpose of pageants is doubted. 

It is questioned if the pageants are diverging from their primary motive of providing a platform for talents to be showcased and promoted, to being a money-motivated business. 

Likewise, the high training costs and no exposure as promised might cause a setback to the hardworking and capable contestants.  

Hukum Raj Luitel, CEO of Events Nepal said: “I agree that the number of pageants is growing each year. There are only handfuls of dedicated event managing companies that believe in producing quality output. With the prevalence of huge number of short-term companies with a sheer motive of business, the prospect of pageantry development is being ruined. I think it is strictly necessary to have a governing body in this sector as well.” 

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