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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Miss U fever

The 2023 Miss Universe pageant reflects the ongoing debate surrounding the relevance of beauty contests in the 21st century

Local pageant fans are still hopping mad about the outcome of this year’s Miss Universe contest, which saw Philippine bet Michelle Dee eliminated after the top 10 round.

The morning of the pageant, my Facebook feed was full of comments like, Dee should have entered the top five. She should have been able to give her answer in the Q & A, because for sure it would have been brilliant.

Others came forward with “conspiracy theories.”

One, about how a publicity material of the pageant organizers already had a Top 5 art card prepared with Dee included. Was this a case of a beaucon being turned into a “cooking show”?

I’m not going down the rabbit hole here about the Miss U speculations and commentary, because you can read that for yourself online. But first, let us all thank Mich Dee for her service.

For Filipinos, the Miss U is one of the most important events of the year.

Our bets’ qualifications are thoroughly examined by folks to see whether they are adequate to win against the most beautiful of the world.

Our beauty pageant contestants are considered on a level with our finest athletes who compete internationally (possibly even more so, because practically everyone knows what the Miss U is about and has an opinion, but we can’t say the same for sports).

Dee had everything going for her, and she did her absolute best.

She shone on that international stage. She had the looks, confidence, style, and the good manners to carry herself with aplomb after the outcome.

Thank you, Mich Dee, for representing our country so ably in the pageant. Let’s think of this as the loss of the Miss U organization – they let one of the finest women in the universe slip away when she would have served as Miss U admirably.

Now, considering all the brickbats hurled at the contest owner, organizer, and judges, what do we do next?

DM Reyes, poet and teacher, wrote an insightful opinion piece on the topic for his Facebook page. Among the things he said was we should consider whether “we still want to take part in this discontinuous, deceptive game.”

He suggested boycotting the event for perhaps three years “until it transforms correctly into fair pageant shape.”

This comment makes sense. If we cannot be sure about the integrity and fairness of the pageant, why compete when the odds are stacked against us from the start and the outcome may have been foreordained by the powers that be?

Do we still even want to compete? We’ve only won four times and lost 68 times.

However, the local version of the pageant has launched the careers of many of the contestants who have gone on to fame and fortune.

In that sense, it helps some people and provides work for event organizers, makeup artists, dress designers, and pageant tutors.

Over the decades the Miss U contest has become a cultural phenomenon.

It has such a fandom that there are websites devoted to photos, videos, and commentary on the contestants.

But the painful question we must ask is, do the Miss U and beauty pageants in general remain relevant or are they a relic of a bygone era?

Organizers have tried to bring a contest that valorizes physical appearance (an accident of birth and/or product of plastic surgery and good dental care) into the modern age by requiring contestants to have advocacies.

But Mich Dee had a stellar and transformational advocacy – did it help her win?

No, because that part of it wasn’t given much weight in this year’s contest. So, it all came down to the subjective choices of the judges based on looks.

Critics of pageants say they perpetuate harmful stereotypes and gender roles, and they objectify women. It’s hard to contradict them when pageants such as this year’s continue to be shallow and unfair.

However, proponents of beauty pageants contend they can be a platform for women to showcase their talents, advocate for social causes, and demonstrate intelligence and poise under pressure.

The question then becomes whether these positive aspects outweigh the potential harm caused by the focus on physical beauty.

In an ideal world, Mich Dee would have won the Miss U crown, and among her court as runner-ups would have been the gorgeously curvaceous Miss Nepal and first-timer Miss Pakistan, who showed their courage in competing and breaking molds.

The 2023 Miss Universe pageant reflects the ongoing debate surrounding the relevance of beauty contests in the 21st century.

While some argue that these events perpetuate outdated notions of beauty and femininity, others see the potential for positive change and empowerment.

To make beauty pageants more relevant, organizers should embrace diversity, shift the focus from external appearances to internal qualities, and adapt their formats to highlight contestants’ achievements and impact

Pageants can then evolve into platforms that celebrate and empower women in a way that aligns with the values that bring out the best of humanity.

* * * FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO / Email:

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