Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is determined by the beholder’s cultural values. Beauty pageants have been in the news lately. The selection of the first Indian-American woman as Miss America is a clear signal of the diversification of US society but as well a demonstration of the wide-spread prejudices that still exist against Americans of color. Racist tweets abounded after news of her selection. The new Miss America, Nina Davuluri, is not the first woman of color to win the crown. There have been seven black Miss Americas, starting with Vanessa Williams 30 years ago. A Hawaii-born Filipina won in 2001. Interestingly, it’s been pointed out that Davuluri would not have been likely to win the Miss India title: her skin is too dark. Bollywood beauties tend to have whiter skin. In fact, Davuluri performed a Bollywood dance in the talent portion of the contest.
Also in the news recently was the winner of the World Muslimah 2013 contest, a Muslim-only beauty pageant in Jakarta, where according to the Guardian, participants were judged not just on their looks but their ability to recite verses from the Qur’an and their philosophy on modern-day Islam. The comment by the winner, Nigerian Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, after the contest: “We’re just trying to show the world that Islam is beautiful.”
Finally, there’s also the news that the French Senate has voted to ban child beauty contests. Reportedly, the law was prompted by an infamous photo spread in the French Vogue in 2010 of then-10-year-old Thylane Loubry Blondeau in sexy poses and heavy make-up. It seems Honey Boo Boo won’t be moving to France any time soon.