Beauty Contests: Brawn Over Brain?

June 05, 2006
Sheetal Makhan

A while ago, I wrote about weddings being like a 'meat market'. I felt that Indian weddings were becoming an event where single girls are dolled up and are inadvertently judged by the single guys at the back of the hall. After reading my column, a friend said to me, "I gather you don't support the concept of a beauty pageant".

This got me thinking back to when I was younger and watched Miss South Africa and Miss World/Universe pageants on TV. The contestants looked like real-life Barbie dolls!

According to an online encyclopedia, a beauty contest or pageant is a competition between people based largely on the beauty of their physical appearance.

Even the term, 'beauty contest / pageant' grates my nerves. Isn't the term in itself degrading? Being judged on ones physical appearance? So my answer is no, I don't support beauty competitions. It places far too much emphasis on what is deemed important in our society - being beautiful with a perfect figure.

So what is beauty? I bet if asked this question, many people would rattle off a list of Bollywood stars, many of whom are now "model-turned-actresses". Aishwariya Rai and Sushmita Sen are regarded as "beauty queens" and are said to have boosted India's image to the rest of the world when they won the Miss World and Miss Universe titles, respectively. Both have made a name for themselves in the film industry, with Aishwariya being ranked as one of the most beautiful people in the world. I'll agree that both actresses appear to be grounded. No doubt, they're both stunning - but I ask you, how much are good looks worth in the real world? And by the real world, I'm not talking about the glitz and glamour and being the cover girl of fashion magazines.

Granted, no one is forced into taking part in these events. But do I do find them to be extremely superficial. How can strutting across a stage in a bikini with high heels, with heavy makeup pasted on ones face with (most of the time) a fake smile be beneficial?

Having watched these pageants on TV, I can't help but think how ridiculous it is to be rewarded "Miss Lovely Legs" and "Miss Photogenic". I find it obscure and absurd. More importantly, I wonder what kind of message is being sent to the rest of the world.

As if we don't have enough competition in our daily lives as it is. Everyday we're competing against each other for things like business and sports. And yet we still have to be concerned about competing with each other on the basis of physical appearances or how well-toned our bodies are?

Sure, intelligence is one of the judging standards, but the most important thing in these pageants is having a beautiful face. I remember thinking how silly some contestants sounded when they proclaimed that they wanted to promote world peace and alleviate poverty, or feed starving children in Africa. That's as attainable as me winning the lottery - not impossible, but not really realistic - right?

Just as I know people who've participated in beauty contests "for the fun of it", I also know many people who watch them for sheer entertainment. And that's fine. I have nothing against models who participate in beauty pageants or people who watch them. All I'm saying is that competitions based on the most beautiful face and sexiest figure is, for me, ludicrous.

My friend who sparked this discussion said he had no opinion about beauty pageants, but he did support the right of choice. So do I. But I just have to wonder whether a divide exists in today's world: Models vs Mortals?

Sheetal is a final year Journalism & Media Studies student from South Africa. Even though she is specializing in Television, she has not abandoned her passion which is writing. She runs a monthly column called "Chatterbox with Sheetal Makhan" in SA INDIA. Be sure to visit her blog and comment on the various posts - http://sheetalmakhan.blogspot.com
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Beauty Contests: Brawn Over Brain?


Author: Sheetal Makhan


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June 5, 2006
09:49 AM


Aishwariya Rai and Sushmita Sen are regarded as "beauty queens" ... I'll agree that both actresses appear to be grounded....

have heard enough from both of them to make this observation...sushmita has an edge in the brain department...aish is flaky

as for beauty contests and world peace...that is a no-brainer;)

June 5, 2006
11:05 AM

Yeah like t says, Sush has got both brains and beauty. She has written loads of poetry. Ash I feel is more a walking, talking ad for Colgate.

June 5, 2006
04:16 PM

Thanks Sheetal for bringing this issue 2 the fore.

I have a major problem with this definition of beauty and therefore the lack of it.

While I appreciate your magnanimity of saying that you have nothing against it, I have something against it.

First of all they are marketing gimmicks.

And reinforce a feeling of inadequacy in millions of people and who get manipulated in to buying stuff that they do not require in the first place which promise them beauty.

And my question is - what is beauty? who defines them?

Is fairness beauty? Thick lips less beautiful? And from whose perspective? And who defines it?

And by what standards is Ash beautiful? Forget about brains.

Where did the standard come from? It is as ludicrous as those who admire their dogs. If it is a pure daschund, some part of its body should be in proportion to some other part of body.

Beauty of a person is inside.

Have you seen, Shabana Azmi? She is not a 'traditionally' beautiful woman by the standards of ramp walkers. Does she look beautiful? I think she does. Where does her beauty come from?

While I am not wont to conspiracy theories, I tend too believe it is a conspiracy without conspiring people, directly.

A conspiracy nevertheless.

Any one who preens in genetical freakness, is just that. A genetic aberration.

Like the white albino tiger.

June 5, 2006
05:47 PM


beauty a la tennyson is in the beholder's eyes...i did a double take when i read this:.....And by what standards is Ash beautiful? Forget about brains. and immediately following that this Beauty of a person is inside. :)

Have you seen, Shabana Azmi? She is not a 'traditionally' beautiful woman by the standards of ramp walkers. Does she look beautiful? I think she does. Where does her beauty come from?

here i think you are referring to her grace....some actresses have an abundance of it...some are not so blessed...an actress from the past nutan had tons of it...vijayantimala did not have it...

as for the hoopla....am with you on it

June 5, 2006
11:03 PM

Thanks temporal for bringing that out.

I mean the person, and the person's being.

Again I have problems with the definitions of intelligence/brains.

What to do if you have problems of this kind :-( not too kind to your being?

I agree with you, grace and some more.

June 6, 2006
02:36 AM

I would love to see a indian paris hilton.


June 8, 2006
12:48 AM

Aishwariya got strung along by Salman for awhile, which is a sad enough commentary on her brains. But I'd definitely say she's prettier than Sushmita, who could pass for her mother.

On the male beefcake side, girls I know tell me that Arjun Rampal is hot. But he actually comes across as a reasonably intelligent guy. I'm not terribly impressed with Hrithik or Shahrukh, and their chronic over-acting.

Rekha seems to come across as fairly intelligent as well, although probably wisened after her foolish days from shacking up with as-yet unwise Amitabh.

Rani Mukherjee is somewhat beautiful, however she seems to come across as cold and aloof. Priyanka Chopra looks too yappy, although she's quite young as well.

September 13, 2006
08:18 AM

Isn't this funny.
Many urban and educated women (and a lot feminists) look at beauty contests as "degrading" while no men (whatever kind) ever get bothered by Mr. Universe contests- where again physical strength and display is the sole criterion for winning.

Sheetal write-
'I can't help but think how ridiculous it is to be rewarded "Miss Lovely Legs" and "Miss Photogenic".'

Men don't get bothered when someone is awarded "Mr. Chest" or "Mr. Hip". They just believe it is just another kind of competition that they don't have to participate. How come women get rattled by such labels?

Sheetal says-
'All I'm saying is that competitions based on the most beautiful face and sexiest figure is, for me, ludicrous.'
While men don't bother when a man is awarded for physical strength and brute force. No men finds it ludicrous if Brad Pitt is awarded sexiest man.

Men and Women are wired differently.

Men do not check out other men. When asked what the guy-who-just-passed-by was wearing, most men will say- "No clue!"

Women are always checking out other women.
Women find what other women do distasteful, degrading or an insult to other women- especially when it comes to matter of beauty and sex.

Men do NOT find what other men do distasteful, degrading or an insult when it comes to matter of beauty, physical strength and sex.

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