In 2010, I wrote a blog post describing how I felt about beauty pageants. I could not understand why the broadcaster thought (and still thinks) that extravagant soirees where contestants are in swimsuits and couture brings out the best in Lebanese beauty and Lebanese tourism.
I could not understand why there is a need to design elaborate sets, have a troupe of dancers parade around the stage behind the women, and have whichever performer who has a new album to promote come and serenade the audience.
I could not understand why the newly crowned Miss Lebanon is rewarded with a new apartment, a new car, a whole wardrobe, trips, and jewelry. What for? What does Miss Lebanon do that she needs this much compensation for her efforts?
I could not understand in 2010- and I sure still do not understand now in 2016.
Now say what you will about having the women scored on how they look in swimsuits and evening gowns, but that’s a foundation of such contests, here and all over the world. I wholeheartedly believe that in this day and age, we shouldn’t be judging women on their looks under any circumstance, that beauty pageants are an outdated concept- and yet, they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Want evidence? They were playing Jennifer Lopez’s recent song on female empowerment Ain’t Your Mama during the swimsuit segment.
Which is why I was bothered the most by the Q&A portion of the evening. This was the contestants’ chances to allow their intellect to shine, to allow their personality to set them apart from the rest (and they all did look very similar this year). After all, didn’t each of them state her university and major earlier on the evening? You had to assume then that they had the sufficient skills to successfully get through that portion.
It was an utter failure.
Look, it’s not entirely the girls’ fault for delivering nonsensical answers. The questions in their own right were totally ridiculous- almost begging for such responses.
Why did one of the judges think that a Lebanese beauty pageant contestant would care for the outcome of the US presidential election (when we notably don’t have one of our own). Was he trying to inquire if she knew about world affairs? Because the outcome was a clear fat NO. You want to vote for Hilary? Sure, go right ahead. Just don’t do so because she’s a woman and can “stand on her two feet”
Another judge, a woman, asked about the ever-so-popular work life balance: how would this beauty queen manage between her work and family responsibilities? I had no idea that this question still needs to be asked when Lebanese women do both. After all, weren’t all these contestants college students? Mind you, this question would never be posed to a man.
The only question that seemed to make sense given the whole scope of the event was listing the distinctive qualities of Lebanon’s touristic sector, but all the candidate could do was urge the media to focus on those qualities, without naming, at any point, any of them! She ended up receiving a score of 9.75- a 9.8 by the person who asked her the question!
But perhaps, my favorite question came at the hands of one of our premier Lebanese fashion designers, who asked the now Miss Lebanon, if she would rather have a long life but be ugly or a short life while being Miss Universe. Is that even a question?!
What followed was an incoherent blabber of how there are no ugly people anymore because everyone is getting plastic surgery anyway- and then she went on to quote some song lyric (I think). To add insult to injury, her answer was met with a resounding “Bravo!” I’m sorry, but you cannot blame stage fright for that level of idiocy. You can’t claim she was “just being honest,” either.
This is a time when we should be teaching our girls the value of an education and the importance of being cultured. We should be developing their curiosity and urging them to read, to inquire, to question, to never take anything at face value. We should teach them to take care of themselves: mind, body, and soul- and that beauty and longevity are not mutually exclusive. That they can stand up to their male counterparts no matter what the situation is.
Miss Lebanon does everything but that.
In fact, I am baffled at how any of the contestants represents the ideals I’ve stated above, or can serve as a good role model for other Lebanese women.
And you see, despite the fact that I’m writing about how much the Q&A bothered me, people felt the need to take to social media to bash Sandy, claiming she isn’t as beautiful as the other contestants and her win was undeserved. The majority gave little to almost no attention to how she presented herself- falling into the trap of beauty pageants of looks supersede brains.
But if there’s a silver lining in all of this, it’s that Miss Lebanon will fade into obscurity until next year when she has to hand over her crown to her successor-and we have to go through this farce once again.