In the Mix

September 12, 2011

Miss Universe 2011

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Written for: Communicado Magazine
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I think some people have begun to read this post thinking to themselves, “How is Miss Universe a significant topic in diversity? Well, settle in…

Miss Universe 2011 was crowned recently. She’s Miss Angola. Angola as in AFRICA! And, it just so happens that she’s a person of color as well. Reminder: Some Africans are white people.

You have to admit, it’s so nice to see something good happen for the people of Africa. No matter how insignificant it might be to some. Like when the New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl their first year back in their own stadium post Hurricane Katrina. Makes you feel good about life…

So, I’ve been watching Miss Universe as far back as I can remember. No clue how it started but it stuck. In some way, I think it’s had a big influence on my view of women and beauty. I do have a great appreciation for a well appointed woman. And that’s the whole point of a pageant – which Miss can make herself look the best. Yes, pageants attempt to throw you off with talent competitions and philosophical questions about life, but, it’s called a BEAUTY PAGEANT for a reason…

Now that I’ve confirmed my shallowness, I’ll make the important distinction. All pageants are not created equal. I’m only endorsing THE MISS UNIVERSE PAGEANT. I love that it takes you around the world. It’s the only pageant that has always celebrated beauty in different sizes, colors, ethnicities, nationalities, languages, etcetera. I actually dislike most of the others.

I remember when Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America for one reason: She was the first black Miss America. I recall that being a big deal. That and her nude pictures. 🙂 But, I don’t recall that ever being a big deal with Miss Universe. Tall girls, short girls, black girls, hispanic girls, asian girls, non-english speaking girls. A smorgasbord. And I can’t remember a time when the cast was otherwise or a time when one or the other made any difference. No specific parameters other than, the most beautiful woman won. Period.

This year’s pageant was such a confirmation of all of that. Miss China is six feet tall. Asian people are supposed to be short, aren’t they? The first runner up was Miss Ukraine. I thought Eastern European women were dumpy, hairy little women wearing potato sacks and babushkas! And the winner – A tall black woman with hips and curves. No stereotypes for Miss Universe. A smorgasbord…

But the thing I liked most was Miss Angola’s answer to her final question. The question was: If you could change any physical trait, what would it be? Her answer was what we would expect from a modern, confident, independent woman:

“Thank God I’m very satisfied with the way God created me, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family, and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life.”

Of course, other women will say it’s easy for someone that beautiful to say that, but, if she can make it a point to use her inner beauty as her most important feature, why can’t you?

It reminded me of the jokes Whoopi Goldberg used to make referencing the Breck girls. In the 1970’s, there was this really popular shampoo for women called Breck. The models they used for the TV commercials seemed mostly to be blonde white women. Whoopi said she grew up wanting to be a Breck girl, not realizing that was impossible because it was a fantasy being perpetuated by advertisers. I think even today, the suggestion that blonde hair and blue eyes is the ultimate in beauty is still fighting for pole position. The catch is, it is now fighting…

So ladies, I use Leila Lopes, former Miss Angola, now Miss Universe as an example that the days of trying to look like what you see on TV should be over. Young girls should grow up thinking they are beautiful whether they are black, asian, white with red hair and freckles or hispanic with jet black hair and dark brown eyes. Everyone is a version of beauty. Own your version of beauty – Miss Universe certainly is.

If you’re a white woman and you like men with dark skin and dark features, it’s okay. If you’re an asian woman and you like the way hispanic men are raised to embrace their sensuality, go get yourself a hispanic man. Don’t let another woman’s preferences stop you from indulging/embracing your own.

Now do you see why the Miss Universe pageant is a perfect example of diversity?

We live in a diverse world and we have to apply the qualities of tolerance to everything we do. In language… in color… in preferences. At work, in the classroom, in our relationships. On television, in print, in-person. Be everything you are and let others be who they are. Enjoy the smorgasbord…