by Yuka Shiokawa
In the chapter “The Color of an Ideal Negro Beauty: Miss Bronze Queen 1961-1968” written by Maxine Leeds Craig, there was a phrase which caught my attention; that is “She said that she hoped for a day when there would not have to be a separate contest for black women”. This was the phrase said by a black woman Stephani Swanigan, who was crowned as Miss Bronze in 1963. She had a light skin tone and middle class background. After she was crowned, she participated in black political activism. She said this phrase when she was asked about her hopes for social change during the contest’s Question-and Answer segment.
It has been almost 50 years since this phrase was said. So I got curious about how far her hope has come to reality. In order to do this, I decided to look at the participants in the Miss USA, which is one of the biggest beauty contests in the United States. It started from 1952, so it overlaps with the time when there were Bronze Queen contests. When I looked at the winners in the past, I noticed that most of the queens are white, especially from 1950s to 1980s. It is not until 1990 the first non-white-woman was crowned. Since then, more black people started to appear in the winners’ pictures. Even the numbers of black winners are way less than that of whites, it can be said that Stephani’s hope has gradually coming true.
However, I noticed one thing after analyzing this result; there are not many Asian winners; I could find only one in the history. Instead, I found the Asian American Beauty Contest, which started from 2006 and its main purpose is “to help Asian America women to increase their cultural awareness throughout the entire country.” As you could see from the year it has started, even today people have different competition depending on races since still there is a strong image that European look is more beautiful and not the others.
After all, people might say they should not judge by their appearance no matter what race they are. Although as long as it is called a “Beauty” contest, it is impossible not to compare them by appearance. What we really need to do from the next generation’s “beauty” contest is not that we do not judge by their appearance but to change the idea of beauty which is more or less controlled by media as European look is better. As a result, we all can create the new image of beauty which has nothing to do with their race, and can finally judge beauty fairly in one single competition.