“Bronze signified race but not a specific color”

Sharon Bailey, Miss Bronze Local winner Carolyn Blakey and Belva Davis (Pageant producer) (Photo credit: turnstyle news)

by Lulu Maginde

“Bronze signified race but not a specific color”

This particular statement seems to support the idea of the Miss Bronze beauty contest, however whether this is actually true or not is debatable.

First of all, the question has to be addressed, would someone find it offensive if they were to be labeled as bronze in terms of their race? Why one thought that it made sense to associate bronze with race or a beauty contest for that matter, is beyond me, especially during a time where one was persecuted because of their race, however in some aspects it did help in dissolving color boundaries so to speak.

The beauty contest that was created during the height of segregation in the 60s, for the purpose of bringing together African American women of all different skin colors as well as making a political statement. Originally most of the winners of the contest accounted for were light-skinned and most commonly came from stable backgrounds. Due to the contests, ‘black beauty queens became important symbols of black worth’, yet if winners were being chosen for the lightness of their skin tone, how do people differentiate between what they are supposed to stand for and what they are being led to believe by these contests? And also what is the standard of measurement for black women, if according to beauty institutions, black worth amounted to the accomplishments of lighter skinned contestants?

It seems that after the first dark-skinned contestant was crowned, people suddenly started taking notice. In an institution that has been dictated by this sense of “white is right”, having a dark skinned beauty queen symbolized that this idea of the lighter skin girl was not as significant or dying down.

For the longest time the many people, from the judges to audiences and even contestants had applied a form of “double consciousness” in regards to their appearance. This sense of double consciousness, where African Americans see themselves and judge themselves as white people see them, as W.E.B. Du Bois described it, only seemed to become less important throughout the end of the 1960s, being replaced by black empowerment. The Miss Bronze beauty contest was the first of its kind created for black women and so it meant a lot this division of color did not persist.

The role these black beauty contests in shaping the way black girls and women in turn see beauty had a great impact as in turn the color regime whereby light skin was the dominant was disappearing, all due to that one lady.

References

Craig, L., M. (2009). The color of an ideal Negro Beauty Queen: Miss Bronze 1961-1968. In Glenn, E. Shades of Difference: Why skin color matters. (pp. 81 – 94).Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Gee, R. (April 21st, 2011). Sharon Bailey, Sacramento producer of the Miss Bronze Pageant, Local winner Carolyn Blakey and Belva Davis.

Retrieved from: http://turnstylenews.com/2011/04/21/belva-davis-black-female-and-breaking-news-for-40-years/miss_bronze/

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Measurement of beauty in the Miss Bronze Beauty Contest

by Moe Miura

The concept of “beauty” is something really strong in many places. If we say a single word “beauty”, though it is just a one single word it have different meanings for each person who hears it. The definition of the idea of “beauty” is now so expanded that people have started to have their own idea of “beauty”. However, if we look at how one society, or even many countries together, define the idea of “beauty”, we see the “trend”, or collective ideas about beauty. Often, the way of promoting or influencing these trends to people is to define “what kind of people is beautiful”; and often, that is done through the beauty contest.

It is not exaggerated when we say the winner of the beauty pageant shapes the idea of beauty that people have. Often, these beauty contests had excluded “black beauty” from the criteria to measure people’s beautifulness. Then there was born the beauty contest called “Miss Bronze”, and it actively recruited a lot of women of color for the contest. Even with this situation, skin color was something to measure one’s beauty, because they still had the idea of lighter skin as better and more privileged than darker skin by various reasons.

However what I want to look close to are elements other than the skin color. Though skin color has been talked about one of the most important elements in defining “beauty”, however there is particularly one thing that I would like to focus on: hair.

As people set the ideal image of skin, people also try to achieve the ideal hair. As for the Miss Bronze contestant, since they were African American, many had short and tight-curled hair. However the ideal hair was “long and straight/wavy/silky” hair. Even until today people have been using hair relaxer to straighten/soften their hair, though it has harmful side effects.

I believe there are a lot of similar points between the action of whitening skin and relaxing hair; first advertisements (magazines, commercials, and so on) played a big role in making people believe that using these product will give them better life or privilege. Also, these two factors strongly connect with social stratification. Both claim that having lighter skin or straighter, smoother hair will result in privilege. With the created ideals and brainwash of the media, people who has too seek beauty (people in beauty peagent) and even others are seeking the way to go close to their ideal image of “beauty”.

Colorism, segregation, and beauty pageants

by Shinoko Itakura

In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago became the first woman of African descent and also the first black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe.

“Miss Universe” is the most famous beauty pageant in which female representatives of each country compete. In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago became the first woman of African descent and also the first black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe. Until this happened, there had been many attempts to argue beauty of black women against colorism. “Miss Bronze” was one of such attempts, challenging racial exclusion and colorism. Each woman is representative of her own black community.

I was a discussion leader of this topic today in the class of Race and Ethnicity in the Modern World. I have come up some questions and two of those were “if there is beauty pageant TODAY for only white people, do you think this is discrimination against non-white people?” and “What about if it was for only black people or Asian people?” I was expecting that the most of my colleagues would say yes right away to the former question and no or maybe after they consider for the latter question. Yet, one of the colleagues said that this is not about racism nor discrimination but the idea of having different beauty contests of ethnic groups or racial groups are same as segregation. I have realized that the idea I have come up without any concerns was horrific thing which colored people have been suffering. Also “The standards of beauty” including not only skin color but also physical features are based on white standards. For example, in the beauty contest, fat people or short people cannot be seen. Everyone is extremely skinny and tall.

Women always want to stay beautiful. “Beauty” is forever theme for women. However this beauty should not be decided based on one particular “standard of beauty”. There are different styles of beauty. Every woman is beautiful no matter what skin color she has, no matter how tall or how skinny she is. Every woman has right to show how she is beautiful. No one can judges whether the woman is beautiful or not by skin color.

Reference

Craig. M. L. (2009) “The Color of an Ideal Negro Beauty Queen.” In Shades of Difference: How Skin Color Matters, edited by E.N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Skin Colour and the Beauty Queen

Anonymous student post

Nowadays there are various types of beauty pageants being held in different regions in the world. Each region chooses the person who they think is the “prettiest” to represent their areas. Different countries has their own judgment on “beauty” and in most countries, people with lighter skin tone get picked as the beauty queen. In the past beauty contests held in different places of the world, there have been various controversial issues raised regardless to the skin colour problems.

Torika Watters, who is of mixed European and Fijian heritage was the winner of 2012 Miss Fiji, but she has been stripped of her Miss Fiji title by the organizers after she won the contest. The organizers told her that she could not win the contest because she is too young, but the actual fact was that because she does not look Fijian enough. She has white skin and blonde hair, which is not the features of a Fijian, therefore her Miss Fiji title was taken off and runner-up went on to the Miss World 2012 pageant.

Also, Nina Davuluri, the winner of Miss America 2014, is an Indian American, and she is the first Indian American who won the Miss America pageant. She has brown skin and dark hair, and not the American features everyone else thinks of. On the day she won the contest, there were many issues talking about whether she is suitable to be Miss America or not.

“If you’re #Miss America you should have to be American,”

“WHEN WILL A WHITE WOMAN WIN #MISSAMERICA? Ever??!!”

These were just few comments attacking Nina Davuluri on the Internet and the public were not satisfy with the fact that an Indian-American won the Miss America title.

These are just two of the examples on skin tone and beauty contest. For me, I do not think that skin tine should be a factor when judging whether a person call as a beauty queen or not. Skin tone should not be a matter as different people see beauty differently. Some people may think that having light-skinned is better but there are also people who think that dark-skinned is beautiful as well. We should not limit the standards of being a beauty queen just by judging people’s skin colour. Everyone should have the same rights and chance on titling as the beauty queen in all beauty contests and should not kick them out of the contest just because their skin colour or other physical appearance is different from others.

References

Shears, R. (2012, May 13). White Miss Fiji winner who was caught up in race row stripped of her title because she is too young: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2143735/torika-watters-white-miss-fiji-winner-stripped-title-shes-young.html

The Guardian. (2013, Sept 17). Miss America Nina Davuluri brushes off racist criticism after victory. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/16/miss-america-winner-racist-criticism

CNN. (2013, Sept 17). Miss America crowns 1st winner of Indian descent. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/16/showbiz/miss-america-racist-reactions/

Not American Enough?

 by Dina Akylbekova

One month ago tabloids headlines were dedicated to the Miss America 2014 winner Nina Davuluri. Davuluri became the first Indian-American, who won Miss America. The next few hours there were thousands of racist and xenophobic comments like “If you’re #Miss America you should have to be American”” or “Even Miss America has been outsourced to India. #NinaDavuluri!” (Syracuse, 2013). People posting comments like this do think that winner of Miss America 2014 represents American culture and values. The important point here is that the girl was born and has lived all her life in the USA. Is she still not American enough? Despite this, Nina said “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.” Why spending her whole life in the US, with American citizenship, American education and self-perception as American are not enough for her to be considered a “real” American? Or is the problem that Davuluri does not look “American”. Do Asian and African descents have a right to view himself/herself as a “true” American, even if they do not look “American”?

The described situation confirms the fail of multiculturalism in America. Today Asian Americans comprise almost 6% of the US population (Pew Research Center, 2010). Almost quarter of all Asian American children were born in the US (Pew Research Center, 2010). Unfortunately, the racist backlash shows that even integrated Asian Americans are not considered “Americans”.

If the reader thinks that this happens only in America, there is a proof that this happens on the other side of the world as well. The next destination is Russia. Elmira Abdrazakova became Miss Russia 2013, the fact that the girl is half-Russian and half-Tatar (ethnic minority in Russia) was a starting point for the racist and nationalist backlash against the winner (The Atlantic, 2013). An additional fact against Abdrazakova was that the she was born in Kazakhstan. Elmira thinks that she fully represents a multiethnic and multicultural Russia (There are 180 ethnicities in Russian federation). However, nationalists probably do not know that Russia is a multiethnic country and continue to resist by saying that Abdrazakova is not Slavic enough.

Both Miss America 2014 and Miss Russia received a huge amount of racist comments concerning their ethnicities. Both the USA and Russia are officially claiming to be multicultural and multiethnic countries, where every ethnicity is respected. The reality shows the fail of tolerance, multiculturalism and multiethnicity in these societies. One can argue that racism in beauty contests is a routine part of these events. But in the reality, beauty contests show whether society is ready to accept other ethnicities beauty on the equal level as the native one. Will the situation change or ethnical minority titleholders would be blamed for being not American or Slavic enough?