When You Determine if a Woman is Beautiful, Does Skin Color Matter?

by Nana Tsujimoto

Belva Davis, founder of the Miss Bronze pageant

“You are beautiful.” This phrase can always make a woman really happy and let her be more confident about herself. Winning in a beauty contest is one of the ways of receiving wide recognition as being beautiful by society. This enables not only the winner but also people in the same social categories, especially in subordinate groups, to gain confidence in their beauty, including their skin color.

Numerous kinds of beauty pageants, including Miss Universe USA pageant, are held every year all over the world. As you might have known, there was the beauty contest called Miss Ritsumeikan Collection at Ritsumeikan University last month. Although competing in a beauty contest is quite widely popular in the world up to now, people in dominant group have been getting more chances to win in contests; one the other hand, people in subordinate group have fewer chances to do so.

Miss Bronze California is a beauty contest for African American women which lasted from 1961 to 1968, during the time when many African-American social protests such as the Civil Rights Movement occurred. The producer of this contest was Belva Davis, who was really making an effort to make African American women, especially dark-skinned African American women, to have more confidence in their beauty as African Americans. This contest was one of the great tools to expand the idea of “Black is Beautiful” in the US society at that time. The contest played an important role in fighting against colorism, racism, and discrimination against African American.

Moreover, because of the existence of dark-skinned winners of the contest, the definition of black beauty was expanded. However, there is an important point to consider in this contest: double consciousness. According to the concept of double consciousness, which was introduced by W. E. B. Du Bois, the standard of beauty in the whole African American community can be categorized into two parts: a white standard of beauty and an African American standard of beauty. This is because dominant views are internalized in the community, so to choose either a light-skinned African American woman (a white standard, which also shows privilege) or a dark-skinned woman (an African American standard, which also shows authenticity) for a winner depends on which standard the judges applied.

missamerica

Vanessa Williams (left) and Nina Davuluri (right)

While Miss Bronze California was a contest only for African American, Miss America is now opened for people of all races in the U.S., including African Americans and Asian Americans. The first African-American winner of the contest in 1984 was Vanessa Lynn Williams, who had light skin and blue eyes. Following after her, seven African-American women have been crowned. In addition, this year, Nina Davuluri won the contest as the first Indian-American woman. Both Vanessa and Nina have had to face negative attitudes toward them because of their skin color after they won the contest. For example, Nina has received numerous negative descriptions of her, such as “Too ‘Indian’ to ever be Miss India”. Moreover, she was described as a terrorist on Twitter. Those are not acceptable in the society with racial diversity.

When you determine if a woman is beautiful, does skin color matter? I would answer “No” because I believe all of skin colors are beautiful. Although people’s attitudes toward skin color are shaped in the societies where they grow up, I hope there will be no discrimination on skin color in the near future.

References

Broderick, R. A Lot Of People Are Very Upset That An Indian-American Woman Won The Miss America Pageant (Sept. 16, 2013). Buzzfeednews. Retrieved on Dec 10, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/a-lot-of-people-are-very-upset-that-an-indian-american-woman

Chaudhry, L. Miss America Nina Davuluri: Too ‘Indian’ to ever be Miss India (Sep 16, 2013). F.LIVING. Retrieved on Dec, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.firstpost.com/living/miss-america-nina-davuluri-too-indian-to-ever-be-miss-india-1111477.html

Craig, Maxine Leeds. 2009. “The Color of an Ideal Negro Beauty Queen: Miss Bronze 1961-1968.” In Shades of Difference, edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

Davis, B. Fighting Racism, One Swimsuit at a Time (February 10, 2011). Ms. Blog Magazine, Retrieved on Dec 10, 2014. Retrieved from http://msmagazine.com/blog/2011/02/10/fighting-racism-one-swimsuit-at-a-time/

Stern, M. Vanessa Williams, the First Black Miss America, On Nina Davuluri and Racism (Sep 21, 2013). The Daily Beast. Retrieved on Dec 11, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/21/vanessa-williams-the-first-black-miss-america-on-nina-davuluri-and-racism.html

Watson, E. The Miss America Pageant Has Been Beneficial for Women of Color (Sep 12, 2013). The New York Times. Retrieved on Dec 11, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/09/12/is-the-miss-america-pageant-bad-for-women/the-miss-america-pageant-has-been-beneficial-for-women-of-color

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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?